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A few months ago I was invited to speak at one of the most dynamic events I’ve ever had the pleasure to attend—a running retreat. What’s so special about retreats for runners? You run with other run-aholics, have a clinic or two, try on some cool new apparel and shoes, and then bam, the retreat is over.
I’ve always wanted to be part of one of those gorgeous week-long retreats that feature beautiful cityscapes or countrysides, excellent and lovingly prepared food, new but amazing runner-friends, and really cool opportunities to do runner-focused yoga and stretching. Sounds like a dream, right?
The thing is, many of these retreats cater to a specific type of runner: one who can run fairly fast and has more than average disposable income. But what about the rest of us?
The Not Your Average Runner Retreat, hosted by Jill Angie, author of Running With Curves, Not Your Average 5K and Not Your Average Half Marathon, created this event for the rest of us. As I stepped up to the podium, I looked around at a range of beautiful women of all races, shapes, sizes and ages. All of them were runners either training for an event, finishing up their coaching year with Angie, or both. It was a beautiful sight to see the diversity and bounty of what was once a forgotten demographic of runners.
This was a retreat for the rest of us, that group of people who don’t necessarily fit the image of what a runner looks like. Here were women who donned whatever running clothes they could find designed for them, ran a couple of days a week, did 5Ks to marathons and constantly challenged the notion of who a runner is and who a runner could be. Even as a speaker at this event I felt welcomed and I felt like I belonged.
How did this all come about? Jill used to work in corporate America and as she turned 40 years old, decided she was done with it. Around the same time, she started training for a three day cancer walk in Philadelphia and noticed that she started feeling better, healthier and more fit. This, along with a few other moments that pointed her in a new direction, helped her decide that she wanted to help other women achieve fitness and feel amazing—at any size.
Angie had been an on and off runner, and eventually used a combination of triathlon training and pure running to achieve a version of healthy that gelled with her own attitudes about fitness. She became a personal trainer, a running coach and an author—because there was a lack of materials and training available to women who didn’t fit the stereotypical notion of runner and athlete. Angie also realized that many personal trainers weren’t always appropriate and sensitive in their approach with the types of women that she wanted to help. So she created her own thing for the rest of us. She saw a void and filled it.
Jill Angie’s newest title, Not Your Average Half Marathon, the third in her series of enlightening books about the pleasures of running and training for all kinds of women, encourages runners to move even further in our running goals, upping the distance and challenge level. She knows what the obstacles might be as a non-average runner herself and offers poignant and timely advice throughout the book to help runners overcome them and continue with training. She offers sensible, easy-to-follow chapters on run/walking, hydration, gear and apparel, injuries, self-doubt, failure, commitment, choosing a suitable event to register for, accountability and mindset.
One of my favorite chapters is about guilt. Many (but certainly not all) women are mothers, wives and/or caretakers. For some, there is a sense of guilt about something so luxurious as taking time out during the day, possibly away from your family, to run. You might selfish and indulgent, almost as if you shouldn’t be outside or on the mill getting your run on. But Angie makes it clear. She writes: “Your family needs you. And they need you at your best, both physically and emotionally.”
Now if that isn’t a good enough reason to engage in some sort of act that ensures that you are getting some time to yourself, and time to work on your own mental, emotional and physical health, what is?
The book comes with two sensible plans (5 miles to half-marathon and 5K to half-marathon) that include a walk or easy run on recovery days, a gradual and achievable progression of long runs, and a dedicated days of cross training and strength training. Angie also included a training journal in the book for every day of training. Genius. Everything you need, encouragement, a plan designed for YOU, and space to journal your own experience.
So, if you’re considering moving up the running spectrum and trying out the the half-marathon distance (DO IT! You won’t regret it!), read this book. It will inspire, motivate and get you on the right track to half-marathon success!
As Jill Angie puts it: “My beautiful unicorn, this is your book.”