I’ve often marveled at the power of running alongside friends, particularly when training for a big race. Miles seemingly fly by as the conversation flows, and when the run turns tough, thanks to hills or weather or just plain lack of motivation, running partners keep us moving forward and help us finish strong. (Or at the very least help us smile and see the bright side when we have sucky runs.)

Many of us are training for spring races, and whether it’s our first race ever or we’re tackling new-to-us distances, I’m certain we all can benefit from running with others–winter training can be so rewarding, but it’s not always easy to get out there and log the miles given the long winters we endure. What better way to stay inspired than to meet up with like-minded people and hammer out those miles together?

If you’re searching for friends to run with — not to mention overall spring race training motivation — the Priority Health Run Camp in Grand Rapids could be your answer. This winter training program offered through Gazelle Sports Grand Rapids is for runners training for the Gazelle Girl Half Marathon / 5k and the Fifth Third Riverbank — or any other spring race. “We offer two different training programs depending on what distance participants are training for,” explains program coordinator Emily Poindexter.

15318632476_95cea5bbc5_oThe long distance, 16-week training program begins on Jan. 17 and trains for the Gazelle Girl Half Marathon and the Fifth Third Riverbank 25K. Another option: training that starts Feb. 14, for the Fifth Third Riverbank 5K and 10K. “In this program we offer a couch-to-5K training option for new runners,” Emily adds, “and this session is a 12-week training program.”

Emma Baranowski, who participated in the run camp last year, shared this with her fellow runners: “From the bottom of my heart­, THANK YOU for being a part of this running group. You all have pushed, shoved, hugged and encouraged me long this leg of my running journey. Most of all, you had faith in me and my abilities when I did not… You all mean more to me than you know. I could not have made it this far without you and I look forward to running with you all again for the next run camp.”

Whether you are in the short or long distance program, both will enhance your training, Emily Poindexter promises. “We offer pace groups and team leader for all paces ranging from 8:30 and below to 12:30 and up, so you always have someone nearby to run with. We map out the entire program with a training schedule that you can also follow at home and we also offer beginner and advanced training schedules.”

Both training groups train on Wednesday evenings at 6 p.m. in East Grand Rapids for shorter runs that may include hill workouts, tempo runs or interval training with running and walking. The groups also train Saturday mornings for longer distances; four rotating locations include the David D. Hunting YMCA, Rockford on the White Pine Trail, Gazelle Sports Grand Rapids, and the Priority Health Campus on the East Belt Line.

Benefits of these training programs include:

  • Guided routes with turn-by-turn arrows (maps offered as well) that are also aided with water, Gatorade, nutrition samples and post-run food every other week.
  • Throughout the training season, organizers will host several free clinics including strength and cross training, foam rolling, a run-safer clinic, and running 101/201 for anything and everything you might want to know about running related topics.
  • Training support via weekly blog posts and emails and communicate in a private Facebook group.

Emily says most importantly, Priority Health Run Camp is a good time. “We have a large group of some of the most amazing people you will ever meet,” she says. “Our participants tell me they keep coming back because it is the best part of their week. Everyone is so supportive and it really makes running in those cold months in the winter something to look forward to. Off season many of our participants still run together.”

Interested in learning more? Information nights are scheduled for the following times and places: Jan. 14 and Feb. 10 at 6 p.m. at Gazelle Sports Grand Rapids.

Details also may be found at the training program blog and at the Gazelle Sports run camp page. Ready to register? Click here »

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