Runners working out near the Lincoln Memorial Credit: Courtesy November Project DC

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A few weeks ago, November Project DC co-leader Emma Cowan-Young received a direct message on the group’s Instagram page from a verified account. She immediately sent a text to her co-leaders, Jake Lloyd and Maria Randazzo, with several exclamation marks.

World Cup champion and soccer star Kelley O’Hara had reached out—unprompted and unexpectedly—to express her desire to team up with November Project DC for a workout and charity drive.

“I think all of us were internally doing backflips on the possibility of having a World Cup champion at a workout,” Randazzo says.

O’Hara, who is living in the area with her partner during the offseason, shared the news on her Instagram account that she will be at November Project DC’s 6:20 a.m. workout this Wednesday near the Lincoln Memorial. The group is encouraging participants to bring winter gear that will be donated to Thrive DC, a nonprofit in the city that provides services to homeless individuals. 

According to Lloyd, O’Hara reached out because she knew about November Project’s mission. Two Northeastern University crew alumni founded the exercise group in Boston in 2011, and since then the now-nonprofit has expanded to 52 cities around the world. Earlier this year, Brooks Running began sponsoring the organization, which hosts free weekly group exercise workouts.

The D.C. chapter, founded in November 2013, meets every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning. 

“I think she realized we’re a running club and we’re going to bring that fitness level, but we’re also super fun and creative and we don’t take ourselves too seriously,” Lloyd says. “And I think that’s something she was looking for too: to put on a great workout, but also get a lot of people to really buy into the charity aspect of the event as well.”

Before O’Hara, the highest profile celebrity that November Project DC hosted was Mayor Muriel Bowser in 2017. Rower Esther Lofgren, an Olympic gold medalist, also participated during the group’s early years, Randazzo says.

Randazzo calls the Wednesday workouts, one at 5:30 in the morning and another at 6:20 a.m. at the Lincoln Memorial steps, the group’s “showstopper day.” “Not to say Monday or Friday isn’t amazing, but the Lincoln Memorial is pretty iconic and it’s tough to beat in terms of backdrop,” she says. Each workout lasts about 35 minutes. 

November Project DC has drawn up to 500 people twice for the Wednesday workouts. And while Lloyd says he doesn’t anticipate that many people this Wednesday, he expects to see a group “in the hundreds”—even with snow in the forecast. 

“We are weatherproof,” Lloyd says. “We’ll be there regardless of what you see in your weather forecast.”

The leaders understand that participants will want to interact with O’Hara and so they haven’t decided exactly what the workout will be, but that doesn’t mean there will be a “selfie station or anything like that,” Lloyd says. Randazzo expects there will be opportunities for participants to meet and chat with O’Hara after the workout. 

And as for future, Lloyd hopes O’Hara’s participation will inspire others to join.

“We realize we live in city with so much going on, so it’s pretty hard to get big names,” he says. “So it’s a pretty big deal when something like this falls into our lap. Hopefully the experience that people have, whether it’s their 100th workout or first workout, leads to people to want to come out, whether it’s a celebrity or another person off the street. We’re glad they’re here.”