Earlier this summer, it struck me that we don’t spend enough time sharing your stories with each other. We show up, we chat, we run, we hug, and then most of us part ways until the next workout. We get to know a lot of faces and names, but there is only so much you can learn about a person and why they are part of this crazy movement while you’re doing a hoistie or running up a hill with them. Everyone show

s up for a reason. Everyone has a unique and special story.  Each one is inspiring in its own way, when we get lucky enough to hear them. More importantly, these stories allow us to connect, learn, and actually get to know the person behind that sweaty hug.

We’ve been collecting the stories of MSN tribe members all summer in an effort to learn more than just a name and a face. No story is too small or too big, too new or too old. Every story is important because every member of the tribe is important. So, here we go….Chapter 1:

Maria Avina Franco 44, Interpreter/translator for the Madison School District and the Department of Public Instruction

Maria_MSNStarted running 4 years ago, never ran before and I used to make fun of runners during the winter…now I’m one of them. I’m a single mother of 2 adult girls, I recently recovered from a brain injury and I’m so grateful that I was able to run again, it took me almost a year to be able to walk! I recently ran my first marathon and I’m starting to enjoy trail running (I’m a beginner). I volunteered for the first time at a trail race in Lake Superior and it was the best thing ever. I Love hiking, camping, fishing, cooking, dancing and of course running. You may see me Fridays at NP if I’m able to flex my time at work.

Why November Project? After my brain injury I was told that I should give up running and of course I didn’t listen. The amazing positive energy from the tribe was just what I needed to get me through the difficult times, the best medicine ever!!! THANK YOU ALL!



Sam Keepman 28, Veterinarian

I show up because of the positive environment and accepting nature of the group These are the people with whom I want to surround myself FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE.




Ann Sheehy 42, Physician

Ann_MSNOne Wednesday morning last winter, I dropped my 15 year olddaughter, Erin, at the bottom of Bascom Hill in a snow/sleet storm, convinced that I was contributing to some form of child abuse. But proof that kids are smarter than their parents, Erin convinced me to come to November Project a few weeks later by telling me it was like “adult cross country”. I am a Wisconsin lifer (graduated from Middleton High School) but left for about 12 years, with my first stop at Stanford, where I ran track and cross country with some of the toughest and most amazing women I have ever met. We won a PAC 10 Championship together, qualified for the NCAAs, and I was lucky to be our team captain my junior and senior years. Running more as an individual through high school, I had no idea that cross country was actually a team sport until college. November Project brings back all of the great things about running that I forgot. Even better, I get to share that with one of my kids–hopefully both of them at some point!

Dillon 25, Worker Bee

I showed up because of the Schwabes’ Facebook posts.


This wasn’t me, but last summer I remember running down Charter as a part of the Wednesday warm up. I was in the back of the group when a guy running the other direction with an inquisitive look asked us what we were doing. In a few sentences as he ran past we explained that we were just a group of people getting fit together. He stopped, turned around, and joined us for the entire workout. I don’t remember his name, but he is the epitome of just showing up. Randomly.

Steve Van Lankvelt 53, Computer Programmer

This may be a bit long, but here goes. . .Steve_MSN

While I was training for my second marathon, I heard a show on NPR about different workouts groups. One of the people they interviewed had this deep gravelly voice; it sounded like he had too much energy to be contained.

During the show, he talked about these groups that got together early in the morning in cities all over North America. They used the surrounding cityscape as their gym, and these groups worked out all year round. He also kept saying, “Just show up.”
A couple of Fridays later I “Just showed up.” I didn’t know anyone, hell, I wasn’t even sure people would be there, but there I was.

When I got to Lady Forward, a handful of people were already there, but soon more people started gathering. It seemed like they were coming from all over the place.

At 6:30, some guy started counting down and then yelled “Good Morning” at the top his lungs, and the next thing I know, everyone is bouncing on their toes and yelling crazy shit.

I watched a couple of videos about the November Project, but I didn’t know what to make of this. It was kind of nuts.

After the crazy stuff, we warmed up and were told to find a partner. I started to panic, “God, I didn’t know anyone, who was I going to find to partner with?”, when this guy walks up and says, “You need a partner?”

We ran the Octo and talked. I had a thousand questions, and he just kept answering them and saying stuff like, “Wow you’re doing great, you are just crushing this.” It wasn’t just him either. It seemed like people were high fiving everyone.

When the cow bell was rung, I started to walk away, and gather my stuff, when my partner said, “Hey, where you going? We got pictures and stuff.” I said, “Pictures?” So, he explained that every workout ends with pictures, announcements and other stuff.

So I thought, “OK, I can stand there all sweaty, looking like a goofball and be in a group picture.” After announcements, and a picture, we were told, “Seven sweaty hugs before you leave”. Suddenly, all of these people I didn’t know were giving me hugs and saying, “Hey good work today.”

It made me think, “Who are these people?” I was prepared for a work out, but all of this other stuff, what was that all about? It did make the workout more fun, but this was not like any workout group I was ever with.

So, why do I come to NP? There are so many small reasons, but the biggest reason is that one Friday I Just Showed Up. I didn’t know anyone, but it didn’t matter. I worked my ass off and got a lot of support and encouragement. It was like I belonged.

Stay tuned. Chapter 2 coming soon.


Story time with NP_MSN: Chapter 1
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