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A International Neighborhood of Early Risers – iRunFar

The November Challenge first began out in Boston, Massachusetts, as a method of motivating its founding members to maintain energetic through the chilly, winter months. From its humble beginnings, this free health motion has grown into a world group, spanning 57 places everywhere in the world. Whereas the leaders in every metropolis discover novel methods to design exercises round their metropolis’s distinctive surroundings, the San Francisco, California, group particularly is discovering new methods to take to the paths.

November Project - Bernal Heights Park - San Francisco

An early morning run up Bernal Heights Park with the San Francisco, California, November Challenge. Picture: Tony DiPasquale

Path runner and race photographer Tony DiPasquale was one of many founding members of the Boston department of the November Challenge, after which went on to be a pacesetter within the San Francisco department for a few years earlier than not too long ago standing down. He informed iRunFar:

“The fellows who began [the original November Project in Boston] have been rowers from the faculty that I went to. I used to be one step faraway from them, I used to be pals with their pals. Once they began up November Challenge, they invited everybody out. The Harvard Stadium, which was the unique exercise with November Challenge, was one thing we had at all times carried out as rowers. It was one thing acquainted to me, one thing I knew was enjoyable.”

The Harvard Stadium is a 30,000-person capability stadium in Boston. It’s made up of 37 sections with massive concrete tiered seating — a complete of 1,147 concrete seats. The distinctive exercise, which takes its identify from the venue, entails operating up all the concrete seats, and operating down on the staircases between them.

The exercise is adaptable to totally different health ranges, with challenges together with the “full tour,” which implies operating up and down every of the 37 sections within the shortest time frame; the “century,” which sees runners proceed to circle the stadium till they’ve run up and down 100 sections; or the extra newbie pleasant “35 minutes” — which is just a problem to see what number of sections of the stadium you’ll be able to run in 35 minutes.

Large group posing in stadium

The Boston, Massachusetts, November Challenge in Harvard Stadium. Picture: Tony DiPasquale

About six months into coaching with the November Challenge in Boston, DiPasquale got here to San Francisco for a six-week coaching program for work. About that point, runner Laura Inexperienced, now well-known for her comedic operating content material on social media, had moved from Boston to San Francisco and based the San Francisco department of November Challenge. DiPasquale stated, “After I got here out right here for work coaching, I began going to exercises with them.” Upon returning to Boston, DiPasquale grew to become increasingly concerned with November Challenge, pursuing it for a few years, earlier than ultimately transferring to San Francisco completely, the place he was pleased to have the acquainted exercise group to hyperlink up with.

Right here he received to know ultrarunner Paddy O’Leary, who was now a pacesetter with November Challenge and stated, “I did it for a few years, and ultimately when it was time for Paddy to step down as chief, he requested me to step up, and so I did.”

Within the early days of November Challenge, it principally unfold to different cities through members — akin to Inexperienced and DiPasquale — relocating and taking November Challenge with them. The second and third places the place the motion appeared have been Edmonton, Canada, and San Francisco — each on account of unique Boston members transferring. However as DiPasquale stated, “As soon as it received sufficiently big that folks have been listening to about it in information tales and it began getting press, then individuals have been saying, ‘Oh, this can be a cool factor that I need to carry to my metropolis.’ And so individuals who had by no means been to at least one began beginning them in different cities.”

Group picture on steps

November Challenge in San Francisco, with Tony DiPasquale entrance proper. Picture courtesy of Tony DiPasquale.

Now November Challenge takes place in 57 places around the globe, with a mean of 4,500 individuals attending free exercises every week, and with 250,000 individuals added to its checklist of lifelong members.

Whereas the actions range from metropolis to metropolis, they every observe an analogous framework. The unique Boston group met 3 times per week, and as DiPasquale described, “Each Wednesday was the Harvard Stadium, Friday was this one hill we’d run hill repeats on — Boston will not be very hilly, so it was at all times only one hill! Then on Monday we’d have a distinct location, we’d go to totally different parks round Boston and do a deck-of-cards exercise.”

A deck-of-cards exercise is a fast-paced and assorted exercise, which entails utilizing a deck of playing cards to randomly assign an train and variety of reps to be accomplished.

“The San Francisco department took that mannequin and utilized it to San Francisco.” stated DiPasquale. “So, each Wednesday was the identical park — it was a park within the metropolis, centrally situated. However then each Friday, as a substitute of doing only one hill, each Friday was a distinct hill, as there are such a lot of nice hills across the metropolis. It was an effective way to discover town. A few of them have been highway hills, a few of them have been path hills. There’s simply so many choices in San Francisco, we have been exploring all the things. After which each Monday was the identical location.”

Most branches of November Challenge now observe this framework, with a mixture of static and transferring places constructed into their weekly schedule, relying on what distinctive coaching grounds their metropolis has to supply.

Three happy people warming up in a city park.

An early morning warm-up with San Francisco November Challenge. Picture: Shardul Golwalkar

Though November Challenge was by no means meant to be a path operating group, as a result of abundance of accessible trails in San Francisco, it fashioned a robust overlap there with the native path operating group, with many members participating in path races. Additionally, as DiPasquale stated: “As a result of November Challenge was being sponsored by The North Face on the time, we have been doing The North Face Endurance Problem Sequence occasions. There was at all times an endurance problem within the headlands, so yearly we’d go massive for that and convey out a lot of individuals to run that.”

The North Face Endurance Problem Sequence California happened within the beautiful Marin Headlands outdoors of San Francisco, with a spread of distances from 5 kilometers to 50 miles, with one thing to go well with a broad vary of November Challenge attendees.

Though its members come from a spread of sporting backgrounds — together with swimmers, runners, triathletes and others who use it for a method of cross coaching — and plenty of for whom November Challenge is their sole type of train, its founding mission was at all times extra to do with constructing group than health. As DiPasquale put it, “I’d say November Challenge was actually about individuals who have been in search of group and coming to search out it. I feel that’s actually the place it excelled. Particularly in a metropolis like San Francisco, which could be very transient — there’s at all times individuals transferring out and in. One thing like November Challenge was nice to search out individuals who have simply moved to town, to discover a group of people that wish to work out.”

DiPasquale has since moved on and handed the torch to a brand new wave of November Challenge leaders — Alejandra Monroy, Shardul Golwalkar, and Kaylee Hill.

I caught up with Golwalkar, who stated: “I moved to San Francisco in 2018, about 5 years in the past, and heard about November Challenge from a pal of a pal … I used to be in search of a morning-workout group anyway, being new to town, and so I simply confirmed up on the park and met the co-leaders, and I simply continued going. I appreciated the vibe, the surroundings, and it received my morning exercise taken care of.” In 2020, Golwalkar stepped as much as the position of co-leader with November Challenge and has continued ever since. The San Francisco November Challenge now meets twice per week, nonetheless with one mounted location on a Monday and a transferring hill exercise on a Friday.

Two people running under a human arch

A enjoyable and pleasant exercise with San Francisco November Challenge. Picture: Shardul Golwalkar

Golwalkar stated, “The paths are at all times nice within the metropolis. We hardly ever run the paths outdoors of town, however there are plenty of trails inside the metropolis that we use for hill exercises — Alamo Sq. has a bit of little bit of path, then there’s Mount Sutro, which is all path.” Over time, San Francisco residents have created smaller communities from the individuals they’ve met by November Challenge, and there’s a presently a splinter group who head out for a path run on Thursdays.

November Challenge is tailor-made to fulfill the wants of individuals with busy lives, and Golwalkar stated, “The exercises for November Challenge are from 6:30 a.m. to 7 a.m. A 30-minute exercise with espresso after, it’s earlier than work, after which individuals can get on with no matter they’re doing for the day.” The early begins proceed proper by the depths of winter, and Golwalkar stated: “We have now individuals come out in head torches, some individuals simply use the sunshine of their telephones, however we adapt!” The group prides itself on hardly ever if ever having missed a exercise, and Golwalkar stated that the average local weather in San Francisco lends itself nicely to year-round out of doors pursuits. He stated, “We discuss being weatherproof. We pleasure ourselves on understanding in any climate. In San Francisco particularly now we have fog, rain, and generally however hardly ever a bit of little bit of thunder. However no tornados or something like that.”

The advantages of belonging to the November Challenge embody being a part of a world group, with the door at all times open to hitch up with different teams whereas visiting a distinct metropolis. Golwalkar stated, “I’ve in all probability gone to about 10 or 15 totally different cities the place they’ve November Challenge and met individuals in these cities.” In addition to being scattered all through the US, November Challenge hubs additionally exist in cities akin to Amsterdam, The Netherlands, London, England, and Reykjavík, Iceland.

One other brainchild of former chief Laura Inexperienced was what’s known as Run Crew, which entails the group operating to the exercise collectively, and choosing up others at numerous places alongside the way in which. This concept happened partly for security, as some would possibly really feel uncomfortable about heading out alone at that hour of the morning, but it surely additionally acts as an additional incentive to get out the door on winter mornings when motivation is low. Golwalkar stated, “There’s positively been each women and men who say it’s good to have that peer accountability to go to the exercise, in addition to the added security.”

Golwalkar hinted at the potential of a November Challenge department beginning the place I reside in Eire, which is one thing I shall be conserving my eyes peeled for, and you’ll try the checklist of places on their web site to see if there may be one which fits you!

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  • Is there a November Challenge close to you? Have you ever attended a few of their exercises?
  • The place else would you wish to see this motion seem?
A dog joining the workout

A furry pal joins the exercise with San Francisco November Challenge. Picture: Shardul Golwalkar



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