Athletes ‘Wait’ for Lynn Canal Running Camp

    It is not uncommon to see goats, or be seen by goats, while on an outing at the Lynn Canal Running Camp. (Klas Stolpe/KINY)

    Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - Quidditch. Square dancing. Culinary classes. Not your typical athletic camp routine but that is what makes the Lynn Canal Running Camp popular, and atypical, and in its 12th annual gathering with a waiting list ready to lace up their shoes for adventure.

      Yes. They do run. Sometimes a long mountain ridge, sometimes a morning jog, sometimes just an athlete’s estimated kilometer. But it is all the other intangibles that the LCRC athletes sample that foster a holistic approach to making a runner, or athlete, one for life.

      “Well we call it a holistic running camp,” local high school coach, and camp co-founder, Merry Ellefson said. “So I think health is a good part of it. But we try to look at the whole athlete: mind, body and spirit. And our goal at camp, like our tagline, is ‘community and courage through running.’ We build communities through our olympic games, through making food, through the various workshops we have…”

      Ellefson and Tristan Knutson-Lombardo held the first Lynn Canal Camp in 2011 when they succeeded Guy Thibodeau as coaches of the Juneau-Douglas High School: Kalé cross-country team. The two wanted to develop a camp for ‘Southeast’ teens, and a camp that was affordable. They ask participants to pay what they are comfortable, from $0 to $400, and with a total cost of $500 per camper, every attendee gets a bargain, no questions asked. Grant funding and donations help with camp fees.

      “Camp is on a sliding scale registration,” Ellefson said. “We want to make it affordable and accessible…”

      This year’s high school Camp One beginning Saturday, and running through July 1, is full but a wait list is kept and due to unforeseen events spots may open. High school Camp Two, July 4-10, still has spots available, as does a middle school day camp July 11-15.

      Campers may participate in Native Youth Olympics, yoga, jump roping and an assortment of confidence building activities as well as sharing community chores of the camp while, of course, building up their athleticism and learning about nutrition and recovery.

      And participants do not have to be elite runners or top athletes. They only need a desire to want to be better or try something, not necessarily outside their comfort zone, but different. To put it simply, LCRC participants run, make new friends, cook and clean, learn and have fun.

      “We are really happy to say that our camp is for all abilities,” Ellefson said. “Some people come to camp, some athletes, and this is their first experience running. That said, it is a running camp… it is a big week but we cater to all abilities…”

      The camp counselors include college runners, some who spend the majority of their time in Alaska wishing they were from Alaska, some whose kryptonite is dark chocolate, some who have raced in Italy and have plants with names like “Carl,” and most would, and have, skipped their high school proms to run or race.

      “First of all, like our counselors say… a lot of them are from Juneau… our counselors are so fun,” Ellefson said. “Their mantra is ‘the more fun we have, the more fun everybody else has.’ And they are the most creative…”

      For more information on the Lynn Canal Running camp go to

     The camps 12 years of adventuring has featured runners from Juneau, Gustavus, Skagway, Haines, Petersburg, Sitka, Thorne Bay, Ketchikan, Anchorage, Soldtona, Kenai, Palmer, Wasilla, Galena, Houston (Alaska), McGrath, Bethel, Nome, Oregon, Washington State, Idaho, California, Minnesota, Vermont, Massachusetts, Dawson City (Yukon) and Italy.

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