It’s not a run club or a boot camp, but the people who train with us accidentally become runners. Brogan Graham
For athletes not excited about snow, winter is rife with choices, none of them particularly inspiring. Fork over the big bucks for a boring gym membership, explore paint ball options, or settle down with your remote. One October evening Brogan Graham and Bojan Mandaric, former collegiate rowers, met at a Boston bar and concocted one of those “seemed like a good idea at the time” plans: They would work out every November morning with stadium steps, hills, river runs, whatever the city could dish out.
This being the Facebook era, folks began showing up at the November Project workouts. A casual flip through the pages of the book gives the impression that this is mostly an upwardly mobile younger crowd, or tribe, as participants prefer to be called. But all are welcome and greeted with the mandatory hug – from three year-old Tommy Fisher whose San Francisco tribe outfitted as dragons to celebrate his birthday, to sight-impaired Ashley Brow, to your 78 year-old grandmother. All you need for this free group is a commitment to show up at 6:30 in the morning. Everyone does the same workout, but at their own pace. And everyone is working equally hard.
As the Boston movement gained momentum, workouts became more complex and, for the tribe leaders, became more like an unpaid part-time, then full-time job. Currently, there are 27 city tribes spanning the country and tentatively stretching across oceans. These urban athletes are totally committed to their cities, exploring possibilities and previously “undiscovered” areas.
Mirroring the grassroots movement itself, the book’s layout is spontaneous, dizzying and distracting. The boxed asides, haphazardly placed photos and hash tagged quotes lead you from the sensible to the absurd. It is all about fun, neon, spray-painted tees, friendliness and community service and awareness. So much so that one snowy Boston morning members were told to show up with shovels. The workout consisted of unburying neighbors’ sidewalks and driveways. Weather is not an excuse but an opportunity.
The closest thing we have in the Capital Region is the Albany Running Exchange which was formed on the SUNY campus by young college students who wanted to run but not in the traditional collegiate competitive setting. Like the November Project, it has expanded to include all ages, with free weekly trail races designed to explore our more countrified environment and random meet-and-greet events hosted by the runners themselves.
For Brogan and Bojan, the November Project has taken on a life of its own and they have transitioned to making its development and coordination their full time job. How fortunate to have your passion become your livelihood! I hope there will come a time when the Project will expand beyond major cities, but for now, whenever you visit a big city, make it a point to check out their November Project.
Reviewed by laura clark