The November Project’s Ninja Race Recap

One brave magazine editor took on the November Project's Ninja Race in 9 degree weather and loved it. You would too.

Getting ready to run. Photo by Madison Kahn

Hub Health covered the November Project back in late-October, just before they celebrated their one-year anniversary. The free, grassroots fitness community meets three times a week at 6:30 a.m. to workout, rain, snow, or shine. More than 2,000 people in Boston have worked out with the November Project, and most of them found out about it via social media. Last week, they organized the first annual (ever) Ninja Race, an 8-mile run around the city.


“This is NOT a race,” instructed an anonymous male voice over a megaphone. “This is a coincidence.” And with that, more than 350 people—dressed in all black, some carrying plastic swords, and most wearing facemasks—took off down the Charles River Pathway. It was 9:15 p.m. and a bone-chilling 9 degrees (meteorologists earlier declared temperatures the coldest in two years), but these people didn’t care. In each of their fleece-lined pockets was a yellow hand-drawn map that outlined the 8-mile course—above it read, “Thanks Mother Nature, for always keeping it real.” Passersby called them crazy—or just gave bewildering looks of concern. Cars honked, bicycles ringed, and dogs barked as this stealthy black fleet ran through the night. And to all, their response was the same: a fist-pump and “Fuck yeah!”

When I heard about the November Project’s Ninja Race (or should I say #ninjarace), I was hooked. For someone who’s used “ninja” as a verb more often than a noun, I knew this race—especially its roots in eccentric dress and silly behavior—was for me. So last Wednesday, I convinced my roommate to bundle up in all black and venture out into the night with me to run 8-miles along the Charles River. She thought I was insane (and to a certain extent she was correct) but my hesitations were dismissed as soon as I got on the T. There were two other black ninjas (one with a beard he could barely contain in his balaclava) stretching their calves on the subway car’s poles.

I had no idea where this race started, but as soon as I got off the T, I realized that would not be a problem. Twenty ninjas, a few of them looking as lost as I was, were all waiting in the Charles-MGH station, jumping up and down, stretching, taking pre-race pictures, and scoping out their competition. As each minute passed, more and more ninjas trickled in. And the more impressed I became with these ninjas’ creativity. There was a ninja turtle, a group of neon ninjas, a Christmas tree—lights and all—ninja, people with ninja swords tucked into their back pockets, and even one with a nunchuck draped around his neck. I sported a black bandana I originally thought was pretty badass, but retracted that assumption after looking around. (Next time, I told myself, I would dig up my costume box.) Finally, at 9:13 p.m., someone initiated the movement towards the Teddy Ebersol’s Field.

The scene at the start line was the best mix of utter madness and pure genius I had ever seen. Hundreds of black figures (only eyes were visible due to extreme bundling) huddled together, jumping up and down, occasionally squealing with excitement. I was half-expecting a Michael Jordan wannabe to start the Chicago Bulls “What time is it?” pregame chant. After sufficient adrenaline hyping, hugs, high-fives—and a warmer-upper burpee—this crew of ninjas was ready to rock and roll.

The eight-mile run was surprisingly pleasant. The moon was out, and the city skyline painted the perfect backdrop for a nice evening dash. Every mile or so, a couple cheerleaders offered bells and words of encouragement, and after 40 minutes the serious speedsters were already on their way back, high-fiving the slowpokes for support. A couple live bands played motivational beats and music under the bridges we passed. But perhaps better than the run itself was the fact that close to 400 people were running with me.

There were winners—marathoner Ian Nurse ran it in 48 minutes—but there were no losers. Everyone who finished got a free beer at the Back Bay Social Club. More than a testament to the new-fangled power of social media, the November Project is proof that there’s power in numbers. And if you’re still skeptical of this grassroots fitness tribe, try it. Because after you do, you’ll probably feel the same way the November Project did after the race:



November project Ninja raceNinjas taking over the T station before the race. Photo by Madison Kahn.