Why You Should Indulge in a Running Retreat

I could barely make out the shape of the roof in the too-dark-for-early-fall light. The sound of waves crashed and echoed off the sea wall, carrying a sweet, briny scent. As soon as the car door closed behind me, I wanted to draw back into the warm interior and retrace the roads back to my home City.

I had arrived at my first running retreat, an intimate gathering of women on the coast of Maine in America. I looked forward to this event for months—a child-free, husband-free weekend immersed in all things running. But in the preceding weeks, I was nervous.

I’m a textbook introvert. I prefer running solo to logging kilometres with a friend or in a group. I’m happily cocooned in the cozy comfort of sharing stories on the page or in one-on-one conversations. But I get lost amid group chatter, often unable to lift my voice above the crowd to make witty in-the-moment remarks. Plus, not only was I the slowest runner in this group, I was also injured. What was an injured runner doing at a running retreat?

After settling into our rooms spread across the three-story house, we assembled in the living room—an elite runner, two injured runners, and one woman about to complete her first half-marathon. Like any good retreat, we started with a few icebreakers. While we were supposed to share how we started running, our stories kept converging around the common thread of how running is more than just physical exercise.

Running has given us mental clarity.

Running has given us an identity.

Running has given us friendships and support systems.

Running has revealed an internal strength we didn’t realise we possessed.

Running has given us a path back to ourselves when we’ve felt lost.

I’ve grown to know many of the women in attendance through social media, and we each have our external running persona. But we’ve never spent much time together in person. Maybe a meet-up at a race or lunch when passing through town.

As the weekend progressed, our external markers fell away. Pace, distance and experience didn’t matter. We were all women who loved to run and shared a powerful sense of community and friendship, not to mention a lot of laughter.

By the time Sunday arrived, my introvert self began reconsidering my stance on group get-togethers. Gathering together as runners was a gift.

Whether you’re a casual runner or experienced racer, there are many benefits to attending a running retreat. And you’ll gain more than just kilometres logged in your training journal.

You’ll learn something

Many retreats feature experts on topics ranging from injury prevention to nutrition to race training. But the greatest lessons can be found in between the formal sessions and in conversation with fellow attendees. You’ll talk of similar struggles and big scary goals. You’ll witness the strength of the human spirit that goes beyond what you can learn about the latest pacing strategy.

You won’t feel weird

From the outside, runners can be an odd bunch. But at a running retreat, you’ll meet like-minded individuals. Foam rolling during a conversation? Obsessing about race day outfits? Weird ache or pain in your butt? No big deal. You’ll have a captive audience more than happy to discuss these topics!

You’ll find your tribe

There’s nothing more powerful than gathering people together in a room around a shared passion. They know what it means to get up at zero dark thirty, to feel that dreaded pain in your heel, to juggle long runs around weekend rugby games and work schedules, and to race toward a PB. You’ll forge connections that live well beyond the retreat.

I thought attending a running retreat while injured would make me grumpy. But being surrounded by other runners is infectious. It’s impossible not to walk away falling a little harder for the sport.

While I did long to run along the ocean, more than anything, it helped me appreciate the gift of running and what it’s given me. And I know I have lifelong friends ready to cheer me on as I make my comeback to running.

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