Is it weird that I just spent four days with an aching hand as we spent hours writing (yes with actual pen and paper!) during the Wilder Running and Writing Retreat, but I find myself grasping for the words to share this experience.
Inevitably, I feel that way after most wonderful vacations. It’s like taking a photo of the mountains, beautiful, but impossible to capture the magnificence of being surrounded by nature.
Nevertheless, I shall forge ahead because if nothing else that’s one thing I relearned this weekend: just keep going, perfect isn’t the goal.
Wilder Running Retreat Overview
A few years ago, my friend Christine attended this retreat and as a fellow runner/writer I instantly longed to be there too. I couldn’t find a ton of information, but from everything she said it just sounded RIGHT.
That deep in your gut, I know it’s for me, but can’t tell you why kind of right. So I’ve been waiting a whole year to apply and make it happen.
So what is Wilder? I won’t spoil the magic of it by giving everything away, but if you’re considering it and just want to know what to expect and my experience, I got you!
Created by professional runner Lauren Fleshman who found herself seeking a place to connect two of her passions, it took many years of pondering and planning before making it a reality. Basically just like a big marathon goal!
Wilder has a few locations, but one of the original (and where I attended) is Caldera Arts Center in Sisters, Oregon. Picture this:
- No cell service
- No WiFi
- Comfy bed
- Surrounded by pine trees, open skies, lakes, streams, rocks and trails
From Friday-Monday, you’ll find yourself enjoying a daily run of varying lengths and intensities, along with hours of daily writing.
Hours of writing?!!
Yup, even though I wanted to get my creative juices going I couldn’t figure out how these hours of writing were really going to work. Turns out they know what they’re doing and our teacher Marianne taught us some techniques that I’ll continue using.
- Prompts to get the words flowing
- Timed writing
- No judgements allowed writing
- All writing by hand
- Reading your writing out loud WITHOUT anyone being able to respond at all
That last one was freaking amazing! In a few different situations people either talked or read something they wrote and we weren’t allowed to respond in anyway shape or form other than to say “thank you”.
This allowed people to freely share anything on their heart because it couldn’t be brought up later and for everyone else to actively listen because they weren’t required to respond!!!
What happened in the silence was a release of judgement.
That non-judgement is a huge theme for everyone and carries over in to the running workouts.
Yup, there’s plenty of trail runs where you can go your own speed, but there’s also a speed workout day.
Knowing that I already feel slow post surgery and I’m not great at speed anyway, learning about it on day 1 I immediately started to feel that normal sense of dread. The I’ll be the last kid on the playground feeling, the oh crap I write about running and feel like I’m not enough feeling….the one I work on overcoming a lot.However, by the time we came to that workout and went through a number of drills I wasn’t so worried about anyone else. Mostly because I’d realized no one was that worried about me!
We were all out there and ready to do our best, which for me was a lot of letting go of fears and expectations to just allow.
That was the word I picked for myself during our opening circle on day 1 and it would come to mean so much more to me than I realized. I’ve used it many times since that day as a reminder that I need to allow things to flow rather than trying to push so hard or control a situation.
As a comment on one Instagram photo said “trail porn” happening here for all the run lovers.
Here’s a sample of what the Wilder running schedule looks like:
Friday: 4 mile evening easy group run
Saturday: Fun interval workout
Sunday: Long trail run day (options for distance)
Monday: 45 minute morning run, walk or hike
Though I now get plenty of time on the trails in Denver, they’re still totally different in Oregon!!
First the trails feel almost padded thanks to the layers of pine needles that create a soft landing and second you don’t have to immediately run UP to do a trail, which is everything in Denver. Instead we enjoyed a number of relatively flat runs!
And possibly my favorite part…as we did our long run on Sunday the McKenzie River was roaring beside us which added this incredible energy to the moment.
I was running solo by choice and soaking up the 10 miles without headphones or distractions, just moving.It was the first time in awhile I found myself writing in my head again, which is how I used to create all the content on this site! But months of being injured and then trying to come back after injury had my brain preoccupied. It felt incredible to let that go.
Of course all those workouts from morning core yoga to trail running and the walks around the retreat required serious fuel. Per usual I get nervous about having food, but they were on top of everything!
Dairy free? No problem. Tomato free? No problem. Gluten free? No problem! Each meal was filled with plenty of veggies, protein options and all with outstanding local produce and flavors thanks to a local chef and her team.
It was such a beautiful thing to see women chatting over their meals and not a one focused on calories! We were fueling up right and thinking about doing the right things for our bodies.
Bonus points for the keg of kombucha that was on hand at all times and a table of snacks filled with things like Picky Bars (another thing created by Lauren!).
Like I said, I wanted to provide you some of the factual details…but honestly this retreat is about so much more than the facts. Without a single mention of religion, there’s a shift that happens in the spirit.
I think it’s the combo of allowing all your thoughts to simply flow out on to the paper, then moving your body to workout any tension from the emotions that may have come up.
While my hand quite literally hurt from going back to pen and paper, it was an instant reminder that I’m far more creative in that venue than when I type on the computer. For anyone who enjoys both writing and running, this is a unique opportunity to work on both in a self-judgement free zone.
What kind of creative retreat would you like to do?
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Thanks to Jess Barnard for many of the photos in this post. This is not a sponsored trip.