Jan 29 • 1HR 18M

A weekend in the woods

50+ strong women helped me record the first episode of the Moving Through podcast. I think you'll like our conversation.

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Lively conversations about forward motion, Michigan travel, running, books, writing, food, + midlife hosted by journalist Heather Johnson Durocher, founder of MichiganRunnerGirl.com and the Michigan Runner Girl podcast.
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In my most recent newsletter, I wrote about being a few days out from an annual winter retreat I help organize (among other thoughts I shared about making a recent life transition).

This weekend event, which for the first time sold out with more than 50 registrants, brings women together for a weekend in northern lower Michigan, in the woods and on the shores of a large, beautiful inland lake. One of our guest speakers, traveling Saturday afternoon the hour it takes from Traverse City to the lodge, may have summed up the scenic surroundings the best: “I haven’t seen this many pine trees in a long time!” The long-overdue snowfall we received the night before the event got underway painted an even prettier wintry picture.

As I write this, a week after this 5th annual winter weekend getaway, as we call it, I am still on a high from its success. And by success I mean the amount of soul-filling and heartfelt interactions I experienced firsthand and witnessed throughout those three days and two nights. This weekend felt especially meaningful to me, for a number of reasons I’m still unpacking, and I believe many, if not all, of the women who were there would probably agree it was a significant weekend, transformative even. Getting away from our everyday routines, taking a breath and exhaling, spending time in nature and with other women in a safe and welcoming space, has this effect.

It’s a lot of work (and yes, a whole lot of fun!) to organize, taking months of coordinating, and I don’t do it alone; my great friend Pam is my co-planner and we partner with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to make it all happen each January. As I shared with the women this past weekend, this mid-winter event is my most favorite of all the events Michigan Runner Girl has created over the years, to include a spring women’s retreat at a high-end resort and spa, live podcast evening with elite runner and Olympian Des Linden, and a Leelanau Peninsula trail race—these also were amazing, unforgettable events, but this winter weekend is simply … magical. The cozy main lounge with its fieldstone fireplace (and up north/old school woodsy artwork), not-too-rustic and quirky-while-lovely sleeping lodges, the onsite meandering trails, the always-friendly and accommodating staff that knows us and our group so well now—all of this adds up to the most peaceful and restorative mini-escape for everyone.

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We pack in a lot over the weekend, while also doing our best to allow for ample downtime. We leave it up to each woman to decide what they need and want from the weekend. Every activity, from the Friday evening and Saturday morning runs to the Pilates and yoga sessions, afternoon trail snowshoe hike, and Saturday speakers and evening chair massages all are optional.

More often than not, though, most everyone is participating in the planned activities. We just don’t want anyone to feel pressured, and I will say that seeing a small group of women gathered in one of the lodges, just talking and hanging out, or finding someone curled up on the couch in one of the lodges common areas, a book in her hand, gives me a lot of joy.

Among the things we do on Saturday of the weekend is host a live podcast recording. This year, having launched Moving Through, I figured this was as good a time as any to record a podcast for this community here. I’m incredibly excited to share the conversation I had with my best friend, Cassy Stone.

Cassy and me during last weekend’s Michigan Runner Girl Winter Weekend Getaway near Roscommon, Mich.

Also featured in this episode, which was recorded in the lounge in front of a packed room, the fire crackling in the background, are stories from several of women there with us. Their bravery and honesty was—and is—beautiful.

I hope you enjoy this first episode of the Moving Through podcast. I look forward to sharing more of these conversations and I would love to hear what you think about this one.

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p.s. Here are a few more photos from this weekend. And, in case you are wondering about the future of this winter weekend (I was asked about this more than once during the weekend), we plan to keep it going! Though I am in the midst of figuring out how Michigan Runner Girl will look and continue, I know this for sure: connecting with other women, through movement and in the outdoors, and through vulnerable and honest conversations, is sacred and essential to me. I think you’ll see just how much this means to me, and to these women, when you listen to this episode. (You can listen here by clicking on the player at the top of this newsletter or by using your favorite podcast app. Search for “Moving Through”; you might have to add my name, too).

Thank you for being here.

Until next time!

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Moving Through is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.