Thank you so much for your comments on the Elephant post! You all rawk and I feel about 237% less loony now!
Last summer Julia and I became possessed with the idea of an Up & Running retreat. We'd just enjoyed a brekkie in Brussels with Cels, a lovely Up & Runner, and discovered that meeting the woman behind the 90 x 90 pixel forum avatar was bloody amazing. We had do it again. En masse! With running! And yoga! And goody bags! And wine!
We settled on a cosy gathering in Bologna, Italy in order to align with Julia's very own Running Festival race. We held our breath when we announced it on the Forum (you know that throw your own birthday party will-they won't-they feeling!?), but we ended up with Up & Runners travelling from England, France, Germany, Guinea, Italy, Netherlands, Scotland, Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates with Australian Jo scoring the prize for furthest travelled!
We took over a bed & breakfast in central Bologna. Julia had done a brilliant job scouting it, and when I saw the sun-dappled foyer with Fiat lurking in the background I sighed happily, "Ahhh… Italian as f*ck!"
The most gleeful part of organising was the goody bags. What's the point of going to meet a bunch of internet people if you don't get a goody bag, I ask you!? The goods included snacks, a hand-made Up & Running headband, STICKERS! and nail polish in the perfect shade of Up & Running pink.
My spewy nerves dissolved the minute the first runner came through the door. Cate, an expat Aussie in Switzerland, had a smile even more dazzling than her avatar and it hit me, "Holy crap these people are REAL! This is going to rock!".
After that initial weirdness of connecting real bodies to internet voices, soon the room buzzed with exotic accents and laughter. There was wine and delicious pizzas, those amazing wood fired ones that I will be dreaming about for months to come. Especially this baby for afters…
Friday morning began with Coach Julia's Boot Camp. She didn't bring her whistle or megaphone but I insisted on calling it a Boot Camp just to mess with everyone's heads.
I shed a few tears at the sight of our runners taking off for their warm-up run with Coach J out in front. Okay, it was a lot of tears. Not even a year after our very first 5K Course ended, here was a group of women from all over the world, zooming along together. Behind the international keyboards had lurked real life runners, after all!
I'd hoped I wasn't alone in feeling a sense of community and deep connection on the Forum right from the start, but oh man, it was so real. They were such a genuine, funny, warm and beautiful bunch of women. I was totally overcome with emotion all weekend long. Apologies to everyone I blubbed on!
Anyway… after the running came a runner-friendly yoga cool down.
On Friday night we had a pasta demonstration at the B&B from a handsome young Pasta Man.
As well as the most light and tasty pasta ever, there was a mega load of antipasti. I particularly loved the artichokes, the hunks of Parmesan, the local soft cheese whose name I forget and the garlicky bruschetta. And another hunk of Parmesan for good measure, yes please…
Saturday was a free day to explore Bologna (or in my case, fall deeper in love with coffee, eat gelato and chit chat endlessly). That evening our resident runner/photographer Sara set up a photobooth for us to play with.
There was a minor incident when some espresso-fuelled loon wondered aloud if one could be photographed mid-air by diving onto the bed, and then kinda almost broke the bed attempting it *whistles*. Thank goodness the camera did not catch that moment.
Julia and I attempted yet again to get a serious photo for our About page.
Now all we had left to do was Sunday's race…