GOvember Challenge lived up to the name. It was challenging. Full disclosure, I made plenty of rookie mistakes. I was out of town and didn’t start until Nov. 5. And though I thought I was plotting my routes efficiently, my methodology resulted in lots of doubling back and repeating streets, so my Ludacris N/S+E/W total mileage was much higher than it should’ve been.

My running partner and I finished, gratefully, with one rainy day to spare. And while we were eager to rejoin the world of free-range running routes and options for sleeping in occasionally, all of my take-aways from this challenge were generally positive.

Leading off, Ann and Kate Pezalla, owners of Lively Athletics and the diabolical challenge-designers behind this thing, set the tone, with an emphasis on fun. The 137-member Facebook group shared comments, map-completion progress, and photos, with just a hint of competitive trash talk (mostly between Ann and Kate), and there was surprisingly little whining.

Lacking a designated finish line as with a typical road race, they held a wrap party to give participants an opportunity to celebrate together and swap stories.

 A few I was privileged to hear: Tara (walking the challenge!) met her walking partner Danielle through the group, and they finished the East/West challenge together, packing all of their walks into the oh-so-brief hours of daily preschool (parents of preschoolers know how precious those hours are).

Kaylyn (running the N/S Betty White) plotted her efficient route one day, using the Green Line train to get her back to her car after her long run. (For my part, I admit I had a few mornings where I suggested calling an Uber to get us back to our starting point. Just kidding. Maybe.) Nicole polished off the full N/S inside of 15 days, after having just run the Chicago Marathon three weeks prior, and Swati completed her full E/W challenge with her dog Kona alongside her all the way.

Here are a few thoughts on GOvember: First, I love any running endeavor that promotes community, as this one did. It is just a small part of the run-community-building that Lively promotes, in addition to their weekly fun runs (i.e., Wednesday Craft Beer Run) and training groups. Second, it pushed me out of my running route comfort zone, and had me exploring new neighborhoods in my town. And despite doing most of our runs in the dark, we did get to discover new and charming streets and homes.

While this is all good, I’ll admit I didn’t like having to drive to and from a daily, early-morning run (and there was that concern about getting a parking ticket at 5 a.m.). Finally, I have to say that finishing a run with coloring is going to be added to my list of favorite exercise benefits.

Now it’s on to some forward momentum ideas for Dec./Jan./Feb.

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