As they say, third time is the charm.

No, I don’t know who they are but, in the case of the AMR Run + Refresh Retreat in Portland, Oregon, they were absolutely correct. 

It’s been a weird few years, you know? None of us are the same person we were back before March 2020. Even Portland itself is a little rougher around the edges than it used to be. So are mother runners. Could the same retreat magic that blossomed on Hilton Head in March be found in a big city on the Pacific Northwest?

I’ll cut to the finish line: yes.

For me, the magic always starts when the doors to the registration table open. Melissa Gilley, the moxie behind all of the spreadsheets and banquet contracts, made sure all of our shoelaces are tied and our GPS signals acquired. But we just never know if it’ll all come together until the moment we’re handing out swag bags to welcomed guests. Each and every time, I’m reminded again that my favorite part is the moment the hall fills with happy laughter and the burble of conversation. That’s really when the retreat begins.

Three mother runners are joyful about tampons

The Portland mother runners set a PR for packing period products.

The burble grew into a cascade of conversation during the pre-cocktail hour hands-on service event, which was packing period product packets for the Portland-based Many hands made light work and mother runners proved that no one can top our efficiency and enthusiasm.

Dimity, me, Molly, and Sarah. No, I have no idea what I was looking at. (photo credit to Anna C.)

That giddy energy carried into Friday’s podcast taping, where Sarah, Dimity, Molly, and I went through a round of speed dating. Some of the questions were softballs, like “Candy corn: yes or no.” Other questions caused the conversation to get a little bit crunchy. (“Crunchy” will make total sense when you hear the episode. Trust me.)

Even Sarah’s French bulldog Auggie picked up on the vibe. His joy matched our own, if only because he got to hang with his bestie, podcast producer emeritus Alex, and a flock of mother runners who wanted to do nothing but fawn over him.

Mother runners running toward the Steel Bridge at sunrise

Is there anything more lovely than a morning run along the Willamette River with a few of your best running friends?

We opened Saturday with a group run, walk, or strength session before diving into a day of workshops. A fair whack of BAMRs came with Dimity and me to Powell’s Bookstore, which is like a mini-city built on the written word. It’s totally overwhelming in all of the best ways to see so many books and so many mother runners in one place. 

Those are the moments I will take with me from the retreat: groups of women hanging out or running or eating or learning. But not in a pod person sort of way, where every member of the group acts in lock-step. Instead, these groups wax and wane like the tide, shifting members and locations and activities.

And that’s how it felt to mosey the half marathon in the Columbia Gorge. All of the BAMRs who were running or walking or cheering were part of a larger whole. I mean, it’s hard to have a lousy time when the scenery is so flipping stunning. But this gang of gals could make a race through some of our nation’s bleakest rest stops and landfills into a good time. Even the super steep switchbacks of the first few miles weren’t too bad knowing because we were all doing it together — and that we’d be able to fly down them on the return back to town.

Columbia Gorge and my big head

I mean. Could it be any more scenic?

One of the ideas I’ve spent the past three years pondering is what it means to be “in community” with other people of a like mind. I was introduced to the concept via Unitarian Universalism, a faith that seems to be mostly about building relationships and delivering casseroles. Community, however, comes up in everything from political activism to parenting blogs. Being “in community” rests on like-minded folks finding ways to work together even if they aren’t a homogeneous group. It has undergone a renaissance after the last few years. I hope it continues to flourish, if only because I love the sound of mother runners meeting up and mingling, to say nothing of the unstoppable energy of like-minded women ready to enjoy their time together and connect.

Those connections might be the best way to smooth the rough edges the last three years have caused. And while I hope that we’re on a smoother path now, these moments in this community make all the miles happier.

[Want to join us on an AMR Retreat? Check out the three fantastic retreats we have lined up for 2023!]