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You show up to your first group run, reluctantly, at 6:14 a.m. It’s dark and snowing, but the energy of the more than 100 attendees makes you forget the icicles growing on your eyelashes. A fellow participant introduces herself and gives you a high five. Later, when you’re halfway up a hill, another shouts, “Hey, you’ve got this!”
That’s just the beginning of November Project.
November Project began in 2011 as a bet between co-founders Brogan Graham and Bojan Mandaric to show up for workouts on cold Boston mornings. When they invited others to join them, it quickly grew into what Graham calls a “social experiment gone right”—an experience that brings people together to work hard, play hard and encourage one another. As of fall 2017, there are thousands of participants across 43 tribes in eight countries around the world.
“The ‘Fight Club’ it became was this out-of-control movement that was pairing the simple parts of November Project: kindness and hard work,” Graham says. “The idea is that anyone can show up, but everyone has to throw down.”
A Fight Club For Everyone
November Project isn’t a boot camp and it isn’t, strictly speaking, a running club. It’s a free fitness movement that’s as much about community and connection as it is about getting a workout.
Tribes aim to balance fierce with fun and to create a supportive environment for hardcore athletes, those who are new to training and everyone in between. The same people who go all out on tough “PR Day” challenges will show up in costumes for Halloween or punk-rock clothes for a yearbook picture day. One day a month is dedicated to “tagging” November Project T-shirts for new members.
Workouts vary from day to day and tribe to tribe, depending on terrain and co-leader creativity. BOS—tribes are identified by their airport codes—calls Harvard Stadium and its many stairs home, while LAX makes use of hilly trails at Griffith Observatory. Activities are adaptable to all ages and abilities, and the only requirement is that you give it all you’ve got and acknowledge others along the way.
“You work harder when people are there to support you and push you to get stronger, and everyone gets that experience, whether you’ve been coming for years or it’s your very first time,” says LAX co-leader Maggie Nolting.
There’s really only one step to joining November Project: Just show up. Tribes post their schedules and workout locations to social media and the website. Each tribe meets, at a minimum, on Wednesday morning, and they never cancel for weather. Part of November Project’s appeal is that it is reliable in a world in which it’s often easier not to show up. It also employs a sense of accountability to motivate you out of bed. You don’t need to be a runner, and you don’t need to bring anything besides a willingness to participate and to connect with others.
Sixty percent of participants are women. Introduce yourself to your tribe’s co-leaders, high-five a stranger and get going.
“People just need to be willing to move and give it their best,” says Edmonton (YEG) co-leader Jen Ference. “We don’t leave anyone behind. We promise that if they are open to it, this is a community who will embrace and support all.”
Learn The Lingo
November Project happens rain or shine. Tribes meet for every scheduled workout, even in freezing snowstorms and extreme heat.
A pre-workout huddle and chant to get warmed up and psyched.
Part of an opening call-and-response conducted by every November Project tribe. The answer? “F@#k yeah!”
A commitment to show up. If you break your verbal, you may be subject to friendly shaming in a “We Missed You” post on your tribe’s Facebook or blog section.
A wooden oar distributed after almost every workout to the “one member who bounced out of bed with an extra spring in his/her step.”
Seven straight minutes of burpees. “It’s terrible,” says Nolting, “but when you suffer through it as a tribe, you can’t help but come out feeling closer.”