The NP Family Resemblance (CHI)

‘Tis the season for family, and so we bring you a delayed blog post (the delay is entirely the fault of we co-leaders) from one of our members, Cait Hakala:

I love cheering races. Naturally I cheer for everyone, but seeing a November Project shirt approaching puts me in a frenzy–even when I don’t know the runner, I know they’re my people. They’re one with this “spray-paint-is-thicker-than-water” fraternity where the only family resemblance is joy. When an NPer runs past I elevate my cheers, regardless of current levels, to recognize our kinship. 

I spend a lot of subsequent Mondays voiceless.

This October, a fearsome NPChi foursome embarked upon an international journey with only two goals in mind: to cheer our beloved Careen to an epic Dublin marathon finish, and to drink as much Guinness as possible. I’m happy to report that we accomplished both. Elisa, Drake, and I hit a few pubs the night before the marathon where we chatted up a couple who were running the next day. Phil and Christina are members of the Reading Roadrunners, a club in England that had brought a contingent to Dublin for the race. We promised we’d cheer for anyone wearing their blue and green singlets. 

Left to right, Drake, Christina, Phil, Cait, Elisa (cred. Cait Hakala)

Little did the Reading Roadrunners know they’d been adopted by three professionals

If I had to capture the essence of NPChi’s Dublin Marathon cheer squad I would say this: we had the only cowbell on the course and we cheered indiscriminately. We arrived early to shout encouragement to the masses and keep our eyes peeled for Careen and our surrogate run club.

Thousands of runners passed us, including dozens of Reading runners, all confused at three strangers screaming “READING RUNNERS!” and brandishing a cowbell. We met Careen at six or seven different points on the course, taking shortcuts through the Dublin streets and logging fourteen miles to her twenty-six by the finish line. We started to recognize more runners we’d seen at our previous stops. Two stuck out, their names in masking tape on their chests, always together and always just a few minutes before Careen: Anthony and Jennifer. Each time we saw them, we cheered them just as we had the Reading runners. Each stop, our volume increased and before long we adopted them too, anticipating when Anthony and Jennifer would come through next.

Drake and Cait, professional cheer squad. (cred. Elisa Germond)

Our Careen finished strong and we sat for a bit, all four of us exhausted and our enthusiasm spent. Careen left everything on the course and in a way, Drake, Elisa, and I did too. In my daze, a woman approached me. She said she loved seeing us out there and we absolutely got her through the race. It took me a minute to place her–realization struck and I exclaimed “JENNIFER” as I gave her a big ol’ NP hug. Anthony was beside her, as expected. We joked about being the Americans stalking them on the course, but they expressed their gratitude for our enthusiasm and support; Jennifer told us again and again she wouldn’t have made it without us.

The law of conservation of energy does not apply to November Project and it does not apply to joy. We three brought immense joy and encouragement and fortitude to that course, initially for our girl Careen, and then for Anthony and Jennifer and Paul and Christina and everyone else over those 26.2 miles. Later that night, by sheer coincidence, we ran into Paul and Christina in the same pub and they greeted us like old friends: Paul tearily told us our cheering meant so much that he’d be putting a photo of Elisa, Drake, and I in the next Reading Roadrunners newsletter.

November Project isn’t in just fifty-two cities. November Project is wherever you take it, wherever you bring our shared joy with you, and wherever you bring others into the fold. I hope the next time Paul, Christina, Anthony, or Jennifer see a November Project tagged shirt, they recognize the family resemblance.

The Dublin Marathon (cred. Elisa Germond)

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