I come from a family that hugs a lot and has always had a very welcoming atmosphere in my home. After living in DC for two years and working for Pacers Running as a race timer, I moved back to VA Beach in 2014, where I grew up. I didn’t have a community in VA Beach like my Pacers community but I was vaguely aware of November Project and VA Beach had just gotten an official group around the time I moved back and I instantly clicked with them and helped to lead that group while living there.
I don’t come from a traditional running background but rather played soccer most of my life, which makes the concept of running without chasing a ball hard to wrap my head around. With November Project the cross training wrapped in with running really appealed to me. The workouts are hard but you are going to get stronger and faster because people push you to be better. A lot of the NP workouts are partner based and the idea is to pair with someone you don’t know and chat them up while working out. In DC not talking to strangers is the polite thing to do; it is a different culture than I am accustomed to. I instinctively hug people when I meet them and that can catch them off guard sometimes but hugging helps break down the wall, when you hug you are going to become friends sooner. November Project is all about the hugging culture and I click with it.
Since moving back to DC from VA Beach, I am in the NP community here. Attending the workout is a different vibe compared to leading it; as a leader you bring the energy and here I get to be a part of the tribe. It is not the worst thing to just show up and do the workouts. I took a lot of ownership with the VA beach group and disconnecting from it was hard. Moving back to DC and into the NP group here I found people who are warm and welcoming; there is such a strong community vibe. The community feeling is not just about the workouts, there is a social side, it’s a strongly inclusive group. In DC the November Project is huge and can be intimidating at first to see so many strangers in one location but it’s easy to fit in and I feel good being a part of it.
The team aspect of things is a big cultural component with NP. It’s common for groups to get together to run marathon relays, which doesn’t necessarily seem hard for a traditional runner but for many this may be their first big step into the community of running. The focus is no longer on the individual result but working hard for your team. The thinking shifts, I am not just going out and doing my race, this is not only my time, it is a collective time. Since I came from a team sports background I have always had the team mentality, NP embraces the team. The team concept changes the experience of running races for many people.
You can land in twenty different cities in the country, seven different cities in Canada and many places in the world, and come to an NP workout. I have been to San Francisco, Philadelphia, Toronto, Baltimore and New York City on trips and have been able to connect with tribes in these cities. You have an instant community wherever you land.
Joining NP helped make DC feel like home again. I don’t get to go home for Thanksgiving because it is a big day for races so I going to a NP Thanksgiving celebration instead. You come to NP for the workout but you are going to stay for the community.