My Dearest NYC Tribe and Greater November Project Family,
It’s tough to put into words what the last 3+ years have meant to me. I’ll start with a little history for those who are new to November Project — and seasoned veterans can enjoy a little trip down memory lane.
This story doesn’t begin without a fiery kid from North Carolina taking a chance on the Big Apple. Mr. Paul Leak had been to New York City one time, and he spent his entire trip handing out backpacks to high school kids inside the 168th Street Armory in Washington Heights. Then, in the summer of 2013, Paul took a leap of faith and accepted a role as an intern at New York Road Runners, where I was working at the time. A few months into the job, Paul sent me a video about New Balance’s “Runovation” campaign — which is how I first learned about this free fitness movement called November Project. That’s when Paul said, “Hey, we should do this in New York City!”
Paul Leak, THANK YOU for planting this wonderful seed. NP_NYC doesn’t happen without you.
This story continues with Sara Beaney, who was constantly in my ear bugging me about this new fitness craze. I met Sara while she was training for the New York City Marathon, and she wouldn’t let me off the hook. “You need to do this,” she kept saying. And my constant answer was, “I don’t have time. I can’t do this.”
Sara Beaney, THANK YOU for changing my mind. Thank you for helping make this movement happen in NYC.
And of course, none of this happens without November Project co-founders Bojan Mandaric and Brogan Graham. When I emailed NP_Corporate, Bojan responded saying we should jump on a call. A few weeks later, I was in Boston attending my first November Project workout. It was a Friday at Summit Ave. I was a newbie. See below.
At the end of the workout, they did announcements followed by a group photo. I waited eagerly for the final updates, which included Brogan yelling out, “Where’s John from NYC?” I raised my hand, and he continued: “This motherfucker is going to try to start this down in New York City!” The response from the tribe was lots on screaming and yelling — mostly positive (I think). I received a bunch of extra hugs and excitement from the group, accompanied with the hope that their NYC peeps would soon have the opportunity to have some #freefitness in the city that never sleeps. Well, how do you follow that up? Shit, I guess we have to do this thing.
Brogan and Bojan then took me to breakfast, which I later realized was an “interview.” They laid their charm on real thick. Charm meaning “We’re not going to recognize your existence for at least a few months or even years. Good luck.” It felt a little like Fight Club mixed with the Hunger Games.
Bojan Mandaric and Brogan Graham, THANK YOU for starting this movement. The world is a better place for it.
Five days later, Paul and I were officially pledging as NP_NYC. We posted on our Facebook pages that there was this epic and FREE workout the following day at 6:28 am and hoped for the best. That Wednesday morning, it was 8 degrees, and 8 inches of snow had #JustShowedUp. Paul, Caitlin Nolan (my then girlfriend and now wife!), and I trekked over to the Gracie Mansion flag pole with great anticipation. The three of us agreed that if nobody showed up, we would just go home and not work. #GreatLeadership. But soon, Sara Beaney and Patrick Burke appeared out of the darkness. Fuck, we thought. We can’t go home now.
We were well on our way. It took us 10 weeks of pledging before we became official. The NP family went from 10 to 15 tribes. BOOM. We continued to #WakeUpTheSun by doing stuff like:
-Hitting 86 people at one workout and launching #SummerFridays
-Starting an official local racing team that volunteers, wins Team Spirit awards, and sets PRs
-Launching Bridges on Mondays (shoot, three days a week sucks)
-Repping hard at three NP_Summits
-Dropping thousands of verbals
-Getting inked in the New York Times and beyond (Paul also got inked thanks to a #tattooverbal)
-Spreading the love on Good Day New York (thanks, Lew Leone), Good Morning America, and beyond
And then we did something that made us look brilliant — or just smarter than people thought, or it was just something we should have done way sooner.
Three is Better Than Two
After a long and drawn-out search that took about five minutes, we brought on a third leader. Enter #BodiesByJeanie (you might know her as just Jeanie, but not likely). Jeanie is fierce. She’s a badass, kind, strong, cancer-beating ball of energy, and she took things to the next level. Or just a normal level — a level beyond Paul and I fighting over the bounce. You can find Jeanie co-leading the NP_NYC tribe while pledging BROOKLYN!
November Project is now 33 tribes and it shows no sign of slowing down.
Here are a few more special moments (out of so many) that have helped me learn a lesson (or 12), gain perspective or insight, and inspired me.
Trust me, this was the abbreviated timeline. Lots of shit happens in three years, which brings me to THE TRIBE.
NP_ NYC doesn’t exist without you. Yes, I’m talking to you. The Tribe doesn’t exist without each and every person who took the chance and #JustShowedUp. If nobody shows up, there is nobody to lead. Whether you showed up once or every week, YOU make the Tribe. YOU grow the Tribe. YOU are the Tribe. The Tribe is not about me. The Tribe is not about Paul. The Tribe is about US. Paul and I are still part of the Tribe — we’ll just be on the other side of the glass (in the group photo vs taking them).
I want to THANK YOU for the privilege of leading you for the past three years. You have been a very special part of my life and I will forever be grateful for knowing and swearing with all of you. FYI, YOU will continue to be a special part of my life and I will continue to be grateful for knowing you. #RetiringNotExpiring
We’re turning the page, but continuing the journey. #Evolution
THANK YOU FOR BEING HERE.
I Love You.