I am not long back from an amazing four days in Bologna where I attended a running camp with a group of women from my online running group, none of whom I’d met before. I say ‘running camp’ but that may be slightly misleading. There was as much eating, cooking, pampering (Bologna has a fabulous hammam!), shopping and sightseeing on offer as running. The four day event was organised to coincide with an all female running race organised by our coach Julia. I had been looking forward to this event ever since it was first announced in October last year. I remember the exact date because my aunt (my running inspiration) had passed away that morning.
Despite looking forward to Bologna for so many months, the night before I was due to leave I found myself wondering if perhaps I may not go after all. I could simply enjoy the two days of annual leave I had booked, relax at home and catch up on things. Despite the fact that all the women on our online running forum couldn’t be more friendly and supportive I was quietly terrified at the prospect of actually meeting them in person. I tend to be most comfortable interacting with people one-on-one or in smaller groups so it suddenly felt quite intimidating.
As it turned out I had absolutely nothing to fear. I was the first to arrive and the sheer excitement of meeting Shauna and Julia (the two women behind the running group) in person was overwhelming. Over the course of the afternoon everyone else arrived and a very relaxed and comfortable dynamic was formed. Although we’d never met we had been communicating on the forum for sometime so we weren’t complete strangers. But still, it was a relief. It was a fantastic few days and much to my surprise, as someone who needs time alone, I didn’t find myself drained by the constant company. The support, encouragement and excitement amongst the group were palpable and I absolutely loved being able to talk about running non-stop without feeling like a bore!
Having been the first to arrive it turned out that I was also the first to leave. Much to my embarrassment I found myself in tears as I said goodbye. It is a long time ago now but I experienced a vastly different dynamic with a group of young women at a time in my life when I was particularly vulnerable and most in need of support. In Bologna it was incredibly heart warming to see, and be a part of, the best that can emerge when women join forces. As tempting as it was to stay at home I am so thankful I didn’t!
Update: Shauna describes the retreat wonderfully here (yes, a running retreat that’s the perfect description!)