What if I told you that the most fun thing that I do regularly since moving to Boston is running up and down a lot of tall steps (technically, seats) a lot of times, twice a week? Would you think that I’m crazy? A masochist? That Guy™ at the party who won’t shut up about how great running stadiums is? Fine, maybe I am That Guy™, but if I am, my friends sure are as well. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my life, it’s that life is a lot more exciting with a bunch insane friends pushing you out of your comfort zone.
So, here I am, hunched over, panting, with sweat dripping – no, pouring – off my face. It’s seven in the morning on a Saturday, and I’d give anything to be back in bed.
“Hey, Vince, send it!”
I look around. The sun is slowly peeking over the morning clouds at Harvard Stadium, a daunting, Coliseum-like structure just across the Charles River from Harvard’s main campus. Inside, 37 sections of concrete bleacher-style seating complete the U-shaped icon around the football field. A few other dedicated runners are charging up the seats around Section 8, but other than them, it’s just my friends yelling at me to hustle.
Harvard Stadium on a sunny Saturday morning, as seen from Section 20 – just you and a lot of stairs (and maybe a few other people).
Did I mention that my friends are crazy? They’re the type of guys that will wake up at 5 AM, work out every day (and sometimes twice a day), and yell about their new erg1 records without any prompting. I love them, but they’re crazy. The type of crazy that drags them out of bed twice a week to go run up and down every single one of the 37 sections (dubbed the “Full Tour”) of Harvard Stadium for fun. The type of unrelenting crazy that somehow peer pressured me into doing the same. So here I am, on a Saturday morning perfect for sleeping in, trying to set a new PR.2
I look around again. I’m about a third of the way around the stadium at Section 25 (in the mornings, always start at Section 37 and work your way to Section 1 to finish in the shade), and my quads are on fire. At 15 inches tall and 30 inches deep, the seats at Harvard Stadium are spaced just far enough apart for it to be uncomfortable but also close enough to seem deceptively easy. I know these next five sections are always the worst — late enough into the workout that your body is already screaming but too early for your brain to start numbing the pain.3 But this is supposed to be fun, right? Right? I grit my teeth and start up the next section.
“Vince, do you want this PR or not, man?”
I do. I do. I swear I do.
I’m now at the bottom of Section 9. Safely in the shade and away from the beating sun, it’s a little cooler. But now my vision is narrowing, and the periphery is strangely dark. The pounding of my heart drowns out that repetitive drop in every single Chainsmokers song ever. One of my friends, an ex-Harvard rower, saunters over after obliterating his tour of the stadium.
“Hey, close it out, we got this!”
I look down at my watch, the seconds on my timer counting down a little faster than I’d like. I take a deep breath and put my head down for the home stretch.
“New PR, let’s go!”
When I look up, I’m miraculously back at the bottom of Section 1 with a new personal record. High fives rain down on me. For all I know, I might have just won the Boston marathon. And although I’m still feeling incredibly shaky, it feels good. No, it feels great. There’s that indescribable feeling of elation — that crazy rush of endorphins — from pushing yourself to your limits, with your friends supporting you the whole way. Sure, they’re a bit crazy, but maybe so am I.
Tuesday morning, see you there?
P.S. If you’re a morning person and are looking for a great community to run with and be a part of, the November Project runs at Harvard Stadium year-round at 5:30 and 6:30 AM on Wednesdays!
1 That’s the rowing machine I always feel self-conscious to use at the gym.
2 Personal record
3 The first time I ran Harvard Stadium, I was this close— really, this close — to puking on this section.