November 26th, 2014, 6:29 a.m. (Err, like 6:35 probably)
It was raining. That cold, miserable, one degree away from being snow, kind of rain. Fingers and toes numb as I ran along Constitution Avenue in the direction of the Lincoln Memorial. A few weeks earlier I’d been told about ‘November Project’ and was now headed to my first workout. I thought it sounded fun, but I was hesitant, wary the workout would be too easy (good one, past self).
I guess we showed up late because I don’t remember a bounce (missed my chance to yell “Fuck Yeah” before I’d even had my morning coffee). I soon learned it was ‘PR Day’ and we’d be running 17 Lincoln Logs (up and down the steps of the Lincoln Memorial), as fast as possible. I was awful at running down the stairs (still am), paranoid of tripping over my own feet (again, still am), but my determination prevailed and I was among the first finishers. I stood with the others contemplating whether I’d miscounted, while cheering on those still running, until the very last runner finished. I felt like I was back with my college team, sending my teammates to the finish line, despite the fact I didn’t know a damn soul. When the final runner descended the bottom steps, we posed for a picture before I shiver-jogged my way to the shower and headed to New York for Thanksgiving. Wednesday, earned.
After that first workout I didn’t make it again until a snow day sometime in January, at the time I left for work by 6:30, so even the 5:30 workout was out of the question. I came sporadically when I could but definitely did not consider myself part of the tribe. I felt like a bit of an outsider when I managed to make it, but something kept pulling my back.
Fast forward to January 2016. I was in training for the Boston Marathon and no longer leaving for work at 6:30 a.m. I decided I wanted to become an NP regular, rather than the sporadic visitor I’d been for over a year. I wanted NPDC to be my tribe, I wanted these members to be my friends. So, Wednesday after Wednesday, I set my alarm for 4:45, got my butt outta bed and joined the 5:30 crew. Slowly, I started to learn people’s names and to my surprise, people remembered me too. As the weeks went by, 4:45 became more routine, the workouts became more fun, and I felt an inch closer to being part of the tribe. After Boston, I got injured and was sidelined from June until September, but found myself on the steps as soon as I was back in commission. I finally deemed myself a (Wednesday) regular.
None of this is life altering and I didn’t think I had a November Project story to tell. I didn’t think I was in deep enough or a significant enough member of the tribe for my story to be valid. But as I realized how bummed I was to miss this Wednesday’s workout due to illness and how much I was looking forward to next week, it registered to me that NP is a bigger part of my life than I was aware.
I have not given November Project DC, its leaders, and the tribe the credit it deserves. When I showed up at that first workout, I was still a former collegiate athlete, struggling with disordered eating and grappling with very little self-worth. I didn’t see myself as a strong, capable woman, who also happens to run pretty well.
At the time, I still believed my value was determined by my PR time or my waist size. Now I realize, November Project undoubtedly contributed to and accelerated, my recovery.
At November Project, people applaud your PR’s and celebrate your successes, but the tribe knows you’re so much more than that. If you told a single member of NP you don’t feel fast enough, or thin enough, or smart enough, or whatever enough, without missing a beat they’ll call bullshit and remind you that you’re FUCKING BEAUTIFUL. And they won’t just say it, they’ll genuinely mean it. I’ve finally figured out, this is what kept pulling me back to the stairs before dawn. I couldn’t see it in the beginning, but the tribe was reframing my way of thinking, giving me back my self-worth, and pushing me down the road to recovery.
November Project is a beautiful place. A place where nobody gives a shit how fast your 5k is. No one cares if you run 70-mile weeks or 7-mile weeks. It doesn’t matter if you’re a size 2 or a size 20. If you show up, you belong. If you show up, 10 or 50 or 200 other people that decided to show up that morning will cheer you on until the very last step. The fastest member of the workout and the slowest member of the workout will high-5 each lap because no one is ever more than half a lap of away. November Project is a place to grow, to make friends, to give hugs and strange ear massages, to lose weight, to gain strength, to get faster, to unwind, to socialize, to explore.
November Project is exactly what you need it to be.
For me, November Project is a place to recover. November Project DC, thank you.