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Collectives & Crews Are Changing Running Culture for the Better

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Running has changed a lot in the last few years and nowhere is this more prevalent than at the ultimate running event – the marathon. In Western parts of the world, these events were, until recently, a largely middle-class affair with performance the sole focus. Now, they’ve become a raucous three-day celebration of the culture, style, and community surrounding running. Case in point: this year’s marathon in Berlin, which took place last weekend, attracted a record-breaking 62,444 participants from 150 nations as well as thousands of viewers who came down to soak up the energetic atmosphere.

This revitalization of the sport is due largely to a wave of grassroots running collectives cropping up around the world. At a cursory glance, these running communities aren’t dissimilar to traditional running clubs, they meet up and they run together. The similarities, however, end there. Miles from the middle-aged man in brightly-colored nylon gear chugging slowly around your local park, these collectives are passionate, playful, and unashamedly loud. Most importantly, they do not discriminate.

In 2012, this phenomenon hit Berlin hard in the form of the Berlin Braves. Originally a tight-knit running collective, they are now a fully-fledged, Nike-endorsed organization leading the way in this new form of urban exercise. The Berlin Brave’s main purpose is to bridge creativity and performance, which explains why its members count musicians, artists, performers to name a few.

With such an array of creative talent involved, Nike tapped the collective to design 2019 Elite Marathon Kit as well as an accompanying capsule collection. The Berlin Fast Capsule Collection consists of an AeroSwift Singlet, an AeroSwift 4″ Short, a Marathoner Jacket, and Tailwind Hat executed in a yellow and black color scheme. To pay tribute to the city’s local running community, the collection features ‘Berlin’ printed prominently as well as different logo designs and local messages.

Alongside designing the capsule for this year’s marathon in the German capital, the Berlin Braves coached 40 running newcomers aged 16-21 for the half marathon. The point was not only to introduce them to running but to allow them to experience the culture surrounding it first hand and begin what will hopefully become a lasting relationship with the sport and the community.

Much like street culture as a whole, these ideas and initiatives have grown from the ground up but they wouldn’t have been able to take it to the next level without the support of brands. It is, after all, a two-way-affair, and while brands are helping to lift up emerging collectives, this new form of running is simultaneously shaping brands’ products and their overall messaging. Running sneakers, in particular, are designed with equal attention to aesthetics and function, catering to the urban runners’ demand for stealthy gear to train in. Just consider how many technical running sneakers now end up on the shelves of fashion retailers.

Nike has been one of the brands quick to adapt to the needs of these new participants, as was visible at this year’s event. Ever the innovator, Nike partnered up with Charité to transform its flagship store into the Nike Home Of Running, a space that placed the emphasis on running culture and its community. Here, they provided services such as physiotherapy and kinesio taping, as well as a number of talks with industry professionals and insiders. Highsnobiety’s very own Fania Folia hosted talks with cultural and performance icons including Joan Benoit, the first woman to win an Olympic Gold medal in the marathon distance category in LA in 1984.

At the Berlin Braves headquarters, the spirit continued with an installation by Pim Rinkes and Daniel Marin Medina, as well as the ‘Running Hood Laps’ 5×5 kilometer relay race with participants from international run crews such as Track Mafia, Patta Running team, Volt Floyd, Swords Warshaw, Kraft Runners, Berlin Braves.

Throughout the weekend, the heightened energy overflowed from the track to the crowds and beyond, lasting well into the early hours of the following day for those that had the stamina to join the Berlin Brave’s post-marathon party at the Weekend club.

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