November Project, San Francisco: a UCSF-Friendly Tribe

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Have you heard about November Project? If you have, you have probably heard it is a free-fitness movement started in Boston, MA by two friends, Bojan and Brogan.  Their movement now has 17 tribes scattered throughout the United States. Every tribe follows the same belief system: we should hold each other accountable for our fitness, and we should all have a whole lot of fun doing it. 

While any story about November Project must begin in Boston, the story I want to share is about our very own local band of yahoos that takes to the hilly streets of San Francisco three times a week, affectionately known as November Project, San Francisco (NPSF). The group has three scheduled workouts each week, rain or shine, just like the other 17 tribes, and fosters fitness and friendship of equal proportion. This SF group, which recently increased attendance to as many as 200 people at a single workout, boasts an undeniable and rarely reproducible sense of community. 

As a long-time runner, I have spent many years running before dawn, usually alone.  When I joined November Project over a year ago, and my silent morning runs became joyous gatherings of like-minded individuals. As a physical therapy student, I chose to study at UCSF because its curriculum included numerous inter-professional opportunities, unlike other DPT programs.  At NPSF, I found myself running along side and connecting with doctoral students, medical students, and professionals from UCSF. Inter-professionalism had taken on a new meaning.

Mark Noviski, a third-year PhD student in the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program, joined NPSF last January. Mark works in a small lab and shares that NPSF, “allows [him] to get to know a large group of people who share similar interests, including other members of the UCSF community and individuals from other professions.” Since coming to NPSF, Mark completed his first half-marathon and is training for a marathon relay.

Erin Hallett, PT, DPT, NCS, a UCSF employee who joined NPSF over a year ago reports that the group “has changed my life. This group keeps me accountable and challenges me to push myself physically and mentally on a weekly basis. I went from never running more than a 5K, to running multiple 10Ks, half marathons and a duathalon the past year. I had my November Project tribe-members cheering me on at the finish at every single one.”

Lauren Sonderegger, a fourth-year medical student at UCSF and member of NPSF since May describes her experience with the group: “I'm interested in preventive medicine and public health, as well as nutrition and fitness. I love how Friday Hill [workouts] have become an opportunity to explore new places to run around SF, such as the Lyon Street steps or Russian Hill. In addition, NP has also become a wonderful new group of friends for everything from random outdoor endeavors to potlucks.”

Paddy O'Leary, Postdoctoral Scholar at the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center and co-leader of NPSF shares his own experience: "As seen all over San Francisco, and especially here at UCSF, we have such a diverse community with people moving to the city from cities all across North America and indeed from all over the world. From my own experience moving from Ireland in October 2013, the NPSF community welcomed me into this new city. The group gave me a unbelievable opportunity to make new friends from every walk of life and explore our beautiful city on many of our Friday morning NPSF hill runs, all whilst getting fitter and fitter every week and having so much fun doing it!”

A few weeks ago, while listening to Sam Hawgood, MBBS give the State of the University Address, I was struck by how amazing the members of the UCSF community are. Whether in research, academics or patient care, anyone reading this newspaper is already part of an amazing community.  So I invite you to join an amazing neighboring community.  Every week: 6:30 AM, Monday: Fort Mason, Wednesday: Alta Plaza (Vista) Park, Friday: Rotating hills. Visit for more details. As the tribe likes to say: Just show up. You won’t regret it!