Running for a lifetime: Herald staffer looks at how to stay fit beyond middle school

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The Rockville Centre resident co-owns the Foundation Running Camp, which this past summer was held at Bethpage State Park and at Camp Pontiac in upstate Copake, and attracted more than 400 campers from across Long Island and as far away as Vermont and Virginia. Neal Levy, coach of the North Shore High School girls’ cross-country and track teams, serves as Foundation’s director of camper development. “The camp was designed to provide an environment for kids that gives safe, effective and appropriate training,” said Levy, who has led North Shore to county and state championships.

Levy, who teaches health at North Shore, said that children too often think of running as a punishment, because many coaches force athletes to run laps when they have misbehaved or have not performed to expectations on the field.

The Foundation camp, said Boyens, instills the notion that running should be fun, with traditional color wars, talent shows and sing-alongs, in addition to daily training. “You build this camaraderie among the student-athletes. We’ll go to a track meet, and all the kids know each other,” he said. “The kids really become friends and stay friends for a long time.”

Many young athletes also quit sports because they believe they’re not very good. Levy, who ran track in high school and college, said he “wasn’t the best runner” in high school, but blossomed at SUNY Cortland and Stony Brook. So, he said, he understands that few young people join a sport with natural talent, and developing as an athlete takes time. “I don’t look for the most talented kid in the room,” Levy said. “I look for the most passionate kid in the room.”

Becoming a lifelong runner

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