For many people, a “Running Retreat” might seem like a contradiction in terms. In fact, some experienced runners might agree with that thought, too. But for those of us belonging to the Mother Runner tribe — and no, motherhood is not a requirement — a running retreat sounds like sheer bliss. We spent 4 days away from family, laundry, dishes, housework, homework, and chores to bond with other women over our running journeys, including the victories and the challenges.
Another Mother Runner started 8 years ago with their first book, Run Like a Mother (affiliate link), and a tribe was born. Two more books, a weekly podcast, countless race expos, and four retreats, AMR’s following has amassed tens of thousands of women worldwide.
I’ve been fortunate enough to have followed these ladies since their first book. Sarah Bowen Shea and Dimity McDowell have been in my ears for all of my long runs, so seeing these ladies face to face makes me feel like I’m never alone in my running journey.
This May, I had a second opportunity to participate in the Run + Refresh Retreat which was planned around the Ogden Marathon. After my first retreat in Spokane, Washington in September of 2016, I sort of knew what to expect. I am quite an introvert, though, and going into weekends like this, where I will be surrounded by my peers, I lose sleep over irrational thoughts, like those of a 5-year old going to Kindergarten for the first time. What if no one likes me? What if I end up eating alone in the corner? What if they laugh at me and make fun of me?
Needless to say, my fears were unfounded, as I met new friends almost instantly, and rekindled old acquaintances.
Thursday, May 17th — Arrival, check in, and ice breakers
I wanted to be early, save a little money, and have some “alone” time with my audiobook. So I set out at 5:00 am for an 8 hour drive from Denver to Ogden across the wide open spaces of northern Colorado, southern Wyoming, and into the mountains of eastern Utah. After I checked in and unpacked, I attended the Welcome Reception and our first seminar, “Pelvic Floor Health.” Yes. Welcome to AMR, where TMI is a weekly occurrence. Physical Therapist Dr. Julie Wiebe explained how we can improve running form and economy by rethinking our core. After a quick break, we headed to dinner, and our icebreaker opportunity. We split into groups and had to come up with a list of things that were true for everyone in the group, such as, “We think cats are jerks,” and “we have fallen off a bike…and gotten back up.” It was a fantastic evening to kick-off the weekend, and I went back to the hotel for a good night’s sleep.
Friday, May 18th — Seminars, expo
After the healthiest breakfast I’ve eaten in a while, we had two more seminars. The first was a Triggerpoint Therapy foam rolling session. The groans of pain and awkward movements by 20 ladies in one room proved that we should probably all foam roll more. Although much of the seminar included stuff I already knew, there were some techniques to foam rolling that I hadn’t known! The second seminar was led by Dr. Justin Ross — one of two men at AMR (the other was podcast producer Alex Ward) — who is a Sport Psychologist. His calm demeanor and zen-like attitude brought us into the mental side of running and racing. Some of his quotes I would carry with me the rest of the weekend included, “Be mindful of where you are right now,” and “It never always gets worse.” After lunch, we went up to the Race Expo to pick up our bibs and walk the floor, but it wouldn’t be long before I was back in my room grabbing a power nap before dinner.
It was by this point I realized everything in Ogden seemed loud. So many of the spaces where we had a meal or an event were so acoustically live and loud that it was already overwhelming…and then you add 50 women into that room. For someone who goes into sensory overload very quickly, this was tough for me to handle at times. So I was glad I didn’t sign up for a roommate…I was able to get a real retreat at the retreat.
Saturday, May 19th — Race, nap, yoga, dinner and Karaoke…and the Dog Bouncer?
By the time you get to the 3rd day of the retreat, you’ve bonded with other women over some weird stuff. An early (4:00 am) wake up call got me out of bed for the Ogden half marathon (full race recap here), after which I enjoyed the rest of the morning at the finisher’s festival. AMR had VIP access, which included a special roped off section for our runners. I waited with other retreat participants while the marathoners came in. We celebrated and cheered for everyone’s achievements, until it was time to enjoy a little quiet space before our night out. This is where things got kicked up a notch.
Another fabulous meal in another beautiful space, we were able to let our hair down a little with…wait for it…Karaoke! As Sarah Bowen Shea says, Karaoke is less about talent and more about enthusiasm. This group embraced that concept very quickly, and before dinner was even finished, this group of ladies were singing and dancing to all the Karaoke standards. My Spokane friend Debbi somehow got me into a biker bar next door where three of us did a shot. The live band was so loud, I felt like my ears were bleeding, but I blame the “bouncer,” Percy the Dog. He was out front to lure people in.
Sunday, May 20th — Sleeping in, brunch, then homeward bound
Luckily, we had nowhere to be the next morning, except our farewell breakfast. We were all reluctant to go home after all of the pampering, bonding, and relaxing we’d been doing. None of us were really ready to get “back to the grind.” I certainly knew it would feel like a much longer drive home than the trip up. I repacked the car, said goodbye to my friends, and found myself back on the road.
The whole weekend was indescribable, really, so it seems a lame attempt to capture it in a blog post. The thing is, I’ve been longing for friendships lately, and I’m terrible at going out and finding them. This group of women and I have at least two things in common: motherhood and running. Those two commonalities offer up days of conversations during which we find even more to talk about. I needed this. With luck, I’ll be able to attend another retreat, but for now, I’ll look back at the pictures and videos, follow new friends on social media, and reflect on what it means to be a member of a sisterhood so beautiful as this.