This blog is written by tribe member Natalie Heneghan, a wonderfully fierce and badass chick with a contagious laugh like nobody else’s. Read on for insight to her journey through life (with NP and w/o [there’s such a thing?!]), take a walk in her shoes (PLURAL).
Here is a short list of things I might have said before November Project entered my life like a cannonball of confetti and good vibes:
-I am not a “runner.”
-Okay, I run. But not fast.
-And I definitely don’t run in groups.
I’ve always been cautious of deriving my identity from groups. Growing up, I enjoyed being a little out of sync with my peers. When all my classmates played rec soccer every Saturday from second through sixth grade, I said, I’ll practice my violin and pogo stick with my sis, thank you very much. Through high school and even college I tended to shield just enough of myself to stay semi-detached, to float from place to place. I preferred to attack challenges solo. I attribute this to a trifecta of less-than-perfect qualities: the ambition of a first-born, my inner control freak, and a fear of screwing up in front of people.
Before I came to November Project, I had been triathlon-ing for a few years, thanks to my dad. (He is now a regular at November Project MKE, thanks to me. #karma) He tried something new at age 40 and passed along the weekend warrior spirit. I liked setting and conquering individual goals, challenging myself in a way I never had before. So the intensity, the hugs, and even the bouncing didn’t scare me off of NP when I first heard about it. I think I was simply nervous about being vulnerable in a group. I’d have to expose this little “athlete” identity that I was slowly cultivating to lots of people at once. But….that was a year and nine-ish months ago.
Identities and passions evolve, appear, and surprise us. Never in a million, billion years did I think I’d drive across the country with friends I met through a running group to run a trail race and hang out with hundreds of people I had never met before. Literally all of those circumstances would have scared me shitless a few years ago. But I had such a good time at NP Summit in Utah last September that I planned to do it all over again this year.
I found out I had a stress fracture in my foot this past July, the day a crew of us left for Summit 4.0 in Ontario. Having signed up and trained for half of the marathon relay with dear friend and tribemate Cyndi (s/o Team #dinohorse), it was sucky news, but by no means the end of the world – entirely because of the group/cult who have surrounded and supported me from the get-go.
A couple people asked if I still planned on making the trip even though I couldn’t race. Fuck yes! Our Summit-bound bunch of goofballs made me forget I was injured, perhaps to a fault. I’ve done a few things in this boot that my doctor wouldn’t be thrilled about, but hiking up a Canadian mountain for the pop-up workout two days after my diagnosis is probably at the top of that list.
Seeing NP MSP race its collective butt off at Summit was a unique privilege. As much as I craved to lace up two shoes, I watched, and I cheered, and I realized that through the magic (yeah, magic) of November Project, I am a person with different labels and identities than I had a couple years ago. I wear the November Project tag proudly; it’s a label I have no interest in shedding, and I love sharing it with hundreds of people all over the world. I am a person with fucking fast friends, people who push and pull me to do hard things like run up mountains – little Minnesota ones or big ass Utah ones. Or figurative life ones. We lift each other up, we help heal wounds, we spread positivity, we hug, we love.
I’m taking this guest blogging opportunity not just to blab about my emotions and identity crises, but also to write a little thank you note to November Project Minneapolis. Because this is no ordinary bunch.
Thank you to Ben & Holly. You two shake us awake twice a week and make us better humans every other day, too. Lots of people are happier people because of what you’ve created.
Thank you to the crazies I’ve convinced to swim with me before Wednesday workouts. You have made me feel strong all summer long.
Thank you to the NP friends who have become real life friends. (Does this sound like an Oscars acceptance speech yet?)
Thank you to the whole tribe for letting me feel as uninjured and un-sidelined as possible. For letting me carve out a bit of the workout each week. For letting me feel like I haven’t missed out. Whether doing my injury deck or racing up and down Gold Medal Hill (I have several more weeks of recovery, but I’m coming for y’all…), I’m a better, happier, laugh-ier, faster, fiercer person because I show up.
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