Last week we launched The Best of Sunrise 6k, a storytelling contest with a side of running that the whole world participated in. We are incredibly thankful for thousands of entries that made us laugh, cry, feel inspired, and grateful for this wonderful community. We wish we can award Brooks shoes to all of you but there can only be 10. Our winners are:
“Our Sunrise 6K challenge was simple. Do what you love, do it how you can. Riley, my son loves running and racing, every day he wakes up and wants to swim, bike, run. Riley has done 27 full marathons, 100 plus triathlons, has been to one NP summit, and countless other distance races. He never misses a NP workout, or if he does it ruins his whole week.
More about Riley. He is a big personality when you get to know him. He drank his first Guinness this year. Has a steady diet of popcorn chicken and mini oreos. He loves his people, his Team Hoyt community, his NP community.
A couple more things, Riley was born at 26 weeks. Riley has Cerebral Palsy Spastic Displegia. Riley is more of a motivated athlete than anyone else on the planet. Riley uses a walker to walk around, but he pushes his parents to really get him around, around a marathon, a triathlon, to surf, or any of the other sports he so loves. He is the one waking everyone up on race day, making sure that his race chair has a new bib every weekend, and his medals are dutifully hung in the right place in his room.
This #covidtermission has been rough on everyone, Riley included. He lost his routine like everyone else. He lost a school friend to a car accident, and another disabled peer to the virus. He has chronic lung disease, which means he is one of those people who can’t really go out until there is a vaccine, so 18 months is a reality. Six feet isn’t good enough in Riley’s world.
But, we can still run. We run in circles around the house. Our Sunrise 6K is to show people we can. lace up.
We measured out the distance around the house 262 feet. 20.15 loops around the house for a mile. 6K equals 3.72 miles. 74.958 laps around the house. One step up through the left gate, one step down through the right gate. Let’s do 80 laps just to be safe. 79 possible bathroom breaks on course, 79 water stops, we got this.
Turn on Strava, go get it. Make sure you move a beer coaster every ten laps so you don’t lose count of laps. Keep the chairs axles from destroying the fences. Keep the neighbors from calling the police.
Get through 80!!! “What Strava says you’ve only gone 3.1 miles.” Somewhat relived Strava could track you at all, but persevere, keep throwing on laps until your Strava agrees with your goals.
Riley for the win, another PR, another age group and overall win. Where is the damn medal?
Do what you love, do what you can. #np_continues, #NPSD, #TeamhoytSD”
“I wake up, it’s 5:17..my alarm is set for 5:30, I go back to sleep.
I wake up, it’s 5:30, I prep for the run, grab a bite to eat, lace em up and go. Saw an insta post about the Ray Charles movie last night so thought I’d run to Ray today.
The sky is pink, and so are my hands, it’s brisk this morning, my nipples could cut glass right now. I walk to my starting spot, trying to wake myself up (I’ve been sleeping in late in this isolation). I start my watch, and off I go.
Chapter 1: Song – Hit the Road Jack
This first kilometre was tough, legs were asleep and I was trying to decide which route I wanted to take. I was also distracted and curious of why Jack had to hit the road, what did he do? But I could not lose focus. Last night I could hear coyotes howling through the night in the forest. I decided today won’t be a trail run, as I’m allergic to some dogs and don’t want to take the chance. We’re off on the concrete and pavement (I’ve set aside ice packs for my knees, knowing how this will go).
Chapter 2: Song – I’ve Got a Woman
My body is beginning to get into the works of things, I’m awake, but no one else is. This suburb is doing a great *SQUIRREL?!* job at physical distancing, but it’s creepy.
Chapter 3: Song – I Can’t Stop Loving You
The far end of the loop, have not run this way before, a bit of new territory, across the road I see another runner. He sees me, we nod and wave, and continue on at a safe distance. I’m getting hungry, I’m thinking about what I’ll have for dinner. Fish? Bean burgers? Last night I found some Chili I had frozen, easy and delicious. But I have to finish the run first.
Chapter 4: Song – Hallelujah, I Love Her So
This ones a bit of a bop, feeling good with a good pace now. Until. Last nights chilli..not the best meal before a run..I feel a fart coming, I let it out.Oh god it was a dangerous one, what’s happening?! Time to pick up the pace, gotta get home soon. I can’t even change the route to be shorter, it’s 6k or nothing, I just hope I can make it home in time.
Chapter 5: Song – What I’d Say
Another bop to run to, but is it too much, trying to find the best pace that’s a good clip without too much bounce. Looking at my watch, counting down the time, the distance, how many songs until I can get to my bathroom. Things are starting to get *SQUIRREL?!* tense.
Chapter 6: Song – Georgia On My Mind
Okay, this song is more calming, I can make it. But who put this hill here?! Why did I pick a route with a hill at the end, rookie mistake. 700m to go, I won’t go into descriptive detail of what I’m feeling, but I am worried if I’ll make it, trying to slow my pace down, things are moving around too much. I’m turning my last corner, 250m to the end of the run, but another 200 to my door after that. 50m, 30m, 10, I finish the 6k, without losing anything. Success.
I start to walk, still iffy whether I can make it in time. The longest 200m walk I’ve ever faced, I’m talking to myself to calm down, and keep things under control. I approach my house, I’m going to make it. I walk up to my doorstep, but I’m startled! On my steps..a SQUIRREL! It scurries always, and I scurry inside. Straight to take care of business, I made it, but…it was a false alarm.
Inside this house lies a sleeping woman. She gave me life, making me her last child of 3. She is bold and fiery, passing those qualities onto me. She’s confident and self conscious, also passing along those too. What she’s also passing along is her genes, and I’m watching hers deteriorate. I’m here during quarantine to become a solo caregiver for an ailing body and mind, who struggles to remember yesterday or the name of her favorite actor. Who can only move by using a walker and lives in pain. To know my future, as she knew hers caring for her own parents, is what gets me motivated to move my body and practice stretching my mind. To be an athlete is not something she was ever capable of, so I’m trying for the both of us to change our story.
“She greets me slowly
Like an old friend I haven’t seen for a while
My breath steady and slow
Her movement sweet and pure
The water glides between us
For no one else is awake
Except the world
The birds seem happy to see me or at least it sounds like it
And my pace is outmatched by each squirrel who passes
All the while still she greets me
The road flat and smooth turns to trail soft and wet
A hidden pair of eyes
As do they
A family of deer
They wondering what I’m doing in their woods at this hour
And so do I
But I thank them for sharing it with me
And we all carry on
At last she is up
And she stretches farther than I’ll ever know
And she laughs in pinks and oranges and reds
It is good to see her
For we haven’t met at this hour in a long time
And just as soon as it’s begun
It is done”
“My last Sunrise 6k was on June 26th, 2019 in Madison, WI. It was warm, sunny, and I was surrounded by people I love to give me encouragement and sweaty hugs. It was also one of the last times I was able to attend a November Project workout. Since then I have had a torn meniscus, moved to a new place, done 5 months of Army training which has kept me away from home for the entirety of 2020, and now I work 12 hour shifts every day at an isolation center taking care of COVID positive patients. I’ve spent the last 10 months gathering the weight of the year and carrying it with me.
I woke up on this drizzly morning in the hotel I’ve been living in for the last 6 weeks, 5 miles from my own house, in order to keep my family safe and healthy. No warmth. No sun. No friends. No sweaty hugs. Just me, running shoes on my feet and mask on my face, alone but feeling connected to a group of people I’ve been missing more than ever the more time I spend alone and away from home. I took off into the dark, rainy morning alone with nothing but the weight of the year to keep me company.
There was nothing special about my route, or the clothes I wore, or the old Brooks Launch’s that I’ve sacrificed as my “bad weather” shoes. I just ran. I thought about my friends (whom I have made almost entirely through November Project) and how tight I will hold them during our next sweaty hug. I thought about all of the burpees I’ve done in the rain while sharing joy with the people around me. I thought about my first ultra which I ran last year and my plan to do another in the fall. I thought about the wonderful people who have come and gone in my life this year, and I thought about how I wouldn’t trade a single moment of it for anything. I thought about the best of this year and let go of the worst.
This morning I ran hard. I gave myself permission, alone in the rain, to give the best of what I had to give. I watched the sun rise behind the fog, and with every step I let go of a little of the baggage I’ve been holding onto for the last 10 months until all that was left was the best of. The best of the rain. The best of the this community. The best of the trail I’ve been running for the last 6 weeks. The best of isolation. The best of myself. And that’s the power of November Project. I watched the sky become light as I finished my run, and I felt a renewed sense of purpose and wholeness. I had 15 minutes after I finished my run to prepare for another 12 hour day, ready to make the best of the life I’ve been given. I cleaned up, dried off, looked in the mirror and said to myself: “y’all good?”
Fuck yeah. ”
“Angkor Wat Awesomeness!
4:40am, bleary-eyed, the morning after my 35th birthday, I left my apartment in Siem Reap, Cambodia 🇰🇭, for the short moto trip to get to my 6k “start line” by 5am: the entry bridge to the iconic Angkor Wat (sunrise time: 5:44am and I wanted to finish within the 10min time window). I crossed the bridge in the pitch black, tiptoed through the eerie entrance gate (😬 try being in a 12th century ruin alone at 5am!), and began my 6k run (by headtorch) in the darkness, within the grounds of Angkor Wat itself: following the path around the base of the temple (shown on my Strava map). With each 2km lap, it got lighter and lighter and more and more spectacular, as the incredible temple revealed itself in the dawn light. Running a “good time” was scrapped as I kept having to pause to take pictures and soak in the awe: the chance to go for my morning run on those tracks and was unreal! Being 28 degrees already, the run was quite a (sweaty!) challenge, but oh so worth it as I finished up the 6k directly in front of the main temple, just as the striking orange sun began peeking over the five famous towers. It’s a sight I have been lucky enough to see before, but only with hundreds and hundreds of people crowded in together, as is the usual way at Angkor Wat. This morning, I was completely alone there, in the peace of the dawn, and it is a moment I will never, ever forget.
The global pandemic has been absolutely devastating in so many ways, but we must still stop and look to the positives of any situation, and find things to be grateful for. Those of us living in Cambodia who were unable to return to our home countries now have an absolutely unique opportunity, as the ancient temples of Angkor, whilst still open to visitors (we don’t have a lockdown here), are almost completely empty, as the tourists have long gone. Social distancing at its finest. This is an experience that most could only dream of and will likely never come round again in our lifetime.
Thank you, November Project, for the motivation to get up and do this today. I am grateful for the unique experiences running can bring, even in times or difficulty. 🏃🏻♀️❤️”
“Dedicated to “the wedding that should have been.” For 18 months, we’ve been planning to get married on May 30, 2020 (5.30.20), but COVID-19 says otherwise. Since we’ve been together five years (actually, probably closer to 5.3020 years ironically enough), running has been a cornerstone of our relationship. So much so that one of our first dates was running our first half marathons on back to back weekends. Spoiler: we signed up separately for different races as a contingency plan in case we broke up and didn’t want to run the same race with a new ex. Since then, we’ve run together, separately, fast, slow, from Massachusetts to California, 5ks to marathons. To commemorate the impact running has had on our relationship, we planned to run a 5.3020k race we designed around our city on the morning of our May 30, 2020 (5.30.20) wedding with our friends and family. We might still get up and run that morning anyway, but this 6k Strava art is a nod to “the wedding that should have been….and will be….just on a later date.”
The sun was absent during our Sunrise 6k, an irony not lost on me. A parallel to things not going as expected on your wedding day, your race day, your typical NP Wednesday, or your Sunrise 6k day. But we get up, do it anyway, and we do it together. Sun or no sun. In person or virtually. Wedding day or no wedding day.”
“Last August I tipped the scales at almost 300 lbs. and couldn’t run 30 seconds without gasping for air. Today I pounded out 4 miles on empty streets nearly 50 lbs. lighter with a virtual army beside me.
Together. Apart. Big girl still got it.
The November Project has been right there with me for much of my fitness journey though no one knows my name and there isn’t a group in my state. I stumbled upon this amazing community in January while searching for a running club in DC who might welcome an overweight visitor for a few days while I was in town for work. I fell in love with the mantra of “come as you are” and counted down the days to join NPDC for a sunrise workout at the Lincoln Memorial. I even planned my first 5K run to land while I was in DC to celebrate what this online group had help me achieve. As fate would have it, my one and only workout with the November Project was my last day in DC, Wednesday, March 11th, the last day before COVID-19 would push the pause button on life. I arrived back in Utah to find that both my gym community and online running community would have to continue on alone for awhile. Together. Apart.
I just had no idea how hard that would be.
Quarantine life, working from home, and homeschooling six kids has sucked the wind and will out of my fitness progress. Eating clean? Nope. Regular workouts? Nope. Something to look forward to? Nope. Then I saw the Sunrise 6K post last week and hoped that having it on the calendar would help jump start the ol’ motivation and give me something to look forward to. But last night after kids went down the weight of the past several weeks hit at once and I fell apart, ugly crying about the weight regained, the settling of depression, and the loss of confidence that running has brought me. How could I run this morning? At my pre-quarantine best I could barely run a 5k and I’d only run a handful of short laps around the block since the shut down. I genuinely felt like the traction gained with months of training and nearly 50 lbs. lost was about to finally slip away, and that a failed attempt at a 6K could be the final nail in a fitness coffin.
But hope and community are powerful things. I thought about the connection I felt that one and only morning at the Lincoln Memorial running in the dark with strangers. I was 2,000+ miles from home and the biggest person there and yet I felt welcomed. And I thought about strangers around the world who would be lacing up shoes alone in a few hours and wanted so badly to be part of it, even if I had to limp, pant or crawl across the virtual finish line.
And so I did.
I got up early for the first time in weeks, drove across town to city hall, and then set out for the city limits. My legs were heavy and weak, my stride S-L-O-W as molasses, but I kept running. I needed to get out on the pavement again and remind myself that struggling with fitness-diet-life doesn’t equate to failure. I haven’t lost all of the progress made to this point even if the tempo has slowed and I’m not where I thought I would be. I’m still here, this community is still here, and we’re all still moving forward the best we know how.
Thank you for the gift of being together. Apart.”
I keep wondering if this will be my last run. How much further into pregnancy will my body allow me to run? As my alarm goes off at some stupid o’clock hour before the sun is even up, I think “This could be it, the day I stop running. I don’t have to get up; no one will judge the 37-week pregnant lady if she doesn’t show up today.” But, that excuse doesn’t sit well with me because of the fact that nearly 6 years ago, I did show up to my first November Project in D.C. and came to find its values of accountability, community, and dogged determinedness to go after whatever your personal best may be on a given day, to have seeped into every part of my life. So here I am lining up on the start line aka my front yard in the pitch dark with not a soul in sight, and ready to take off with a stride that is now akin to a harp seal on land. I have to laugh, as a former collegiate runner, at just how different races during COVID and pregnancy look.
In those first few seconds of the Sunrise 6k, I think of how my NP friends would simultaneously laugh at how ridiculous this situation looks to an outsider while also cheering me on just as intensely as if I were going after my lifetime personal best. In that moment, I feel so much gratitude to have this type of support even in isolation. As my due date approaches, I’ve been thinking more and more about what I want my future child to learn and value about the world… and while running the sunrise 6k this morning, those thoughts felt so simple. Above all, I want my child to be be absolutely rooted in a community that is so inspiring, inviting and encouraging that s/he feels motivated to regularly push their limits. A community that becomes such a part of her/his being that their presence and support is felt even when you are completely isolated from them – whether that be due to a global pandemic or a geographical move or some other circumstance.
I fully believe that any group of people who can persuade you into type 2 fun events even when they’re not physically present is a damn good group of people to call your community, and will ultimately make whatever challenges life throws our way, a little more bearable and a lot more meaningful. I could tell this child all about how important those values are to a fulfilling life, but the truth is, the physical act of just showing up will speak more volumes than any story I could ever write. So here’s to another Sunrise 6k in the books, an NP community that continues to adapt, running happy in a pandemic, and waddling your heart out at 37-weeks pregnant.
““She’s getting up so early!” I said, tucked away in the rack against her closet door.
“I know! The sun is not even up yet. It’s been months since she’s taken us out before the day woke up.” Right replied, bewildered.
“Is something wrong? Last I checked she hasn’t been leaving the house for work…”
“Her eyes are barely open. This is going to be an interesting run!” Right chuckled as we watched Joan shuffle around her childhood bedroom. We hadn’t been here since Christmastime, but it was fun to see her old race medals and running pictures from middle school cross country.
Right and I, we were Joan’s sneakers, running kicks, tennis shoes, what have you. I like to call us her favorite people to start the day with. We weren’t really sure why we had been getting so much more action the past few months, but we weren’t complaining. Every morning, without fail, Joan would hop out of bed, brush her teeth, throw on yet another overpriced outfit she bought from Outdoor Voices or Girlfriend Collective, and joyride with us.
After some more tired shuffling, she laced us one. “We’re gearing up, Left! Looks like we’re making the sunrise too.” Right was always much more precise than I was, but he kept me in line and ready to perform. I helped him stay a bit more creative and on his toes.
We trekked downstairs and outside. Joan went back in to drink some more water (stalling, per usual) before heading out again. Okay, this was it; this was the beginning of the 6K she had been waiting for.
“We’re hitting my old route, then adding some distance,” she said aloud as she queued up Sean Paul on her Spotify playlist. She always started her runs to Sean Paul even though he was very 2006, but Right and I appreciated that about her; her running tracks were strictly pre-2010 and she wouldn’t have it any other way.
And we were off. Right. Left. Right. Left. We were doing our job – carrying her onward, wherever that was. Running with Joan was always fun, since she had some favorite routes that she loved to revisit time and time again. Nostalgia had been hitting home more than usual these days, it was only fitting we’d feel that on a run too.
Straight down Jefferson and past the Capasso family’s house. That’s where Joan used to dogsit a sweet Boxer named Max, and have BBQs in the backyard with her family and theirs every summer. Growing up with your best friends down the street was the best, especially in the summertime. Only a few steps away!
We turned the corner onto the Elm straightaway. Ah. I remembered this – so did Right. This is where Joan did mile splits before her first New York City marathon. She wanted to finish strong, unlike her last marathon. Sprints were key to building that endurance. Her collegiate track athlete brothers stood on Elm timing her, watching her, making sure Right and I didn’t become untied and cause a scene. We’d never want that, but sometimes it happens and you best believe we’re embarrassed when it does.
Turned left onto Kensington, passed Jackie’s house. Jackie was a girl who didn’t like Joan. The sole reason was that her ex-boyfriend asked Joan to prom. Big whoop. Joan could beat her in a race anyday.
Another turn and another turn. We were on cruise control; Joan wasn’t going as fast as she had been lately, but from what we could tell, she seemed to be smiling and enjoying the quiet morning that suburbia was offering her. Maybe she’d be waking up earlier moving forward.
Past her friend Emma’s house. What a house! The amount of after-lifeguarding hangs that would be had on that basement. Sometimes those night hangs would turn to kickbacks which would turn to parties… Right and I always knew that after a night at Emma’s, Joan’s chances of lacing us up the following morning were slim to none. She needed nights like that though; you’re only a teenager once.
We did some loops in the backstreets of Joan’s neighborhood. Her old driving instructor’s house was decorated in signs cheering on hospital and essential workers. Joan never spoke fondly of him, but it might have been because he spread rumors about her crashing into a street sign during her driver’s education training back in 2011. I mean, speaking candidly, she did. She’s better at running than driving but I won’t elaborate on that, Right would get mad. He hates gossip too.
A few more turns and were a straight shot to home. Straight, but uphill, past the church Joan grew up going to. The parking lot was empty, which was eerie, but I noted that it would be the perfect place for sprint repeats later this week. We chugged uphill, and I can sense Joan was slowing down. Maybe on purpose, or maybe she was truly tired. Either way, we were almost at the 6K mark, and I knew she’d complete it. She always completes a challenge.
What was it about the route we ran today? There was no visibly remarkable sunrise from any of the roads, mostly due to cloud coverage and elevation. There was no one out and about, which was really nice for us to all have a socially-distanced breather. Joan finished in front of her home and bent over for a second, smiling wide. Ah. It was the memories. She had run this route hundreds of times since 5th grade when she learned it for the town fun run. And over the years, it has gained some memories. A friend’s house here, a tough hill there, a momentous PR; all of these things are the key ingredients for a favorite route. And of course, the most important being the sneakers she took along for the ride.
Joan unlaced us in the foyer. Right always felt abandoned here, but I knew Joan would just shower before returning us to our resting spot against the closet door.
“Do you think she’s going to go back to bed?” Right mused as Joan refilled her water bottled and hustled away.”
“Yeah, probably. I don’t see why not.”
“She could take us out again! Maybe for an afternoon run! I know that she wants to complete the April Distance Running challenge on Strava, and in order to do so, she has to run 1.7K more, and it’s raining tomorrow, and–” I cut Right off. I was getting anxious for Joan thinking about all of that.
“She’ll complete the challenge, she always does. Let’s rest. Let her rest. We’ll know when we’re needed again.”