Last weekend I participated in the North East Wisconsin Running Retreat, sponsored by Fleet Feet Fox Valley. A truly wonderful experience all around, and I came away with a great deal of new knowledge and ideas to put into practice. This was a retreat in every sense of the word – a withdrawing from the larger world into a smaller, more private space. Pulling back from the usual routine and narrowing our focus for a couple days. A small group allowed for an increased sense of intimacy between participants and providers. It was a restful, relaxing experience that was at the same time energizing and invigorating.
My “why”. A friend invited me to go, and a running retreat was on my bucket list. (Bless you, Jane!). I told another friend, and she decided to sign up (Bless you, Laura!). Easy enough, right? Until someone at the weekend asked me, “No, really, WHY did you come?”. Geez, like start out with the tough stuff! So I gave it some consideration. We started the weekend off with quick introductions, then an hour run/walk on the grounds. Everyone gravitated toward their pace groups. First new friends made – Jane and Laura were on different paces than mine. After we started, I wanted to go a little farther than my new friends, so I continued on after they turned back. So, WHY, really? I can always learn more, and enjoy learning….I’ve never really had “formal” training/learning about running from anyone besides the kids (and their instruction has always been good)….new experiences are good. Before the retreat, and at the very start of the retreat, Leah encouraged us to consider finding our space and our people this weekend. So, alone and extending my first run gave me more time to think. As I listened, I heard most prominently my inner critic/negative voice. Something along the lines of not being a runner, not being good enough to be here. “This is it – they will all know you are a fraud”. Never mind all that I have accomplished to this point. Listening harder, and more intently, I heard a tinier, younger voice – hopeful – saying “you need this, you deserve this. These are your people, and this is your space. Take this tiny flame and fan it – make it grow. Your joy is here, and you just have to claim it!”. When I returned, Coach Deb asked me how it was. “Good”, I told her. “It must have been. When you left, you were not smiling – and look at you now. Also, you were walking at the beginning – and I caught you running after you left us!”. My Space, my pace, my People.
At that moment, I let go of my need to label myself as something. I no longer felt the need to clarify that I run/walk or whatever I do to get from point A to point B. I lost a ton of weight. Opened my heart and my mind up to everything that would come during the weekend. No one else seemed interested in labels either.
By Sunday, when it was time to leave, I was delightfully tired! We shared 4 running workouts, multiple stretching exercises, a core workout, a chi running practice, and a glorious sunset yoga practice – as well as listening to several presenters. We got to try out new gear, and, of course had the opportunity to purchase some as well. It has taken several days to process all of the good that was crammed into that short time period.
One of the first things I did on Monday morning was contact the race director for the 50k I signed up for. I requested a switch to the marathon distance and was granted the change. Lost more weight. Why? I don’t need to sign up for, nor start a 50k to prove to myself that I am or am not a runner. I am me – I move with joy in a way that serves my body, mind and soul. I want to participate in this particular event, and because of the setting, I don’t want to be under a time constraint that will add pressure and stress. I eagerly anticipate exploring the setting and taking in the beauty I know I will find.
I am solidly claiming my space, eagerly searching out my people, and surrendering to the experience of this present moment. I choose to not isolate myself or become so focused on continually training that I miss out on life. My next big job is re-evaluating my goals – shifting from serving myself to serving others. Something that does truly bring me joy.
Surrender and Retreat are often considered cowardly actions. I don’t believe that. Retreating from the demands and noise of the world to claim your space, and surrendering to that which brings you joy requires courage and bravery. Surrendering the need to meet other’s expectations and the need to control is difficult.