Fat and lazy was a pretty apt description of me to start 2017. Successful at work, plenty of friends, no bouts of depression, but morbidly obese and unable to jog down the block. I had no real excuse other than I knew getting healthy was going to take discipline and I wasn’t ready to be disciplined with food or physical activity. Subtle hints and invitations from friends to join them at the gym didn’t motivate me, nor did less subtle hints from family members. Then I woke up one morning, and in the words of Dean Wormer from that fine movie that is Animal House, finally decided that “fat, drunk and stupid” was no way to go through life.
The not so stupid part of me recognized that whatever I did, it needed to be sustainable, a real lifestyle change. I started with a fad diet to kick start the weight loss and ‘see’ some results on the scale to motivate me, and it worked. Then it was time to get physical, and I started by walking for 20-30 minutes at a time. I mean it, all I could do was walk. With help from a co-worker, I picked up the ‘run walk run’ method, and was able to jog for as much as 20 WHOLE SECONDS at a time before walking for a minute – I had a timer and everything. By mid-summer, I could run-walk my way to 7 miles (okay, well I did it once, and at an 11min/mile pace, but it was a record for me at the time). Then I heard the question while at a bar that would change the next few years of my life: “Are you going on Wednesday?”
It was then that my friends told me about November Project, although I’m not even sure they referred to it by name, but what does that matter. It was a free workout, early on Wednesday mornings, and incorporated running and calisthenics. I was ready to try something new and early one September morning in 2017, I ‘showed up’. My first workout made me dizzy, and I wanted to puke – too much 18 year old high school athlete brain and 31 year old out of shape body. Week two was different, I knew I had to pace myself, and it was PR day – woof! As I started my fourth and final lap, a lady who I had never met saw me dragging and said “you got this” and ran/chatted with me for half a circuit. This small connection solidified the community aspect of NP, and I was hooked.
In December that year my confidence was building, I had lost a good bit of weight, my blood pressure was under control, and so, I did the unthinkable – I signed up for a half marathon. By some stroke of luck, or ridiculous form of punishment, during a January workout, I overheard Chris K talking about the Saturday morning NP group that ran together from VMFA. I knew I needed to get serious about training, but this meant staying in on Friday nights – could I really do that? Not go out on Friday nights, so I can run every Saturday up until race day? Voluntarily!? That was a critical moment in my journey to get healthy, and after much soul searching, I committed to it – and stuck with it – and still do to this day.
My goal at the 2018 Shamrock Half Marathon was first to not get injured, then to finish, and finally to finish in better than a 10 min/mile pace. I achieved two out of three, and as I approached the finish line, I didn’t cry, but I was elated, and my immediate and some extended family were there to support me, which was awesome. Special thanks to the NP-VB crew that welcomed me at their bounce, and provided last minute encouragement.
I ran three more half marathons in 2018, and even trained with the Sportsbackers Marathon Training Team for ‘fun’, before rolling back to the half marathon with Inclusive Racing. One of those halves in the midst of MTT was a sub-2:00 at Patrick Henry, an accomplishment I still wonder if I’ll be able to best.
No racing accomplishment will ever even approach the importance of the lifestyle changes I’ve made, and the people I’ve met along the way. The important thing about November Project is that the workouts are APPROACHABLE, which helps get you there. They’re also SCALEABLE, which keeps you from running….away. They’re INCLUSIVE, and facilitate meeting people, and foster a sense of COMMUNITY that keeps you coming back. I wake up more on Wednesday mornings to see my friends than I do to get my heart rate up. And while I did not set out on this journey to find love, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention by far the best part of this journey, meeting a beautiful British scientist named Claire, who’s right there alongside me most Wednesday and Saturday mornings, pushing me to get better with the right amount of encouragement and accountability that November Project is founded on.
Ja and Chris, thank you for everything you’ve done to develop the NP-Richmond community, and for me. You’re changing lives – keep it up – all the way up!Share via socials: