First, A Thank You
Dear Gay Vietzke, Bob Vogel, National Park Service Personnel,
I imagine you have already received many emails and letters from my fellow November Projecters. I sincerely hope you take the time to read each of them- each letter has a story that shows the raw beauty of humanity and how November Project lets that beauty shine. Before I tell you what November Project and our locations mean to me, I want to take a moment to thank you and the entire National Park Service, both for what you do in DC and for what you do across the nation. I want to thank you for allowing us to run where we have thus far and form memories that will be with us for years to come. While I want to thank you, I also want to plead with you to allow us to continue using the steps at Lincoln, the hill at Meridian, and the other locations around DC that have made this city feel like ours.
When I first moved to DC I immediately wanted to move back to the Midwest. I wanted nothing to do with the cement corridors of the city, the traffic, the noise, the masses of people. Then I found November Project DC. My comfort level with the city suddenly skyrocketed. Do I know where ninety percent of the Friday workout locations are? No. Will I find them? Without a doubt. Would I have met this group without first having had the opportunity to run with them at a centralized location that I knew even I could find? I’m lucky that question is hypothetical.
Before November Project Lincoln Memorial was to me a monument and nothing more. I remembered walking up the stairs my first visit, being impressed, and then feeling nothing walking away. Now? Now whenever I run away from Lincoln after working out with the most positive people I’ve ever met I wish I was running towards it. Not many people will tell you that 5:30am on a Wednesday is their favorite time of the week, but I think amongst our tribe you would find far more than one person. There is nothing quite like pushing up the last steps at Lincoln, rounding a pillar and seeing the sun come up behind the Washington Monument. I wish I could put into words the joy of sharing those beautiful sunrises that would otherwise go unnoticed. I wish I could express my gratitude to the people of November Project for loving everyone no matter their fitness level and background. I wish everyone I know (and don’t know) would come to just one workout so they would understand why I am so passionate about November Project. This group has meant more to me than I can express.
Our locations are incredibly meaningful. Not just because of the memories many of us have formed at them, but because they allow us to come together and stay together. Running stair laps at Lincoln or hill repeats at Meridian lets us stay in the same geographic location throughout the entire workout. No one is left behind or made to feel like they have to be an Olympic athlete to join us. There is nothing more encouraging than running up the steps and seeing someone far faster than you running down and still shouting out words of encouragement instead of disappearing into the distance. When my brother came to visit me I convinced him to wake up at 4:30am to come run stairs with me, because what better way to experience the city than at one of the most iconic spots with some of the best souls DC has to offer?
In the months that I have been in DC I have made friends that will accept me despite seeing me only 3 times a week where I am dripping sweat and gasping for breath. I cannot imagine not meeting them at Lincoln where we collectively celebrate the city we live in. As Jonathan Jarvis said, “America’s National Park System is a gift from past generations to this and succeeding generations.” Ladies and gentlemen, this is a unique group that allows all generations to collectively enjoy this gift, free of judgment and full of love. Mr. Vogel, you yourself said in an interview with the Washington City Paper that the National Park Service needed to work on community involvement because “that’s really where things happen, when we get citizens to say, “These parks are mine”-which they are (Jan. 5, 2015).” Now you have just that. I have found my people, and we have Found Our Park. Please let us stay.