Editor’s Note: We have all certainly felt the loss of many events since last March. From spring track season to road races and of course our beloved XC tradition of the summer running camp. To that end, we asked long time Foss Running Camp Director, Kevin Maloney to share some memories. As one of the most positive humans we have ever encountered, there is no better choice to bring our spirits up as we embark on a very unique XC season in NH! Thanks Kevin!
The Coach, the G.O.A.T., and Foss Running Camp
By Kevin Maloney
In the beginning, and for it’s first six years the camp was known as Tom Dowling’s “Run-to-the-Top Running Camp”.
Back in 1978 Coach Tom Dowling, who was a NH State Champion distance runner himself, was looking for a location for his running camp. That was when he discovered YMCA Camp Foss in Strafford, NH and realized it was the perfect location for his camp with miles of dirt roads and trails and natural 5,7, 9, 11 and 13 mile loops to train on. It didn’t hurt that it was on a small pond with it’s own beach too. So in 1978, Coach opened his first camp at Foss with about two dozen runners and a small staff.
That first year was a modest but promising start, and in the second year the camp doubled it’s numbers. By year three, in 1980, it had about 65 high school boys & girls from mostly NH and MA. That same year Tom took over as the girl’s cross country coach at Dover High School, and over the course of the next three cross country seasons he would lead his team to three consecutive State and New England titles. He also had the greatest high school cross country runner from New England on that team, Cathy Schiro-O’Brien, whom he would coach to five consecutive State and NE titles as well as the National HS title too.
How good was Cathy? Well no runner, male or female, has achieved the level of success Cathy did in high school in all of New England, and perhaps even in the entire country. Just take a moment to look at the “Where Are They Now?” articles about Cathy’s running career and you’ll see what I mean.
In 1980 as a coach from tiny Blackstone-Millville Regional in MA I came to Tom’s “Run-to-the-Top” camp with my team. Three of my runners had attended that first camp in 1978, and a few more attended in ’79. In ’80 all of BMR’s top runners came to the camp, and at the end of camp Tom asked me to join his staff for 1981. And that was the beginning of what is now a forty plus year involvement at Foss.
In those early years at Foss, I remember just when I realized how great a runner Cathy Schiro was. At that point she had already won a couple of State and NE titles, but it was something I witnessed at camp that summer which left a lasting impression. As is the norm at Foss, every Friday morning all the runners do their long run of the week. Tom would have the options in those days for the kids to do either a 10, 15 or 20 mile run, with water stations provided at different points. I volunteered to drive around to check on the runners and make sure all were doing okay. My final location was at mile 19 at the top of a long and winding uphill section of Parsons Hill Road. The first runner to get there, and by quite a margin, was Cathy. As she crested the last hill, at mile 19, it was hard to believe how strong this young girl looked as she started the final mile on the dirt road to camp. It was obvious that this runner was special, very special. And in fact established herself as the G.O.A.T. of New England high school running then, and still is almost forty years later. No one has accomplished what she did as a high school cross country runner.
And this is one of many memories created a running camps all across the country. However, because of its sheer longevity and NH tradition, we would like to think, Foss has more than any other. Although Foss had to take the summer off, many more memories will be made for years to come.