Youth Running: A Chat with Dan Kesterson

We recently spoke with Dan Kesterson about youth running and the Youth Runner Elite Middle School Camp he organizes near Mt Hood in Oregon. This camp is designed for girls and boys entering 6th, 7th and 8th grades.

Dan is the editor of Youth Runner Magazine which was founded in 1996 and is based near Portland, Oregon. He is married to wife, Pam, and has two sons, Ian and Sean. Dan is a native Oregonian and loves the beach (in particular Short Sands in Maine), mountain trails, dogs and fresh air. Dan enjoys pizza, the Kings of Leon, the color blue and family vacations.

The middle school running camps are in their 5th year and in 2019 will be adding 40 spots for high school runners.

For more information on the Youth Runner Elite Middle School Camp, visit

[Peter] What does a youth runner learn at your Youth Runner Elite Middle School Camp?

[Dan] Because some of these kids have already had some success, one thing we stress is the big picture and long term development vs. burning out before high school. Dynamic drills, injury prevention, nutrition, goals, race strategy and preparation. We don’t run their legs off or try to throw too much at them. Because we have two coaches that came up under Coach Bill Bowerman (coach of the legendary Steve Prefontaine at the University of Oregon), his principles and theories are taught. Most of the learning comes by just absorbing the greatness of the people around them and going home with some inspiration and focus.

[Peter] What do you think is the importance of youth training vs. adult training in regards to trail running?

[Dan] For young runner’s out on the trails it’s more important to teach them how to stay safe, stay hydrated, run together, take care of nature and basic trail etiquette. Show them what’s possible, but mainly to have fun.

[Peter] What is the area of biggest development potential for a youth trail runner?

[Dan] I’ve followed the US Junior Mountain Running Team since its formation in 2002 and am now following Skyrunning’s youth initiative. I’ve always thought this was such a great opportunity for a high school aged runner. A couple years ago Phillip Rocha was on the US Junior Mountain Running Team, he was on the Youth Runner Magazine cover when he was an eight grader so it was fun for us to see him on the team. I suppose the real potential is becoming a trail runner for life.

[Peter] You are the publisher of Youth Runner Magazine, please tell us a little bit about the publication?

[Dan] This is our 23rd year and we’re working on plans for the 25th anniversary issue right now. There have been a few athletes over the years that we featured as a ten year old or a high school athlete that are still running and doing well so we’re bringing those back for the 25th. I noticed that Galen Rupp and Jordan Hasay are returning to the Chicago Marathon this year. Jordan was on the cover of the magazine in high school and Galen was guest editor as a high school senior. There’s a bunch of runners who will be in the 25th year issue.

Youth Runner Magazine offers tips, training and meet highlights, but to boil it down what we really do is give recognition to young athletes that run track, cross country, trails, triathlons and kids that just like to race their buddies home from school. Youth Runner Magazine inspires and gets the dreams going inside their head. One of the coolest things we do at Youth Runner Magazine is to provide opportunities for student athletes to become bloggers, interviews, product reviewers and photographers. There have been issues where every word was written by a middle school or high school student. At some of the bigger meets you might see a pair of twelve year olds with a camera and mic doing interviews. Some of our interns and bloggers have gone on to major in journalism. Our best shoe reviewer was a kid who started writing as a high school freshman. He did the research and tested each shoe and rated them accordingly, then wrote a realistic review from the eyes of a high school runner that made sense vs. some of the technical jargon we usually get. Now we’ll have brands send product to several reviewers, they test them, share and comment back for a real review.

[Peter] Where do you see the sport of trail running for youth going in the future?

[Dan] Any kid that competes in cross country is already running the trails. As we are able to talk more about mountain running and Skyrunning, I’m anticipating that interest in off-road forms of racing is going to build. I think the future is bright especially with the momentum that trail running ambassadors like yourself, Nancy Hobbs and crew have built up. Just knowing that Skyrunning is out there is something in itself. You also have young athletes who want to save the planet and take care of the trails and the wilderness. And of course other young runners who are just looking for an adventure.