This is being published on November 12, but it's already safe to say it: What a year! I don't recall another one when the running world changed more, grew in so many new ways, or bounced back from such adversity. Sadly, there was lots of awful news: Oscar Pistorius fatally shot his girlfriend on Valentine's Day, then the bombs went off in Boston, a 28-year-old drowned during a Tough Mudder, and a World Anti-Doping Agency survey revealed that 29 percent of the athletes at last year's World Championships admitted to using PEDs.
But for proof that the good far outweighed the bad in 2013, check out our December issue. Here's a taste: The world record in the marathon fell to 2:03:23, Deena Kastor returned to her record-setting ways as a masters runner, and a woman named Colleen Kelly Alexander finished her first half-Ironman and presented her race medal to the trauma surgeon who helped piece her together again after she was run over by a truck in 2011. Amazing stuff, but not entirely unexpected. For runners, inspiration and perseverance always trump doubt and darkness. It's a fact, kind of a fourth addition to Newton's Laws of Motion, one of the things that keeps us going.
Of course, we keep one another going, as well, and this year running went social in a new way. Incredibly, more than a million people were projected to take part in a Color Run in 2013, with tens of thousands more participating in similar untimed non-races. I became one of them at a Color Me Rad in May. My 8-year-old son and I ran together and, yes, had fun. That, and getting doused in pastel-hued powder, was the whole point. It was a social exercise--emphasis on the social. People arrived and ran (or walked) in packs. I don't think I saw a single person alone or running hard. Nothing wrong with that; if you want to race, you enter a different kind of event. But to me, at least, the whole thing felt a little empty, for reasons I didn't fully understand until I took part in November Project, where the run and the fun are equally essential.
Started in 2011 by two former college rowers trying to motivate each other to stay in shape, November Project is a grassroots running group that doesn't call itself a running group (check out their video which summarizes the fitness movement). I first heard about it at a party just before the Boston Marathon. A few RW staffers had done an NP workout that morning, and as they described it, I thought maybe they'd been brainwashed. Inspired by rap-music-playing, f-bombing cofounders Brogan Graham and Bojan Mandaric, more than 100 runners worked out hard, hugged one another, took funny pictures, and then went on with their lives, which no longer felt ordinary. I decided I had to see it for myself.
I finally did (above) on a rainy Friday morning in June, on my first trip back to Boston after the marathon. Friday is hills day for NPers, who gather in a small neighborhood park in Brookline at the top of a half-mile climb that rises perversely to a 17-percent grade near the top. There were about 80 of us. Five times we went up and down. Brogan, wearing a cape and smacking a cowbell with a weathered oar handle, high-fived everyone at the top. I had run sparingly and mostly alone through the spring, so this was the hardest run I'd done in a long time--and the most fun. Not because I nailed the workout (I certainly did not) but because it was a workout, and because we had done it together. I was hugging people I'd never met before, remembering yet again how many reasons there are to be grateful I am a runner.Caleb Daniloff captures November Project's ethos and appeal in our December issue, but I highly recommend you experience the tribe yourself. There are now NP groups in Washington, DC; Madison, Wisconsin; Denver; San Francisco; San Diego; and Edmonton, Canada. In Boston, 500 people often show up for the stadium workout at Harvard. There are 37 sections, each with 31 rows of knee-high cement seats to climb. I was there at dawn on a recent Wednesday (below).
Even though I'd been training hard through the summer and fall, I still only managed 29 sections in our 35-minute workout. Yet a couple hundred of us had turned the oldest football stadium in America into something new, pushing ourselves, and each other, to do more than we would've done alone. The next day, Bojan wrote on the NP blog: "It's still crazy to think that less than two years ago BG and I were running around Charles River just trying to stay in shape through the winter months. Today thousands of students, nurses, accountants, bus drivers, and dog walkers are getting together to sweat and hug before they go on with their respective days. It's a beautiful thing! The tribe is strong!"
Isn't it, though?
David Willey, Editor-in-Chief
This editor's letter appears on Page 19 of the December 2013 issue of Runner's World Magazine, on newsstands now.
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