Bring back the verbal! (DCA)

NOTE: Verbal for Friday HERE (OK, now read on as to why you should)

What in the wide world of November Project DC has happened to The Verbal?

If I were to deliver a State of NP DC address right now atop the Lincoln stairs (no, not the marble ones) — and as a reminder, this is not happening, and thank goodness for that — my opening would tackling this vexing question. For those new to the NP world, The Verbal is a commitment that you will attend a November Project workout. It used to be as popular as the “Big Andy 20-burpee Wednesday.” It’s not anymore. That’s a problem!  

Here’s the official definition as taken from the glossary of NP The Book:

A verbal commitment to attend a future workout. Most commonly done via word-of-mouth, verbals can also be “dropped” online, through a text message, or through a handwritten love note. Giving a verbal is like swearing on all graves covered in holy scriptures and future loved children and grandchildren that you’ll attend. Do the right thing, don’t break a verbal. Ever. If someone says, “Yeah, I think I’ll check out November Project this week,” you can force them by saying, “Is that a verbal?” Then show them the We Missed You section. This is “hunting” or “fishing” for a verbal.

The book makes it sound really scary. It’s not (hey, they gotta sell books somehow #SexySells). Rather, I reached out to a few of the remaining regular verbal-ers to ask what’s up and why you should join them in helping to bring back this endangered NPDC species. Hear them out.


Emma Yourd, frequent verbaler
The NP #verbal is a lost art. I remember when I started coming to NP and people would comment on photo albums “#verbal” and then tag a bunch of their friends. And I couldn’t WAIT until I had enough NP friends who cared to see me at workouts and would peer pressure me into verbaling. A #verbal is a commitment to yourself, your runpool, and your friends that you’re gonna show up to the workout, and that you’re gonna put 100% into that workout. I #verbal so that our run pool can plan our route and meet up spots, so my friends from other parts of DC know I’ll be at the workout, and to pressure (in a very positive way) friends who are on the fence into dropping their own #verbal! As Lembo so eloquently put it: “why wouldn’t you want to give yourself and your friends one more reason to just show up?”


Adam Paul, GIF verbaler
My running tights, gloves, buff, and other running gear are spread out on the kitchen table. I have two separate alarms set. While it’s still dark, my first alarm plays music in the hallway where my phone is charging. The second, back-up alarm will buzz WTOP on my nightstand clock 5 minutes later, unless I actually heed the first alarm and turn it off. It’s 5:00am and I’m not leaving anything to chance. I put down a #Verbal and I have somewhere to be.

I don’t recall my first #Verbal. But I know every single one I’ve put out since then has given me the same mixture of excitement and terror. Excitement knowing I’d start the day with friends. Terror knowing how easily I could oversleep and leave friends looking forward to seeing me but only wondering where I am. 

My first few #Verbals were usually online, to a general Facebook crowd. As fun as it was to see some likes in the day ahead of a NP morning, the #Verbal is best deployed either directly to an individual or to someone who is going to check-in to make sure you got to work out.
These days I mostly #Verbal for Fridays, where seemingly far away locations can provide an easy excuse not to show up. And to my own surprise, I mostly send my #Verbals as Gifs.


Noli Ellerson, classic Traverbaler
The verbal, simply put, is the RSVP of NP, but with a bit more bravado. You don’t make a verbal, you throw a verbal. With gusto. Just like you don’t go to NP; you #justshowup to NP. More seriously, as someone who travels for work and misses as many #NP_DC workouts as I make, I LOVE the comfort of a good #verbal and its cousin, the #traverbal. Because NP is community, I can be in a city I am not familiar with, a place I know no one, but I can throw a #traverbal and find a tribe, find a community. It is a language, a way to level the playing field, a gateway.

As for why others should start throwing a #verbal? Be accountable, not just in showing up, but in communicating with your teammates and community ahead of time. Be proud of the tribe and to let others know you’re going. A good #verbal is like a running buddy: I’m way, way more likely to stick to a running plan if I am meeting someone; same goes with a #verbal. Also, everyone posts pics AFTER the workout. Let’s raise the profile of the #verbal, throwing them early and often. Because, if you don’t post it to social media, will it even happen?


Blake Statham, self-accountability maestro
A verbal is a promise from my current self to my distant future self to take care of myself now. I’ve gone through some pretty sedentary periods in life and it’s easier, but it isn’t better, and it wouldn’t be that hard for me to end up back there.

(People should verbal) because you like what NP is about. Because you want to explicitly commit to things that are important to you (doesn’t have to be NP, you define what is important to you). Because you want to ensure that the people you like know that you’ll be there and you hope that they’ll verbal to so you can hang out while most of the city is asleep.


The We Missed You
So what if you make a verbal, drink too many beers, pass out, and miss that WTOP alarm? Or the power goes out and your phone dies? You miss the workout. I mean, damn, but shit happens. Your disappointed friend(s) will write up a funny blog called a We Missed You with some photos already living on the Internet and we’ll all have a good laugh. Emma makes a good point about the WMY, too:

“New to the tribe? A WMY is a GREAT way to make sure everyone now knows who you are (note: I do not condone purposely breaking a #verbal),” she says. “OR, you can stalk them to figure out who is who (that’s how I figured out that Lembo and Cassi are, in fact, two separate people).”

Sure, breaking a verbal can be a bit scary. But dozens upon dozens of NP goers have done just that and lived to run and work and continue their beautiful lives post-WMY. Trust me on this.


So waddya say? Can we make February 2018 the month of the verbal’s triumphant return? Here are some parting words from this Fantastic Four.

When it comes to #verbals, let’s use February to bring them back to the forefront. Throw them early, throw them often. Add some sass and flare to your #verbal, and call out a friend on their #verbal. Everything’s better with a little social media peer pressure, am I right?!

The #Verbal is really about making plans with the wackiest friends I have. It’s a promise to meet before sunrise, scream our hearts out, race each other, and build a community. I was already showing up; adding a #Verbal reminded me I’m waking up not just for me, but for a whole tribe excited to see me. So go ahead, drop a #Verbal on the socials. Drop a #Verbal in-person at the end of a workout. Drop a #Verbal when you run into someone on the bus. See you MWF!

Bringing back the #verbal starts with you. Here are a few tips:

  1. In a run pool group? Did the Friday location just get announced? GREAT. Now message your runpool, drop a #verbal, and ask who else is running/biking to the workout with you. Done.
  2. At HH? EVEN BETTER. Now you’ve had a beer or two and, perhaps, ready to commit to some questionable (but really, GREAT!) life decisions. Find someone from NP you don’t know, and strike up a conversation about going to the next workout. Get their name, and get them to commit to a #verbal. You’ve made a new friend, AND ensured that they’re coming to the workout.
  3. Got an NP crush? Slide into their DMs by playfully asking them to drop a #verbal to the next workout. Once they do, start planning your coordinated workout-fit that shows off your buff and butt.

I read a blog post in which a person gave a #standingverbal and I’ve basically done the same. As a rule I don’t have anything else going on at 6:30 am (or 6:20am on Wednesday) so I’ll be there if I’m here (in DC).


BOOM! So who’s verbaling for Friday? Why not do it on The Tracker? No clue what The Tracker is? This blog explains it beautifully.


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