Despite what social media might have you believe, physical fitness isn’t an aesthetic, amount of weight on a bar or a tea. Instead, training should empower people to get the very most out of their bodies, minds, and spirits, whether that means comfortably playing sports with friends or developing the discipline to achieve career goals.
Nike is a brand that puts empowerment at the forefront of its business, epitomized by its recent advertising campaign with Colin Kaepernick as well as its long-term mission statement, “To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete* in the world” — the asterisk referencing Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman’s quote “If you have a body, you’re an athlete.” Expanding on this, Nike Chairman, President, and CEO Mark Parker told us in a recent interview, “Our bigger ambition is to bring more people into sport and fitness… The work we do ranges from inspiring and enabling athletes to do more — one at a time — to igniting whole new sport cultures in new markets around the world.”
One way Nike does this is with innovative products that influence both the way we dress and the way we move. Last week, at the Nike By You Studio in Berlin, it put these products into the hands of those that love the brand most, enabling them to create something truly unique and personal with the help of customization experts and local artists (check it out in the gallery above). In this way, Nike uses product to inspire action, whether it be a creative endeavor like DIY sneaker customization or going out on their first run wearing something that makes them feel confident.
However, it also takes an active approach to supporting local projects that are inspiring communities and individuals to realize their athleticism. “At the end of the day, we want to widen access to sport and physical activity for people of all abilities and backgrounds,” explains Parker. “Those striving for world records and those who just want to be active.”
Living this ethos, running crews have revolutionized the way people see running on a local and global level and Nike has supported the movement since it first took off in New York City around 2004. This past weekend, crews traveled to Berlin to take part in both large and small scale runs: the Berlin Marathon, which saw long distance running icon Eliud Kipchoge set a new world record, and Hood Lap, a community event put on by local crew the Berlin Braves.
The Berlin Braves are part of Bridge the Gap — an initiative that connects like-minded running crews from different cities — and by hosting events like this weekend’s Hood Lap, they’re joining the dots between running, lifestyle, music, art, and more. At a location in the heart of Kreuzberg, the event encompassed relay races, an exhibition by Amsterdam-based runner and photographer Pim Rinkes, flea market stalls, food stands, and a party atmosphere. The Berlin Braves headquarters is minutes from our Berlin office, so we went along to immerse ourselves in the experience; while we were there, we stole a few minutes of Braves’ founder Joey Elgersma‘s time to find out more.
Give us a quick introduction to yourself and the Berlin Braves.
I am Joey Elgersma from Amsterdam, I’ve lived in Berlin since 2010. I’m a father, lover, creative director, and the founder of the Berlin Braves.
Where do you enjoy running in Berlin? Do you have any favorite routes?
Our running squad runs twice a week. Track Tuesday takes places at Lobeckstraße track in Kreuzberg and Thursday evening we have our “Social runs” from our HQ at Wassertorstrasse 11. From here we often run along the beautiful Spree or towards our baseball fields in Tempelhofer Park. Y’all at Highsnob should join these sessions, we’re literally neighbors! No excuses.
How has running helped you build relationships within your community and beyond?
Six years ago it started out as a group of friends running together on a weekly basis. From that point on the word spread and a community of like-minded people who wanted to run together formed.
Due to the rich history of the O.G. Berlin Braves and my background in baseball, basketball, and (European) football, we started to mix these world. This helped our community grow and now, with our home base in the heart of Kreuzberg, we’re very lucky to have not just a place to meet on the regular but also involve locals. It’s a modern youth center and we have several teams in baseball, basketball, running, and football.
Concerning international relationships, the diversity within our group is a key factor, but also a running movement called Bridge the Gap. Shout out to my OG homies Mike Saes, Charlie Dark, Edson Sabajo, Anders Roemer, Cory Wharton- Malcolm and Jay Smith! Inspire and get inspired!
Since 2012, running has given me the right energy! It’s been a wild ride where we often get together, create, experiment, and just push forward. We constantly learn from each other, inspire each other, and grow together. United we stand, there’s no space for ego tripping. If you do great, you feel great, and then you want to do better. Nahmean? With racing, every time you race, you want to break your PR and it gets addictive! We just want to blow minds and take things to a new level.
How do running and initiatives like “Hood Lap” benefit young people?
This race was not about improving fitness levels. It was about being together, having fun, connecting with our neighborhood, and introducing our new running event to the young bucks so to open the world of running up to a younger generation. Our goal was to showcase that running ain’t no punishment anymore!
One of Nike’s mission statements is “to bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world,” what are you and the Berlin Braves doing to innovate and to inspire others?
We are just trying to keep the fire burning. I was never able to focus on only one thing, so the Berlin Braves is a mixture of everything I love: sports, film, events, art, design, fashion, music, and community. It’s our world by our rules. For us by us.
Do the Berlin Braves have their own mission statement or philosophy?
“Do as many dope things as possible, together.” Be respectful and supportive to everybody in our team’s community. Open your mind, work hard, don’t complain, and follow your dreams.
How do you think running has influenced sneaker and streetwear culture?
Marathon weekends are the new fashion week! If you didn’t notice this yet, you sleeping!
What’s the single biggest impact running has had on you personally?
It’s had so much impact over these first few years but uniting people every week, month, and year is the key motivation moving forward and it still feels like we’re just getting started!
In a recent interview, Nike CEO Mark Parker told Highsnobiety “we’re just scratching the surface” with what we can do with sneakers. If possibilities are limitless, what would you like to see in the future?
Ha! We got secret boxes stacked up with innovative ideas and possibilities, but y’all know they cost money to open. As long as the city of Berlin is not supporting us with development fundings we will stay hustling and open them one by one. Just stay tuned and keep watching BRAVES TV.
Find out more about Berlin's street running scene here.