Culture

A Retreat That Redefines Women’s Running

Registration opens April 2 for the second Rock Retreat Run.

When I walked into the opening reception at the first Rock Retreat Run, I saw a room full of ladies in shades of white—blank slates, if you will—and honestly didn’t know what to expect. I wasn’t even that familiar with Fellow Flowers, the organizer. What ended up following over the next three days was one of the most colorful experiences.

For those of you who are uninitiated to the community of Fellow Flowers, it was founded by two women, Mel Charbonneau and Tori Sager, who ran a half marathon with 11 girlfriends—through their training and racing together, they realized the bonds were exponentially greater. Fellow Flowers grew out of that community to encourage all women to share their reasons for running and support each other.

Since the original 14 half-marathoners wore orange Gerber daisies to show their solidarity, the company makes flowers in 13 different colors with themes varying from “fiercely united” orange, to “courage” green, to “rock star” black, to “gratitude” pink. They also have branded, inspirational apparel.

Honestly I wasn’t sure what to make of all of these ladies with giant flowers clipped in their hair, so for the first full day I just quietly attended the retreat to soak it all in. We ran together and did yoga. We talked about healthy eating and how to deal with grief. The connections between friends who had attended the retreat together and women who came knowing no one were strong. This is a welcoming group!

Day two started with climbing a mountain, no easy task for all of us. The achievement was something we all celebrated and shared, but still I didn’t fully grasp the magic. Next thing you know we’re back in a hotel ballroom filled with round tables and chairs.

Everyone was given the opportunity to share their stories, and sitting there listening to stories about medical issues and death or about self-doubt and stressful children, I realized it’s not only running that’s a powerful form of therapy—it’s running with these women. Here’s just one woman’s amazing story.

In Los Angeles a mother will pin a green flower in her hair before heading out for a 10-miler and even when she’s alone on the street, it’s as if she has tens or hundreds or thousands of women with her across the country. A woman in North Carolina will clip on pink flower before her run in honor of someone in Chicago who can’t run right now. Showing up at a race with a flower in your hair (or on your shoe, since let’s face it—we’re all not giant-flower-in-my-hair people!) is starting to guarantee a connection with another flower-clad runner. There are about 25,000 women who are part of the Fellow Flowers community.

Charbonneau and Sager have designed Rock Retreat Run to bring the women’s running community together in an empowering setting. (Women’s Running is proud to be a sponsor of the retreat.) Their unique, magnetic style encourages women to own their own stories in a way that’s completely candid, supportive and authentic.

Registration is open April 2 for the second Rock Retreat Run, Aug. 11–14 in Traverse City, Mich. (the cost is $489), which will feature more opportunities for women to connect, learn from experts and run together. Before you know it, you’ll be pinning on a flower for more reasons than you had ever imagined.