Early Friday morning, as die-hard shoppers storm the stores for holiday bargains, hundreds of adrenaline junkies will take to Tommy’s Park for an American phenomenon of a different sort.

The November Project – a kind of fitness flash mob – is holding a workout in Portland. The event promises to involve a mix of running, burpees, push-ups, box jumps and – most importantly – hugs.

“This is not a running club. It’s not a boot camp,” said November Project co-founder Brogan Graham. “If you come, expect to open your mind, hug some strangers and say ‘I’m glad you’re here.'”

The workout, which takes place at 6:29 a.m. Friday, is free and open to anyone from aspiring Olympians to those who are just getting off the couch. It is founded on the idea that people of all abilities and levels of fitness crave a little warmth and connection – and that the hardest part of working out is showing up.

The November Project is an organically grown movement that has swept North America since Graham and Bojan Mandaric, a fellow collegiate rower, launched the program in 2011 in Boston as a way to stay in shape during the winter. The pair started meeting up three times a week, regardless of the weather.

Over time, they were joined by dozens, then hundreds, then thousands of others, ranging from couch potatoes and aspiring marathoners to pro athletes like Edmonton Oilers captain Andrew Ference, a member of the Boston Bruins’ 2011 Stanley Cup champions.


“A lot of people want this better connection to community,” said Graham. “You can say ‘community’ until you’re blue in the face, but until you wake up and hug a bunch of strangers for a free workout I don’t think you’ve really experienced it in a way that November Project members do.”

The program has grown largely by word of mouth and social media. There are now 16 November Project tribes throughout the U.S. and Canada. On Nov. 5, the program reached a record of more than 4, 000 participants in 16 cities. By next year, the November project is aiming for 30 cities.

“The mix is the cool part,” said Graham. “It makes people at the very elite level take themselves a little less seriously. And for people who are scared of running, we trick them into becoming athletes.”

Many workouts – like the one scheduled for Portland – are held in parks and stadiums to encourage interaction. And hugs.

“The hugs are an equalizer, and it brings down people’s barriers,” said Graham. “Portland is a super-friendly place. But even in the coolest cities, we can all afford to be more outgoing, a little less tough, and just be ourselves. No matter what gear you have or how many marathons you’ve finished, you can come and work your butt off.”

The Portland workout will be part of November Project Nomad, a one-time “pop-up” version of the program that was launched this year as a way to scout the potential for future November Project locations.

The workout will be led by Danny Metcalf, a triathlete who leads up to 500 people at workout three times a week in Washington D.C. at locations such as the Lincoln Memorial. Metcalf, who Graham calls “one of our craziest and most inspirational, loudest and wildest leaders,” will be visiting his girlfriend’s family in Portland for the holiday.

“It will be everything that you’d expect – running, burpees, box jumps, and push-ups,” said Metcalf, 23, a Portland, Oregon, native. He is also is part of the college recruitment program of the USA Triathlon team, an incubator for Olympians. Metcalf expects anywhere from 60 to 150 people to participate.

“What makes November Project unique is that you can do all the old-school workouts, but be loud, have a great time and be a part of a ton of energy.”

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