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Q&A WITH RUN PACK BERLIN CO-FOUNDER, HENRIK NIEHUS
Urban running crews and communities are popping up in every major city nowadays. It’s an interesting development in the modern running culture, where urban and young-minded individuals get together on a weekly basis for running and socializing.
While in Berlin for the marathon, we sat down with Henrik Niehus, co-founder of Run Pack Berlin, and discussed the concept and global extent of the urban running crews and communities. Q1: Could you tell us a little bit about yourself before we get started? Yes, sure. I’m Henrik, 31 years old. I grew up in a smaller town close to Hamburg and I’ve been living in Berlin for a little more than five years now. I’ve played football for almost 12 years, until ongoing knee problems prevented me from continuing and I had to do fitness for a few years in stead. During my studies I started running and cycling, which has increased every year since then. But I think running in a crew was the real boost for me – today I run marathons. Q2: What inspired the establishment of the Run Pack and when did you officially start? At first we were just a few guys and girls who first met in a branded running community, I would call it. We liked running together and especially the social part around it. We didn‘t like brands telling us what to do and what not to do, especially when it came to decisions about new “members”. So we got rid of the things we didn’t like and focused on the thinks we did like: running together, partying together and being independent. I think that’s Run Pack in a nutshell. We started this in 2013. Q3: What is the Run Pack to be exact and is it for everyone? As I said, the social element is the most important part. Of course it’s also about running and I think we’re actually quite ambitious, doing intervals and all these nerdy things. But it’s even more important that you don’t just go home afterwards, but stay for a drink from time to time.
It’s not for everyone. We grew really fast in the first few years and had to slow down a bit. We don’t want to become more than a 100 people and we’ve been really close to that number a few times. Plus, it is really important for us that the people know and also kind of like each other. So we always prefer that people introduce themselves when they’re new in the group. Q4: The community element is obviously a strong factor in this. What does it mean to you and the Run Pack? It means a lot. I can only talk for myself, but when I was living in another city for a while last year, Run Pack was one of the things I missed the most. It’s something you look forward to when a new week starts. You know that on Tuesdays and Thursdays, there is always a nice run in the group. On the one hand you can go really hard when you want to keep pace with the fast group. On the other hand, you can spend the rest of the evening at the bar, which is always nice. Q5: What is your take on the entire Bridge the Gap movement that is happening right now? In short, it is a network of international Running Crews. It started with crews like NYC BridgeRunners, Run Dem Crew London, NBRO Copenhagen and a few others. Bridge The Gap is the movement that brings all of the global running crews together. The Bridge The Gap events invite these crews regularly to different cities and countries. There we meet, run a Half Marathon or Marathon and party together. The events are hosted by the home crews, which also take the opportunity to introduce their home cities to the international guests. Q6: New running communities and crews seem to appear everywhere in all major cities now. Is this the new way of running? I wouldn‘t say that this totally changes the game, because there are a lot of really ambitious, maybe even bit nerdy runners, for whom nothing changes. But it opens the field of running and brings in a lot of guys who might have hated running before because it was boring and more of a lone-wolf sport. For these people, groups open up an avenue in which to enter the sport because its not boring anymore, but instead becomes a real community activity.
We have a lot of people, who wouldn’t describe themselves as “runners”, but they’re proud to be part of Run Pack and they run half- or full marathons (…and they are getting faster!). Q7: Does it mean something different to be a running crew, as supposed to being just a group of friends running together on a weekly basis? Difficult question, I can really understand that it might mean a bit more for us as founders compared to some of the runners, which is fine. But I would still say that it is different. Run Pack pushes you a lot. You will definitely improve by running with us. We don’t have official coaches leading the sessions, but we have a lot of knowledge within the group and some of the guys are actually professional trainers, sports medicine specialists etc. Q8: Many of the urban running crews are led by strong personalities. What do you think will happen when the next generation takes over? Hmmm… I think we always try to be really democratic but I am still convinced that it needs a few people to take the lead and push things forward. This doesn’t have to be the actual captains of the team. Every event we have kind of a task force of 4-5 people who take care of most of the organizing and planning. It is super cool for us to see how much time, love and effort these people invest in the events. I am always proud to see that. Q9: Where do you see the future of the whole concept of crew running? I think we have seen a really strong growth of the whole community running crew thing over the last years. It seems like every sports brand wants to have its own running team, often without any understanding of what a running crew really is. I like that these communities bring new people into the sport. However, to me this is often too much marketing, too much fakeness and often way too big. We also work with brands from time to time, because this makes things easier. But we decide when, how much and what it looks like. Q10: On a final note – when will we see you on the streets of Copenhagen? Really soon I hope. I ran my first marathon in Copenhagen three years ago and I definitely want to come back soon, as we are quite close to many guys from NBRO.
Thank you, Henrik. We’ll see you on Sunday for the Berlin Marathon!
For more info about the Run Pack. Unbounded Running Comradery: At Saysky we’re big supporters of the global running community. We cherish the fact that wherever you go, you can always find peers to share your passion with. We encourage and represent an open-minded attitude. Our biggest dream as a small and developing brand is to one day run through the streets of Tokyo, New York or any other city and high-five a complete stranger, who’s also wearing Saysky. We call it “unbounded running comradery”. Stay tuned for more.
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