"Huh? What are all these people doing on my hill?"
That was my bleary thought bubble at about 7 a.m. this morning as I chugged my usual steep route up Summit Avenue in Brookline. Normally I see maybe one or two other runners. Today there were dozens and they looked....different. Many sported the multi-hued fluorescent sneakers that have recently gotten trendy. Some had prominent tats (Personally, I'm not even hip enough to know how to spell that. Should it be tatts?) Most looked too groovy for my beloved but relatively stodgy Brookline.
"Who are you?" I huffed to one of them. "The November Project!" he called. "What's that?" I called back. But then I was too far up the hill to hear the answer.
By the time I got back to the bottom, there was a crowd gathered at the street corner, signing an attendance sheet and exchanging endorphin bliss. I was directed to a tall, fit, bald man named Bojan, who told me that he and his college rowing buddy founded the project to help people get fitter without paying a cent for it, using the power of social media and peer support. In effect, just as an oarsman gets out of bed painfully early to row because he knows his teammates need him, the November Project helps you get up and show up for regular workouts just because you're part of the tribe. (And you might end up on the "We Missed You" wall of shame if you don't.)
It costs zero dollars forever, and anybody can sign up; you don't need to be young and beautiful and already fit. I saw some folks walking up the steep hill. Why November? That's when the going starts to get cold and dark and hard, and you need extra impetus to train.
The workout schedule could change, but right now it's:
Wednesdays at 6:30 a.m. at the Harvard Stadium in lower Allston. Fridays at 6:30 in Brookline: You aim to run up the steep hill from Beacon St. on Summit Ave five times (and I'd been so proud of running up the hill once; darn, I'm going to have to up my game.) Mondays, the location varies, and you have to follow the project on Twitter to get your destination. This Monday, it will be at the Chinatown Arch.
From the November Project blog:
CrossFit, yoga studio memberships, gym memberships, all cost money. We definitely understand you sometimes have to pay to play and that those costs have huge value as they measure you as an athlete – but it doesn’t have to be that way. What we are trying to prove is that you can still TRAIN at a high level for $0 as long as you surround yourself with the right kind of #community, racers and vibe. At November Project we aren’t only training, we’re doing it our way and proving that we are like no other group around. This Friday on Summit Ave we want you to look around; We are having more fun than any club or boot camp you’ve ever been part of. That’s because we aren’t just another club, camp, or class; we are a movement.
And such an interesting movement at that! Mayor Menino, is there an award these guys could get? Readers, reactions? And will I — or rather, we — see you at Summit Ave. next Friday? Every movement needs factions, and I'd like to start the "Not very young or hip or fast, but still having lots of fun" faction of the November Project — who's with me?
I wasn't prepared to do any reporting when I ventured out to run this morning, but I did manage to catch Bojan in this sadly truncated phone video:
This program aired on August 17, 2012. The audio for this program is not available.