As we close in on the feature presentation of Dooster’s film “Showing Up” powered by The North Face, we will feature four stories from November Project Seattle on their story, why they show up, and what #justshowup means to them.

This morning, we hear the story of Charles Kelsey.

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When first asked, “Why do you just show up?” flashes of high-fives, hugs, and smiles, sounds of laughter, fuck yeahs, and cheers of support, and feelings of excitement, exhaustion, and joy bounce around my head in a rush of stimuli.  To really put it into words in a simple, short and concise way is much more difficult than it seems.  As I write this, I realize I have been coming to November Project for 6 months.  Time sure does seem to fly, but I won’t soon forget the first time I just showed up.

My nervous hands trembled as I tied my shoes.  What would I think of them?  What would they think of me?  Would it be fun?  Would it be challenging?  Should I just go for a quick run around the lake and forget about this whole November Project thing?  Just – Show – Up.  I heard these words just a week earlier.  “Just show up,” I said aloud, grabbed my keys and headed out the door.  I was supposed to be meeting a new friend that had been trying to get me to go for weeks, but as it goes, I was halfway to Gas Works Park by the time I received the text that she would be unable to make the morning’s workout.  I’ll turn around now.  It’s not too late. – I thought, but those three words were still there at the back of my mind.

I got out of my car and looked myself up and down.  Bright blue and orange running shoes, black, bright blue and magenta running tights, and bright blue running long sleeve shirt.  I was not going to be able to fly under the radar, go unnoticed, and form my opinion about these strangers off in the corner.  I was at the very least going to need to introduce myself to someone.  I took one last look at my phone, which displayed my nerdy reminder, “May the 4th be with you.”  I smiled, locked up the car and followed a couple people in athletic clothes to where they were heading.

I remember Brian was the first to greet me (I would later find out he was one of our co-leaders).  He said, “Good morning. I’m Brian. Is it your first time?” as he walked over.  “Yeah, I’m Charles,” I responded as I held out my hand.  Brian stepped right past, opened his arms, and gave me a welcoming hug.  Honestly, I was a bit taken back, but I watched as other people began to show up.  I soon realized that this was not just common, it was the only way this group of people were greeting each other.  There were many more hugs and introductions that morning, so many I knew I would never be able to remember all their names.

Casey (who I would shortly learn was the other co-leader) also greeted me with the now familiar good morning and hug.  He then gathered everyone in a circle, way in, almost uncomfortably in.  He then led the bounce.  During the bounce I could not help but smile, laugh, and begin to loosen up.  I have come to love this silly little ritual before each workout, so much, I can say without hesitation it is one of the many reasons I just show up.  Brian and Casey explained the workout and to my surprise and delight; the whole thing was Star Wars themed.  It was great.  They played Star Wars themed music and for the first time I thought – I might have just found my people.

After the main workout, we got into groups of five or six and ran sprints, relay style.  I had given the workout my all, and was feeling warmed up and excited.  I ran the sprints flat out as hard as I could.  My heart was pounding and my stomach in knots, but I was most definitely hooked.  We sat down for pictures, but before they were snapped, we listened to announcements and the co-leaders gave out the Positivity Award.  As I sat, my stomach started to feel better, I said my goodbyes, and made my way to the car.  Walking instantly made me feel ill again, and not wanting to be sick in front of everyone I had just met, I tried to hurry to my car.  I ended up in the tree line just before the parking lot.  I was mortified!  I tried to hide myself in the trees, but as Brian and Casey passed they were sure to make sure I was okay.  I replied with a short yes and hurried off to my car.  I just show up to give my all at each and every workout. I  was embarrassed, but it didn’t matter.  I felt great overall.  I got to work and posted on the NP_SEA page, “First work out with NP today was a blast! Thanks for being so welcoming! The sprint at the end nearly destroyed me but I am looking forward to seeing you all again for the first Friday workout!”

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What has taken place over the last six months has been nothing short of life changing.  I feel like November Project and the incredible individuals that fuel this tribe I have come to know as November Project Seattle just showed up in my life when I need them most.  Last May (2015), I was struggling with an unexpected and difficult break-up; I got laid off work, and spent the following six months unemployed.  I moved to Seattle last November (2015) to pursue work, but the relentless rain (I was not accustom to) was crushing what spirits remained.  I was depressed, and was falling back into a self-destructive lifestyle I spent years trying to escape not all that long ago.  I knew, if something didn’t change quickly, I would surely be heading to a dark place.

I began to just show up to as many workouts as I could.  Each week, each workout, I would go and exhaust myself.  I would push myself out of my comfort zone to greet as many people as I could, and I would give all I had to the workout.  I found that the more I gave the more re-energized I felt.  I looked forward to hugs, to the high-fives, to greeting the amazingly positive, athletic, and more often than not hilarious people that would just show up too.  I would watch them pour incredible amounts of energy into every workout.  Smiles on their faces, sweat on their brow, and absurdly excited about life.  I just show up to soak in this positive energy and to participate fully in this tribe.  I try to spread this positivity throughout my daily life and allow it to keep me heading in the right direction.  This tribe is filled with the most supportive and inspiring like-minded people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.  It didn’t take long before people began asking me to join them in a marathon, fill a spot on their relay team, join them in a quest through the city, or sign up and train with them for a 50k. On top of the two official workouts each week we added some stairs with Mary on Tuesdays and some added weight at Alki Beach with Will on Mondays.

During the past 6 months I have gotten to know a remarkable group of people I call friends and have met many more who come each week I eagerly anticipate getting to know better in the near future.  I continue to put into my workouts as much energy as I can muster and be supportive to others as they have been to me.  Just showing up has given me confidence, strength, and an outlet to push myself athletically as I rid myself of any negativity I may carry.  Surrounded by a community full of support absent of judgment, and understanding of the sometimes crazy pursuits of a distance runner’s passion, I feel Seattle has become my home.  Oh!…. and did I mention accountability?  To put it shortly the path I was on did not instill too much accountability, but I got a friendly yet healthy dose of that too.  After my first unpunctual workout I can safely say, “I will not be showing up late anymore.”  Just show up means more than just being on time to a workout, though.  It means not making excuses.  Whether it is excuses not to come to NP, or excuses in your personal or professional life.  I just show up each day, each week, each month, to keep myself accountable.  Accountable for all the things I have set out to achieve, but most importantly, to myself and this wonderful tribe I have come to appreciate and respect.  NP_SEA, I thank you all from the bottom of my heart for just showing up, for showing me how it’s done, for the positive vibes, the silliness, the soreness, and the inspiration you have given me.  Next time you want a pacer for a race, need a team member for a relay, a charity event, or just want to have the tribe over for a BBQ or birthday, count me in.  I will be there.  I will most definitely just show up.

Why I Show Up: Guest Blog by Charles Kelsey
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