“I’m not big about getting up early in the morning and this type of workout’s a little intense for me,” joked Burke. “But we turned it into a fundraiser for the You Can Play Project to raise money to help the mission to end homophobia in sports.”
“Our Twitter followers, along with Andrew, helped raise over $2500 just to see me struggle through the Harvard stairs, so I think they got their money’s worth.”
The donations – which reached over $3000 by Wednesday night – all came within a span of 48 hours.
“That’s the magic of Twitter, I guess,” smirked Ference. “Things kind of get going if you let them.”
And a little extra motivation from the B’s blueliner didn’t hurt…
“I wouldn’t let [Patrick] get out of it. He was looking for excuses as to why we were crazy to come out this early and I kind of guilted him into it,” he laughed.
“Unfortunately for him, he has too many [Twitter] followers that felt the same way – so it’s great.”
Though Ference has worked the Crimson’s coliseum stairs into his tough training regimen all summer, it has mostly been in a solo capacity. Wednesday’s early morning wake-up call was a nice change - not only because of the welcome addition of Burke, but also because of the more than 300 runners who were running alongside him.
“I’ve been doing some of the stairs – this is a good workout. Even for the last few weeks, I’ve been coming out,” said Ference. “But I had a friend in town tell me about [the training group] November Project which has been getting together every Wednesday here at the stairs.”
“It’s one thing to come and do them on your own. It’s another to have a huge group of people who are up and at it early in the morning and just out here to get fit. It’s just about getting together and getting after it.”
That mantra speaks to the group's motivation to get the blood pumping before most Bostonians are even awake.
"People come here because they're jazzed - it's a different way to jump out of bed," said Brogan Graham, a co-founder of the November Project, which hosts various workouts around the Hub during the week. "The workout is getting up and getting in motion - and everything you do on top of that is gravy."
"It's great that he's there and that he's promoting it through Twitter. Andrew's a great guy."
As the sun slowly appeared over 37 sections of Harvard Stadium, it was hard to miss the camaraderie and motivational drive of the band of runners racing their way up and down the flights of stairs.
A familiar feeling for Ference, who knows the close-knit nature of his Bruins teammates – and of the hockey community as a whole that has rallied behind Burke's You Can Play Project, with the mission to "ensure equality, respect and safety for all athletes, without regard to sexual orientation.”
“I just think it’s so cool that NHLers are getting behind his program and really supporting it,” said Ference. “It’s important.”
Burke had his own admiration for the support that the effort has received.
“Andrew and the Bruins organization have been behind You Can Play from the start,” he said. “Zdeno Chara has done a video and Shawn Thornton has also spoken out for us, so we’re really honored to have the support of such a great organization.”
“And having Andrew coming out today for his own good, but also to help us, was awesome.”
As for the workout, a high heart rate and shaky legs were the aftermath – amidst smiles and a pat on the back from Ference, of course.
“Well, trying to keep up with Andrew isn’t really fair,” joked Burke. “He runs triathlons and I run a charity … so he’s in a little better shape than I am. He crushed it and I struggled through. It was really exciting.”
Sitting beside Burke after the run, a perspiring Ference was happy to have completed the early morning climb.
“I don’t care how often you do [stairs] – it never gets easier. It’s a hard workout, but it’s fun.
“They’re un-relenting. If you’re dialed into a goal, there's no easy way up - you just have to do it."