Why I Created Dream Run Camp

The best summer of my life was the one I spent in Flagstaff, Arizona, as a “fake professional runner” embedded with the HOKA Northern Arizona Elite professional running team. For thirteen unforgettable weeks I lived every runner’s fantasy, going all-in with the sport I love in a belated effort (I was 46 at the time) to discover how good I could be.

As it turned out, I became a better runner than I ever imagined, running a lifetime-best 2:39 marathon in Chicago at the end of my time with the pros. If I was looking for proof that the elite running team environment, with all of its expert support, resources, and camaraderie, really works, I certain got it! But for me the best part of the experience was just that: the experience. Making new friends, living and training in one of the most beautiful cities on earth, learning more about myself and growing as a person—these are the memories I treasure most.

There’s one moment in particular that stands out in my recollection as emblematic of that joyful journey. It was a Tuesday morning in mid-September, and while most folks were at work or school, I was running with Stephanie Bruce, Futsum Zeinaselassie, and several other members of NAZ Elite in Walnut Canyon, a forested area laced with winding dirt trails. It was an idyllic autumn day—dry and lightly breezy, neither cool nor warm, with yellowy sunlight slanting through the trees and dappling our skin. As they often did during easy runs, the pros carried on a languid, free-flowing conversation, the topic ranging from current events to beer. I just listened, cruised along in the rear and smiling like a dog with its head out the car window, feeling so perfectly at home in my circumstances that I almost doubted their reality.

Ever since that magical summer I’ve had a strong desire to share my experience with other runners. My book Running the Dream allowed others to relive it vicariously through my eyes, but to me that wasn’t enough. I wanted people to actually live it—or something very much like it—for themselves. And that’s why I created Dream Run Camp.

All the elements are there. Flagstaff. A comfortable, amenity-rich house to stay in. Access to the pros, coaches, and support staff of NAZ Elite. Me. And most of all, the opportunity to put your normal life on pause and go all-in with running, accepting permission to make your passion the center of your life for a time. Of course, I can’t guarantee that your Dream Run Camp will be the single happiest event of your life, as my fake pro runner experience was for me. But I can almost guarantee that it will at least come pretty close.

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