Guest Blog: Harry Mattison of NP_BOS

Meet Harry.  He’s one of the best dudes you’ll probably ever know.  He’s a show up, work your ass off, keep your head down, care a whole lot about everyone, be a solid family guy, and crush everything you put your mind to, kind of guy.  He’s what you call a “stand up guy.”  He’s the kind of person we sometimes have to pinch ourselves to believe he’s real and he’s a part of the NP family.  Just in the last three days he’s done things like a “Sunset Double Tour” in the stadium and a “Sunrise Triple” stadium.  But he’s also the guy who hops a plane last minute to fill a spot on a North Face Endurance Challenge marathon relay team for someone who is injured.  He’s the guy who takes NP friends to the hospital when they sprain their ankle and then stays there with them as long as it takes, even when it’s all day.  He’s the guy who generously lends out bikes when other tribe members have needed some wheels.  He’s the guy who NEVER misses an opportunity to dress up in costume, especially if he can get his family to join him.  He’s there for all of us, in so many ways, and he’s an inspiration to see as he trains and stretches his limits again and again.  He’s… well, you get it.  Harry is good.  He’s a good human being and he’s good for this tribe.  And he’s got the very best straight face in town.  We love you Harry. We’re glad you’re here.

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At this morning’s #DestinationDeck, I chased my new burpee stretch goal – do half as many as the fast kids. It was an exhilarating and exhausting way to cap a weekend that included a trail run in the Blue Hills with NP friends (I worked hard to not be the last person up each hill), a yoga class taught by an NP friend (I wobbled through the basics while she and others gracefully flowed into headstands and crow poses), and a Saturday meetup for some stadium stairs (me going at my pace with my own goals, not theirs).

After an injury-free spring during which I ran more miles at a faster pace than I ever thought I could, the past couple months have been bogged down by nagging leg injuries and missing too much NP. People who were once a bit faster have recently left me in their dust. Others who I could stay ahead of a few months ago smoothly strode past me on the last Wednesdays of July and August. While I’ve been sorting out my feelings about this, other tribemates have publically and privately shared their own heart-felt stories about their social and physical challenges relating to body image, fitness, friendships, and careers.

The challenges that we all face (or invent for ourselves) bring to mind two concepts that I learned outside of November Project.  Though Brogan and Bojan, Deniz, Emily, and Evan don’t use these phrases, for me they embody the NP spirit and culture and make it so uplifting: Basking in Reflected Glory (BIRG) and We’re In This Together (WITT).

I learned about Basking in Reflected Glory last year at my college reunion. In remarks to the alumni, the university president asked us to consider “How do we feel when a classmate wins a Pulitzer Prize? What is our reaction when we are part of a community whose members achieve fame and fortune?” I don’t know if it is learned or innate, but haven’t we all felt a flash of inadequacy when we hear news like this? As an alternative, Basking in Reflected Glory suggests that we choose to be inspired by and share in the successes of our colleagues. When one of us in a community is honored, so is our entire community. When we #JustShowUp, we are enriching our collective lives and motivating everyone to improve. When we see #GrassrootsGear on the podium or worn in an Instagram photo of an unimaginable yoga move, BIRGing means reacting with a collective sense of accomplishment, striving to do our personal best, and lifting our spirits and aspirations.

The economist Jared Bernstein discusses “We’re In This Together” in his book All Together Now: Common Sense for a Fair Economy. He contrasts WITT with “You’re On Your Own” (YOYO) which is the belief that the best way to solve problems is for each person to fend for themselves. Everyone familiar with NP knows the power of our WITT vibe. Remembering our most #Weatherproof blizzard workouts brings a swelling feeling of camaraderie. Six months later, as our alarm clocks ring before sunrise, it is that much easier to roll out bed because we know the tribe and their hugs will be ready and waiting for us. Our leaders consistently emphasize how the beauty of each person builds our community and encourages everyone to strive for new levels of fitness, self-confidence, and achievement. Support at NP flows both to and from people across the entire fitness spectrum. This unconditional acceptance empowers us to embrace our individual reality and set our own goals instead of trying to measure up to a fictionalized concept of perfection.

For a while this year I was disappointed in myself for feeling intimidated by some of the phenomenal elite athletes at NP. Certainly not because of anything they did or said, but because I was in awe of their speed, rock-hard abs, and infinitesimal body fat. Do they ever get out of breath? Watching them fly up Summit Ave reminded me how slowly I was plodding up the hill. Getting dropped during Indiana Jones workouts from what I thought were groups of my peers didn’t help. And trying to avoid wrecking my sore left knee meant that my favorite part of Summit – sprinting downhill with the fast kids – was out of the question. Was I on my own as I slowly did the little that I could? How could I feel part of the tribe if I was standing during the morning bounce because bouncing made my knee hurt?

So this summer I’ve used some #GladYou’reHere hugs as an occasion to chat with the fastest of the NP fast, even if I am still scared by how many pushups they can do. I’ve rested, sometimes more than I wanted, and my knee has gotten better as a result. I’ve spent less time comparing myself with others on Strava’s weekly leaderboards. I learned what I already knew – that we have a lot more in common that it might seem from shirtless photos on Facebook and #Sunrise6k times. I’ve been seeking inspiration from what happens at NP to become a better version of myself, whatever that may be.

This fall I will try to keep my legs strong and healthy and enjoy using them to sprint down the big hill on Summit Ave and the big stairs at Harvard Stadium and complete the Stone Cat 50 miler in November. I’ll put in the work during the last humid days of summer so that on a cool, crisp morning this fall I can go for a new Stadium PR. But no matter what time I see on my watch, soaking in the glory of our gang of yahoos will continue to be the best way to start my day.

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This Wednesday will be epic. I am not throwing the word “epic” out there just for hype. #JustShowUp, experience it yourselves and don’t #FIMO. Record total number of burpees you did today and verbal for Wednesday here!

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