Happy Birthday, November Project!

November Project turned three years old this week. I might not be one of the people shouting about it from the mountain tops each day (not really my style), but as NP celebrates its birthday and the growth of their movement, I’m compelled to reflect on how this grassroots tribe has changed my life.

Back in July of 2012 I went on vacation to Spain for a few weeks. While I was gone, my exercise partner in crime, Danielle, discovered this little run club in her neighborhood that ran up and down Summit Avenue each Friday morning.

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Talk about FOMO. After two weeks of laying on beaches, eating croissants, and drinking wine, I returned home resolving to get back on track. I’d been running on my own for about a year then, but I didn’t consider myself “a runner,” even though one of my New Year’s Resolutions was to run three half marathons that year. I was slow, and not totally sure that I belonged when I showed up at Summit that balmy July morning. We gathered at the bottom of the hill, and BG had everyone say their name. Then we ran. It was hard- the kind of hard I knew I’d never do on my own. But I left there with a sense of accomplishment and the idea that if I kept showing up, I might get faster.

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More than two years later, I’m still showing up, and, yes, I am better at running. But perhaps more importantly, I’m a better person. How? Here are a few examples:

1. I’m a hugger. Growing up, I was never really into hugging. Maybe it’s my New England roots, maybe I was subconsciously putting up walls, I don’t know… for whatever reason, hugging was something that happened to me a few times a year, and generally made me super uncomfortable. My own sister used to complain that not only would I not hug her, I frequently left her hanging with high-fives.

NP3-001Sometimes, I hug on skis.

Today, thanks to countless sweaty hugs, I’m a lot faster to embrace, I’ll high-five strangers on the street, and have to remind myself that hugging is not office appropriate. My sister gets a lot more hugs and high-fives these days too… that’s probably the main reason that she approves of November Project.

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And sometimes, I hug in groups.

2. I’m a better friend and teammate. Like a lot of folks, NP has brought some of my favorite people into my life. But my natural tendency is to be sort of a lone wolf, the kid who kind of stands apart from the group and watched everyone out of the corner of her eye. NP taught me how to not just be part of a team, but how to support others in meaningful ways. It taught me how much words of encouragement can mean when you’re struggling through a run. Watching friends open up about their own challenges (big and small) made me realize that there’s strength in making yourself vulnerable. Knowing the value of a #verbal has made me take my commitments seriously.

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3. No to cotton, yes to colors. This photo is from one of my first runs at Summit. That shirt is doing nothing for me.

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I don’t know about you, but when I’m churning through a tough workout and sweating buckets, cotton is kind of useless. Bring on the tech fabric; the more neon the better.

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4. I’m #weatherproof. Three years ago, rain was an excuse to skip a workout, and running in January was done mostly on a treadmill. Today, there are no weather excuses. I like the winter a lot more now that I’m not sentenced to months indoors, and I don’t mind the darkness as much when I’m surrounded by friends.

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(A big part of this is also due to learning how to layer right… see previous point on cotton.) Being #weatherproof brought all kinds of adventures to my life, like running through Windsor Great Park in the December rain, back country skiing out west, and swimming in Walden Pond on the first day of fall.

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5. I’m more positive (and more fun). I’ve spent a lot of time taking myself, and life, way too seriously. NP taught me the value of #positivity, and showed me that you can still train for excellence, while adding in a bit of ridiculousness. Today, whether I’m at Harvard Stadium, on the T, in my office, or anyplace else, I aim to make the best of it. Fun might not be possible 100 percent of the time, but positivity is, and it goes a long way. Just look at my Timberman race.

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NP has some pretty major changes on the horizon, and I’m not sure what it’ll look like a year or three from now. Then again, I’m not sure what my life will look like one or three years from now. But these early mornings, and the lessons and friendships that come with them, are something that will stay with me for a long time to come. Thanks, Brogan and Bojan for having this crazy idea and pulling it off so well. #thetribeisstrong

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