"Now, i'm going to ask, Are you good? And you just say back, F*ck yeah!"
"Are you good?"
And we all respond, "F*ck Yeah!" 150 strangers fill the stadium with our unified voice. We are ready.
I got up at 5:45am, to go to a workout I'll never forget at a place I have never been. It was kind of like crossfit meets fight club.
Taking up the charge to avoid gym memberships and motivate peers, the November Project seems well-suited to Boston's cold winters. On a temperate Wednesday, I joined the Harvard Stadium workout and it was both exhilarating and utterly abusive.
A key point, we are encouraged to hug the person next to us, even better if it's a stranger, and say, "Thank you for being here" I imagine Jack Shepherd and Desmond having the same conversation on LOST. If it was just two people in the November pre-dawn, can you imagine that gratitude that your buddy wasn't a no-show? If you have ever been the person who showed up, you know what I mean. And that gratitude is displayed at scale: we give thanks for the community. I hug a fresh-faced 20year old.
Exhilarating- what a great community. A lot of brands try to be everything to everyone, and it takes true courage to say, "we are from the midwest and we wanted to create a community where you can make actual eye contact and have physical contact with other people. If you aren't willing to hug a stranger this morning, this might not be for you."
A brief lesson in the numbers;
A Full Tour is the 37 sections of the horseshoe-shaped stadium, for a total of 1,147 steps. Newbies start separately and do their workout beginning in the middle and working out from the ends. Run up, walk down, repeat. Half take the sunny side, half take the shady side.
I decide to listen to their boom box easily filling the stadium with rock and high energy.
I bound up the first 20 or so steps, and then my legs start to scream. I slow down to step ups, make it to the top and pause. What have I done? There are people of every fitness level. Some determined walkers, and equally persistent Atlassians who are running up the steep grade faster than I run downhill.
WHAT HAVE I DONE?
As a Cornell alumnus taking his first visit to the Harvard campus, it is as though I must climb a step for every time I called the Crimson's goalie a Sieve at Lynah Rink. It is all my fault.
I take my punishment in about 35 minutes. I'm determined to do so, grateful as I reach the top step and terrified of the next section. My legs stop working. As I walk back along the path under the uppermost bleachers I see small groups doing sit-ups and other core work. I try to run and can barely trot.
I make it back to Section 19 for the group photo. I meet a blogger for the Boston.com and introduce myself to Bojan. He's intense, fit and positive. His energy is infectious. I learn that he did his workout at 5:30!!!! I stand still and my legs are shaking.
What a morning. As a marketer, it was wonderful to see community building for its own sake. The level of ritual helps inculcate shared values and aspirations; simple enough to grasp and eventually you know you belong.
I'll be back.