After months of running for stress relief and perspective, the promise of a widely available vaccine in 2021 means we can add optimism and joy among our reasons to lace up. Our favorite running retreats this year all reflect this spirit of playfulness, each incorporating camaraderie and mindfulness into itineraries that allow runners to explore gorgeous new terrain under professional guidance. Whether you’re interested in meeting other mindful runners or want to experience nature in a new way, these USA-based retreats will transform you.
Setting: The Sonoran Desert – Carefree, Arizona
Dates: October 14-17 and November 4-7
Why We Love It: We’re crazy about the whole Run Wild Retreats calendar, which includes long-time favorites like Iceland and The Dolomites, as well as new North American destinations like Telluride and Victoria Island. But this 2021 newcomer has especially piqued our interest.
Maybe it’s the promise of striding past giant saguaro cacti. Maybe it’s the intrigue of “yummy yoga.” After a stressful year, it might just as easily be the prospects of lounging by the pool at the Civana Wellness Resort + Spa or indulging in the included spa treatment. As with all retreats offered by the award-winning team at Run Wild Retreats, the experience is led by experienced trail runners and includes mindful running techniques to tackle the trails with confidence.
Each retreat, regardless of ability level, also embodies a sense of playfulness and joy that encourages pausing to drink in the scenery and even stop for a photo. Founder Elinor Fish, a pioneer of the mindful running movement, has intentionally created each retreat to feel restorative and rejuvenating, with every mile leading to that “happy tired” feeling that indicates growth, not exhaustion.
As journalist Rebecca Meyers, who attended the Mediterranean Mindful Running Retreat, shared with The Sunday Times, “As a teenager I would run through trails without a watch, GPS tracker or phone, and return beaming, covered in mud. This is the closest I’ve come to that feeling in years.”
Check out the calendar to see the full range of destinations. Run Wild Retreats also offers the option to book a private retreat with your own group and dates.
Setting: The Colorado Rockies
Dates: August 22-27 and September 12-17
Why We Love It: This 6-day, 100-mile journey takes runners on a single-track adventure from Aspen to Red Cliff, Colorado, following a route typically traversed on skis. Led by Rickey Gates, a professional runner and veteran guide of the Colorado Rockies, the camp is more of a celebration of running for joy than an attempt to “conquer” the mileage or Instagram the process. Indeed, as the website states, the oldest participant to date was 72 and most participants are in their 40s.
Brennan Wysong perhaps put it best in a feature for Bloomberg, “Hut Run Hut is a joyous exercise, a way for distance runners of varying abilities to reap the rewards of logging all those training miles.”
We at Mindful Escapes haven’t yet had the chance to try it ourselves, but the tantalizing appeal of six days without cell service in the untouched wilderness of Colorado has this camp squarely on our bucket list. Read more about the recommended prep and day-to-day experience above.
Setting: Blue Ridge Mountains, North Carolina
Dates: July 11-16, 2021
Ability: Mixed (Beginner-Friendly)
Why We Love It: This retreat reminds us of the camps that kicked off cross-country season in high school and college. The mixed-ability retreat focuses on training basics: nutrition, form, strength, and mental endurance. Runners enjoy five days of cruisy romps through the Blue Ridge high country, followed by an afternoon of tubing down the New River — just like camp.
Designed for all abilities, from never-ever trail runners to serious marathoners, the Blue Ridge Running Vacation provides a deep foundation for healthy long-distance running, while adding an element of playfulness that gives even the most earnest veteran permission to feel giddy on the trails again. We also love the spotlight on the East Coast, a surprising rarity among trail running retreats given the varied terrain this side of the Mississippi. Click above to see the full range of retreats offered by Zap Endurance with day-by-day detail.
Setting: Bay Area, California
Ability: Beginner (Capable of running/hiking 9-10 miles per day)
Why We Love It: Despite its made-for-running weather, scenery and terrain, San Francisco has yet to emerge as a trail running mecca in the same way that, say, Portland or Eugene just to the North have, and we’re thrilled to see a retreat that celebrates the area’s striking coastal terrain, while embracing its connection to wine country.
We like this retreat in particular because it makes trail running accessible to beginners and city dwellers alike with an itinerary that’s easily customizable. Primarily a hiking retreat company, Wine Country Trekking developed this special trail running version for Runner’s World in 2009, and it has since racked up multiple 5-star reviews based on the organization, guidance and ideal balance of running and relaxation.
As we carry anxieties about COVID-19 into 2021, the fully private retreat also allows for the greatest possible peace of mind among participants. Click above to learn more about this retreat and the many hiking treks offered by Wine Country Trekking.
Setting: Caldera, Oregon
Why We Love It: We include this retreat as a “bonus” because it’s not entirely clear yet whether one will take place in 2021, but we find inspiration in the philosophy nonetheless. Launched by pro coach and writer Lauren Fleshman (co-founder of the BELIEVE Training Journal), the scenic retreats combine running, “wild writing” and encouragement from professional writing teachers and journalists to support “creative and physical courage.”
We will immediately update if a 2021 retreat becomes available, or you can click above to sign up for their newsletter and get word directly.