Six Candles (CHI) by Emily Thompson

On a cold, damp Wednesday morning six years and two months ago, six co-workers met on the north stairs of the Field Museum in Chicago. They ran up and down the Soldier Field entrance ramps, splashed through slushy puddles, and posed, straight-faced, for an Instagram post they tagged #weatherproof and #NP_pledge.

After two months of recruiting like mad, we celebrated our first November Project Chicago workout on May 14, 2014. With the Chicago skyline as a backdrop, we posed for our first “official” group photo and promptly collapsed into a pile of laughs. We were part of the NP17, a punchy hashtag that changed each time another November Project group was added to the family. 

 #newsch19

 #oceans23 

#talk30tome 

We were continent-wide, then worldwide.

We’ve changed much over the years – our location shifted from the Field Museum to Kwanisula Totem Pole (thanks, parking restrictions for Lollapalooza!). I started leading a closing bounce that began with “shoeboxes!”, because we still worked at New Balance at the time, and I honestly couldn’t think of something better. In the blustery days of Winter 2015, we began Friday workouts at The Bean in Millenium Park. We explored the city, finding new parks and, mostly importantly in my opinion, testing out new breakfast spots. We traveled to Madison, Utah, Blue Mountain, Wachusett, Milwaukee, Vegas, and Wisconsin a whole bunch more. We united with our fellow “no-coast” cities. We made friends, made out, and got married, and Brogan’s prophetic “yeah, there’s gonna be babies” certainly proved true.

And that original group of six grew like mad. I think it is one of the hardest and greatest things about Chicago, and especially about NP Chi, that, while old friends may leave for new adventures, we will always welcome new friends with open arms. Many have come and gone from NP Chi, but the impact they’ve made –that you’ve made on this community– endures. 

Sitting down to write about the history of NP Chi is tough. I’ve been a member since the very first pledge day, experienced our very first NP workout. It’s really hard to capture just how much of an impact this group has made on my life. November Project Chicago has given me memories that I will cherish for a lifetime (jumping into the lake after sweaty workouts, Ann Sather cinnamon rolls, the best damn Chicago Marathon cheer station, ice cream crawls, races, proms, hugs, and so, so much more) and friends who I consider family. 

Emily receiving the positivity award from Brent, 10/15/14

Years ago now, Dan Graham, brother of November Project founder BG and original co-leader of both Wisconsin groups, stood on a ledge behind the Union in Madison, Wisconsin. We were drunk on cheap pitchers of beer and high on running our first Endurance Challenge race in Kettle Moraine. He hollered a monologue to those of us gathered, his gravelly voice, ever compelling. Most of his words have faded from my mind – I know he spoke of our strength, not of body, but of community. But you might’ve heard his final ones – “THIS SHIT IS GOOD.” The sentiment rings true for every November Project I’ve ever visited, but especially so for Chicago.

Happy birthday, friends. Here’s to our 6 years together, and to many, many more.

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