A MOMumental Leadership Gathering [Bklyn]

Last week, co-leaders from the November Project world touched down in Seattle. This four-day gathering is also known as Meeting of the Minds, or more affectionately MOM.

Wednesday night, those of us that had already arrived, gathered on the field outside our dorms (yes you heard right, we stayed in the dorms of Seattle University). We went around, said our name and city. It took a heck of a long time. It’s a testament to how much this free fitness movement has grown. In a matter of 8.5 years, November Project has spread to 51 cities around the entire globe. That’s 51 places you can count on to wake up the sun on any given Wednesday morning.

And this ain’t even half of us.

Thursday morning we assembled bright and early outside our dorms for a fun run. I remember looking over to my left, and just two people over was…wait really? no way, it couldn’t be. Holy hell, it was Des Linden! Here was an Olympian and 2018 Boston Marathon winner standing amongst us. We followed her and took to the still-sleepy streets of Seattle. She shared with us her mantra, “Keep showing up”, which is not that different from what we embody at November Project. You show up, put in the work, weather the elements, and good will come.

Following our super-casual no-frills run, we headed to the Brooks headquarters. We got a chance to learn about the guiding principles of Brooks, our main sponsor. Brooks CEO, Jim Weber has been sweating with November Project Seattle for the last few years. The partnership was an organic and logical merge, given our similarities. He explained the tagline “Run Happy”. It means designing apparel, shoes, and an experience that takes away distractions and allows individuals to pursue their best run. We split up into smaller groups and got an in-depth look at how shoes are tested, how apparel is designed, and how runner insight is incorporated.

Dinner was spent on a cruise, where we got another dose of Des Linden. Her presence definitely rocked the boat.

Friday morning, we descended onto Gas Works Park. Some of us ran there, some of us took a busted-bus. Whatever it was, we were all there at 6:29AM. More than 100 humans were huddled up nice and tight, ready to bounce. The workout involved running up some gnarly hills and avoiding geese poop. From then, we hustled back to the dorms. And I mean hustled. We had less than half hour to shower and eat. It was pretty watching people run frantically between the dorms and dining hall, while shoveling down food or patting down our wet hair.

We headed downtown, to our meeting space, and checked our phones at the door. That day, we would all be present, locked-in, and engaged with each other. You’ll see why. We kicked off with discussions around inclusivity & identity. We were guided by Soumya and D.A, both of whom have done extensive work in this area and are also members of NP Madison. We talked about the use of the word “tribe”. Later on, we were given direction on how to handle sexual harassment. The topics were not at all easy to digest or discuss. It was an emotionally heavy day. We got up and got vulnerable. We listened and thought about the space that we were or were not creating for our own communities at home. We ended that day huddled in small groups, silently and intentionally giving gratitude to what we have.

Saturday morning, we woke up to rain pattering on our windows. Still, some of us headed to the field outside to do yoga. The astroturf beads kneaded into our hands, and the rain did not let up. But we were reminded that this would never happen again–being out on this field, in this weather, with these people. It was with that mindset that many of us throughout the weekend sought to do more. To stay up, even with heavy eyelids, so we could talk to our dorm-mates. To shake off the cold, and jump right into a high-intensity workout right after rainy yoga. To be curious about the person that you may not have met yet.

Our last full day involved going back to basics. This was November Project 101. We split into groups and attended sessions on 1) how to spray paint, 2) how to hype the Positivity Award (thankfully Jessica brought hers!), 3) how to recruit, and 4) how to do a proper pushup, burpee, squat, and hoistee. Whether you were a newly minted or seasoned coleader, we were able to take back some pointers. For our last group activity, we got to spend the afternoon chilling at the beach.

These are the things we did as a group. But what made MOM magical and profound was the interactions we’d have with pockets of people. Whether on the second floor common room, or on a walk to Whole Foods, or on a bus ride. Whether it was with someone you’ve known for years or someone you just met that moment. The interactions were silly and raw and beautiful. We left with our hearts full, and closer than ever to what drives November Project the movement. This gathering of leaders, this Meeting of the Minds, it was monumental.

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