Making Friends by Mike Freeman (YEG)

We often get feedback that guest blog posts are a favourite for many of you. I like to think that its because when we hear other people’s stories we find connections to our own lives and are reminded that we are more similar than different. I hope its that but it could also be that you are tired of Nadim, Andrew and I sharing our random thoughts on a regular basis! 

About a year ago, when I didn’t have to rush off to work as quickly as I do now, I was parking at Victoria Oval and running to Walterdale Hill. Mike started to join our little run group and shared with me after one workout that reading some of the personal story blogs had got him thinking that maybe, someday, after coming for a little more, he might like to write a blog post. His offer was all a little non-commital but over this last year his commitment to Noverber Project has been anything but! Mike’s positive energy and zest for life is contagious. He shares his joy with others and wears his heart on his sleeve. With flowing locks that rival those of Sexy Seamus, Mike is a constant presence at our destination workouts, on the stairs and at the hill.

Meet Mike…

You only get one chance (I think) to guest blog, so here is my attempt at swinging for the fences.

It’s November 2nd, 2016 and I’m eating at Montana’s with my two older kids for what would be the last time that we all lived in the same city. I remember hugging my daughter and son. Trying to hold back the tears as my daughter Alanna cried telling me that she wasn’t ready to move to Vancouver.

I went home that night and cried for what seemed forever. Fearing the unknown of what laid ahead for the kids and myself. But at the same time, thinking about how I would do things different, be better with my youngest son.

I came to Edmonton in October 2007. I was 24 years old and had left my then wife, and 1 year old daughter, in Kelowna to come work here and try to get my young family ahead. They followed in May 2008. For the past decade I’ve been working in Alberta’s oilfield for the same company. I’ve seen the highs and lows of the oilfield. Had a son and daughter, got divorced, got remarried and had another son.

Fast forward to November 16th, 2016, 2 weeks after my kids had moved. My wife’s friend Sarah Balla was over getting her hair done and the topic of November Project had come up as she had been going for roughly a year with another one of my wife’s friends, Jill Tkachuk. She casually invited me to just show up to Walterdale Hill that Friday. With the older kids gone, I could have chosen to be forever sad and live in a negative world where I was bummed out 24/7. But there is no point in that, especially when there is so much to be happy and excited for right in front of you. I still have my wife, my son, my tribe and my job. It could always be worse. 

Waking up was never an issue, I had recently been working a 6-2 shift which was changed to a 7-3:30 shift but I kept waking up at 5 but had nothing to do so it made sense to give NP a try, as I had heard about it just never knew where to go or what to do. My social media presence was pretty scarce at the time.

I showed up Friday, November 18th at Hills, covered head to toe for the frigid morning. I remember running three full hills that morning and casually talking with Sarah and Jill, thinking wow that was really fun. They didn’t prepare me for the bounce, the good morning, the fuck yeah or the birthday booms. So here I am, first day at NP and it happens to be my 34th Birthday, and I have to get up in front of a large group of people that I really don’t know and yell at the top of my lungs, “MY NAME IS MIKE AND IT’S MY BIRTHDAY”. And everyone BOOMS me! I go sit down for the group photo and at the end of it, and I’m hugging random people telling them I’m glad they made it.

I’m fucking hooked! This is the shit I want and need in my life. The energy you get from just showing up is amazing. It doesn’t matter if it’s +30 or -30 people are going to show up and be there with you. And the high fives, hugs, smiles, acknowledgements become like a drug you can never overdose on. It’s funny how sinking to a low, helps you to find yourself and discover who it is you want to be. 

Speaking of drugs. I’ve actually never done any. Which may or may not shock some people. Nor do I drink alcohol. Because of my long hair and loud voice, I’ve met a lot of people that assume I do both. Talk about judging a book by its cover. This tribe and the awesome people in it are my drug. I’m feeling forever grateful to all the people I’ve connected with in this community.

It’s crazy reflecting on my 10 years in Edmonton. Because the first 8.5 I spent working out of town 250-300 days a year. And I never had the opportunity to meet people and make friends. I had my work colleagues and my wife’s friends, but I’d never actually made my own acquaintances and without NP maybe I never would have.

I am so proud to be a part of this community. And want everyone in it to know that you’ve helped to make me a better person, parent, friend and husband. I’ve even got to #traverbal to NP in New Orleans. It was there I realized the tribe isn’t just what we have in Edmonton, it’s what NP has going on around the world. Grassroots gear is probably one of my favorite things NP has, even though my wife thinks the shirts are silly, they remind me of being a part of something and having earned some of the tags on it. 2 old 96ers is something to be proud of. Having the maple leaf that represents our tribe is something to be proud of. Having the fleur-de-lis from New Orleans reminds me I had to travel to earn it, not to mention getting in contact with the leaders and organize them having the stencil, but I’d do it 43 more times just to visit every city.

I try my best to not miss workouts but sometimes work doesn’t allow me to be there. I missed back to back workouts in the fall last year by choice. And when I look back as to why I chose to skip them it’s because I was feeling down on things that were happening in my personal life and I didn’t want my sadness/frustration to show within the tribe. I realize now it wouldn’t have shown because being around good people and positive energy would have overridden the negative, if even for 30 minutes. The 30 minutes 3 days a week allows me to turn off the outside world and just be present and enjoy myself and my surroundings, it also gets me out of the house and allows me to explore our amazing city and meet super awesome people.

Jen, Nadim and Andrew without you this tribe doesn’t ever get its footing and flourish the way it has. I wish I would have joined earlier, but am glad I’m here now.

Sarah thanks for getting me out here.

Spencer thanks for all the hill high 5s.

Steve Csorba thanks for capturing so many joyous moments.

Steve Baker thanks for just being you. You inspire me to want run farther and hopefully one day with my kids.

Dani thanks for believing in me in my first old 96er attempt and capturing the finish.

Ryan, Katie K. and Sarah thanks for letting me a part of your team at grizzly.

Bill thanks for reminding us all fitness has no age restrictions.

Katie H. and Mo for Credo mornings even though I don’t drink coffee.

Donny Jewell and Dave Mah for all fun memories and unimpressed faces, looking forward to more.

Chris for showing me what a true friend is.

NFS, RC and Croissant Running Crew for adding to the running communities and getting me out even more.

I’ve gotten to know so many people there are too many to thank individually so I’ll say this…everyone else in the tribe thanks for the hugs, high fives, ear wiggles, nose boops, positive vibes and being the kick ass people you are. Thank you for all just showing up.

Lastly thanks to my wife Lindsay and our son Maddox. Thanks for letting me sleep so I could wake up and get to the workouts and just supporting me and this crazy running thing. You may not come to NP (one day maybe when Maddox is older), but you’ve helped me get out there. You are my main tribe.

That’s the end of this blog, but this is only the beginning of my journey. You only get one life, one chance. May as well enjoy the journey to the end…


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