#BTGLDN

In July 2012, Bridge The Gap officially came to London for the British 10K, which saw Nike’s running crew elite descend on the capital for a weekend of fast times and fast living (Meanwhile, in the rainy city of Manchester, Rich and I were in metaphorical running diapers, sprinting hills and scouring dirt trails pretty aimlessly beyond the acknowledgement that something called ‘Run Dem Crew’ existed… Life has a funny way of bringing things together, eh). So after two years of one-up-manship and a notable expansion of the running crew scene, the weekend of the 21st-22nd of June would see #BTG’s return to the big smoke, and Run Dem Crew‘s chance to host once more.

The challenge? Run Hackney Half Marathon. Distance: 13.1 miles… Terrain: Urban, winding, hilly… Conditions: HOT, treacherous, unforgiving

So the Still Waters Run Deep crew travelled staggered, and I followed Rich on Friday evening with the weight of the world our bespoke Sy Illustrations Cheer Dem prints, 50 newly pressed Still Waters tees, my weekend’s kit and Terry Dolan (the bike) strapped to my back. I can’t remember the last time I travelled light to London, but this was an exceptional amount of baggage, even for me… Transporting this up hill from Euston to Brick Lane with the help of Dani Fej and Sorrell was a definitely an enlightening experience…

With Saturday morning came the first of the weekend’s sunshine, and energy. The itinerary started off with an early morning stretch of the legs followed by a BBQ at Nike’s newly refurbished NIKE LAB 1948 space located on Bateman’s Row, Shoreditch.

Nike Lab locations exist in six different global spots, including London, offering Nike the opportunity to fuse physical retails spaces with digital experiences driven by product innovation. 1948 has been Run Dem’s home for a minute, but the regular facelifts create an exciting environment for visitors.

Due to on going knee issues, I’d built up to the morning’s run being the extent of my physical exertion that weekend – where running was concerned at least – and made sure not to waste the opportunity to run alongside international visitors from Patta Running Team, NBRO, and Run Pack Berlin, not to mention my Still Waters comrades.

Our intended 5km shake out became a 10km tourist spot tour, but the clear skies and company provided the necessary adrenaline buzz to override any little niggles in my legs. Seeing Saturday tourists part like the Red Sea as a 100-strong pack of runners flew across London’s Millenium Bridge was a personal highlight.

And if you needed reminding what makes us different to other running movements, what better place to stop for a crew shot than inside the Tate Modern?

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We separated into speed groups for the returning portion of the run, and regrouped back at 1948 for some BBQ and beverage action courtesy of the Nike camp. A long day in the sun wound down via Thai & Lao Streetfood at Boxpark, and a trip to Shutterbug in search of a World Cup suitable screen. Most needed their rest for the race that would follow…

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Sunday started in a paradoxical frenzy, with my body firmly planted in holiday mode and my brain telling me to move. My partner in crime for the day, Liz, rocked up 30 minutes late which postponed our early start with Cheer Dem Crew but resulted in the accidental discovery of The Gallery Cafe – a quaint vegetarian and vegan cafe located in St Margaret’s House Settlement in Bethnal Green.

St Margaret‘s is an independent community charity space which has been initiating and funding projects and activities to serve and enable the community since 1889. The settlement facilitates over fifty office and meeting spaces, including a large hall, resource center, and even three enterprising projects: Ayoka, a boutique charity shop; The Create Place; a workshop based arts and crafts centre; and, of course, The Gallery Cafe.

The space is as warm and welcoming as the staff, and the food exciting and inventive. The cafe promotes sustainability through the use of biodegradable packaging and sourcing produce through local suppliers. Fresh, cruelty-free and with profits driving straight back into the charity, there wasn’t much to dislike – Apart from the 15 minute deadline we had to reach mile 12 on the race course. Our brief haze fell quickly back to the reality of the task at hand. We ate fast and rode faster.

The 9/12 mile cheer station was cleverly positioned in the middle of a bridge over the River Lee Navigation in Hackney Wick offering each runner two chances to pass – A greatly appreciated boost for everyone suffering in the unrelenting heat. The road curved and climbed into mile 9, which meant that every encouraging word felt like a tail wind pushing forward, and while the second pass of the cheer station into mile 12 was a decline, after the twists and turns through the Olympic Park, it was a much needed kick coming in to the finishing mile…

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It was a brutal race, but for Still Waters, it was important lesson too. As a predominantly fledgling crew, we are still pretty romantic about the whole running and racing experience, but our less confident runners realised new limits, and our more confident runners experienced new struggles. It might sound slightly sadistic (don’t get me wrong, seeing my friends struggle was not a thing of enjoyment by any means) but without days like these, you never discover how far you are willing to go for the things that you want.

Despite the persistent heat and the rolling hills, the challenges faced were respective to every racer. For all, it was a humbling experience. And more importantly, it was an experience shared. Mirka guided Jamie to the completion of his first ever half marathon. Bangs sat tight with younger Melanie through her first race experience, and after younger Mac experienced cramp at mile 4, Sarah stayed with him to the finish line, ensuring that his determination didn’t falter.

Naturally, races form the season highlights for crew runners as they set personal goals against both casual and vigorous training regimes, and more often than not races offer the foundation for most Bridge The Gap trips, but Hackney Half offered an oddly refreshing perspective; for most, it seemed, the challenge became the distance itself. PB times made way for humble finishes. Ego’s stood aside to leave room for the accomplishments of others. This was #crewlove in real time.

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After the race came some early partying at Crate Brewery, and after the early partying came the after partying at Casa Negra. I hit up Alpress Espresso on the way through Shoreditch for a quick refreshment and we were good to go…

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Our Monday was an intended active recovery day, so with half the crew still lingering around London, we made out on bikes and headed steadily for Regent’s Park. Broadway Market was our starting point with another vegetarian breakfast covered this time by Cafe Maloka.

Cafe Maloka (previously named Cafe G) is a hidden gem. Despite not offering a great deal of cooked food, their predominantly vegan offering covers the basics without falling into the category of predictable. More importantly, their wall to wall selection of tea’s remains unrivalled.

Our route (after about 45 minutes of faffing around to pick up 6 Borris Bikes) took us canalside past Central St Martins, all the way through Camden Down, and out to Primrose Hill. We made a few pit stops along the route, which gave me regular opportunities to sample my hand-delivered cold brew courtesy of Takk in Manchester – It went down a treat, Oll, so thanks for that..!

Although Primrose Hill is the name for the surrounding area, for the most-part the name represents one of the only points where you can get a clear view of Central London. Surrounded by Victorian terraces, Primrose Hill doubles up as one of the most expensive and exclusive residential areas in the city, planted in the urban belt that separates London from the suburbs.

The 256ft mound offers a brief respite for wayfarers, and an opportunity to reflect against the urban expanse, bringing our weekend to a close.

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You can see all of the after party and weekend imagery courtesy of the guys from Rosie Lee over at BTGLDN.

The Home Advantage

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The Home Advantage is a term that describes the extra kick that the home team receives when representing in their own territory. The upper hand that allows them to command the advantage over the competing visitors, the push from the home crowd, the familiarity with the twists and turns… It’s that little niggle in the back of your mind that says ‘if you’re going to go hard anywhere then do it right here…’

Team sports in the UK, and football especially, take the home advantage very seriously. So seriously, in fact, that these factors are even come into play during a stadiums development. We’re talking features like uncomfortable seats, a significant reduction in available luxuries on game days, with Liverpool’s Anfield Stadium even fitting Hall of Mirrors style mirrors into the Away Team dressing room.

The truth of it all, though, is that the home advantage is psycological in nature, and that with the right training and mental preparation, no amount of deceptive displays can throw a focussed mind off it’s target. The Great Manchester Run? Case in point. Our first crew deep race on home turf. 10 runners. 10 different running styles. 10 completely different levels of expectation. 10 PB efforts. The weather was picturesque and sun was shining, but the heat was truthfully challenging, and uncharacteristic. Only one water station at the 3km marker meant that runners were dropping like flies as a result of dehydration… A challenge that we and many others dug deep and rose above, but even that could have easily gone the other way.

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It triggered the thought – with Run Hackney looming in a matter of weeks, how will we fare against the renowned Run Dem Crew as they represent on their East London stomping ground? The Crew Love is strong amongst the Bridge The Gap community, but for a lot of our guys this will not only be their first experience of this international gathering, but their first half marathon – there’s a lot to prove. These two factors alone are big enough, but when combined with a completely unfamiliar location, the result could be a pretty large stumbling block for the unprepared. This is the reminder that running is as much a mental game as it is physical. The distance alone is daunting enough. And when the crew element comes into play, the solo dynamic of running transforms traditional distance running into a highly emotional team sport.

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It’s a funny thing, really… We proudly talk about our wide community, but the nature of competitive sports means that there is always an elephant in the room – “Who’s better..?”. And despite having the utmost respect for our international family, can we honestly say that there aren’t some friendly rivalries in the mix..?

Given that I’m still on the bench, that’s probably not for me to say, but in the nature of friendly competition, I’ll let the infamous Mobb Deep do the talking:

“I got,
lots of love for my crew that is
No love,
for them other crews and rival kids.
All them out-of-town ****** know what time it is,
and if they don’t,
they need to buy a watch.
Word up.”

Hackney Half, we comin’ for ya…

The Big Smoke

If there’s one place in the UK that inspires me consistently then it’s London. As the countries capital, it is only natural that is is the most populous city in England, and with such a mass of people comes a variety cultures, communities and experiences. With so much happening in one place, it’s hard not to feed off the energy.

So I temporarily left my perch in Manchester for an all work and no play themed weekend in the Big Smoke, seeking out London’s Graduate Fashion Week and the consequent buzz of excitement that falls therein.

But first, London’s fresh coffee and fresher food. It would be rude not to, right? After a bit of mulling over, our initial destinations included the ever rustic interiors of Pizza East – Incredible food, but vegans and vegetarians be warned. These guys take meat pretty seriously –  and the uncontestable Nude Espresso. In an age where every artisan coffee independent thinks they are redefining the game, Nude Espresso let the product speak for itself. If you’re ever in the area, take a minute to appreciate the craft.

This year’s Graduate Fashion Week was hosted in the heart of the street style death trap that is Brick Lane at the Old Truman Brewery. It’s an incredibly uninspiring space when stripped back to it’s bare bones, but with the right vision it certainly has the capacity to impress.

Aside from the gaunt interior, though, the work on display was pretty impressive, and with such a high standard hitting the catwalk shows, it was easy to forget that the creations we were seeing were graduate creations. The product of three years of grafting on an incredibly limited budget, with the burden of horrifically high tuition fees looming overhead.

My evening came to a close after a long evening of shmoozing, midnight waffles at The Diner and a tourist tour down along the Thames via Tower Bridge.

I made a point of rising early the morning after, although this wasn’t a difficult task given that I normally start my weekends around 8am anyway, and the sun was blazing. I capitalised on the opportunity to grab a tan, venturing all the way from Brick Lane to Kingly Street in search of The Detox Kitchen’s Deli. I told my stomach it was going to be worth the wait.

The Detox Kitchen specialise in packaging up and delivering meal plans for people who are looking to remove all of the unnecessary processed pulp from their daily diet, but due to the popularity of their produce and the current health food boom, it was only a matter of time before the concept would transfer over to bricks and mortar.

The Deli on Kingly Street is the brands first stand alone store – although not their first physical presence, after opening a space within Harvey Nichols in Knightsbridge over a year ago – and while the space itself is small, and the menu limited, each item has been carefully considered to deliver optimum deliciousness that’s wheat-free, dairy-free and absent of refined sugar.

Whole grains, legumes, vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds provide the foundations of their creations, but their vision is simply to provide clean and exciting food, without all the bullshit, and they deliver.

Rosa‘s was our exit strategy meal, but our stroll to Euston included a detour via Goodhood for some train reads courtesy of Champ Magazine. All good things come to an end.

Five Days In The Dirty South.

Last week, Daisy and I ventured to the filthy, dirty South of England. As far South as we could go, actually. All the way South to her home town of Penzance, Cornwall, to be exact, to visit her growing family, and to celebrate her mum’s birthday. It’s strange to think that after 4 years, this is the first time that we’ve made the time to do the round trip, but a 400 mile drive each way isn’t something to be scoffed at…

We started bright and early on Saturday morning in an attempt to pip the Bank Holiday commuter traffic, and didn’t do a bad job avoiding it either (until we hit Bristol) and completed the straight drive in around 9 hours, with a couple of necessary brew pitstops along the way. Despite the forecast, however, the weather that greeted us in PZ was as abysmal as the clouds that had followed us for most of the journey.

After showing our faces to the nearest and dearest on the night of our arrival, I was keen to explore as much of the area as possible while we were there, so on Sunday we headed for Falmouth in search of the Wildbeest Cafe, a newly opened vegan cafe boasting an exciting range of Thai and Mexican inspired dishes. While this little harbour town might seem like an odd location for a specialist cafe like Wildbeest, their mouth watering menu and impeccable attention to detail seem to be enough to keep the locals happy – And the travelers alike. Daisy has recently undertaken a strictly raw vegan diet, and was spoilt for choice. The cafe’s raw Pad Thai went down a treat, and the Raw cheesecake was so good that we had to ask for a little extra to take away too… The chasew, pecan and coconut base was truly incredible.

A lot of people ask me the same questions when they discover I’m vegetarian (“Well, what do you eat then, just vegetables?”) and I must admit, I sometimes have the same reservations when it comes to veganism. It just goes to show that with a little dedication and understanding (otherwise known as a little less ignorance) there are no limits to what you can create with food.

I could easily see myself settling in Falmouth. It’s stretching coastline provides a stunning view, and tourism appears to keep the town alive even during the wetter seasons; thriving, even. Boasting an exciting range of progressive restaurants and cafes just like Wildbeest, and the sort of nick-nacks that I can’t help but walk away with, Falmouth is a seaside destination that does much more than tick the boxes of cliched ice cream cones and boat rides. My bank account was grateful that Folklore was closed over the Bank Holiday weekend.

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With Monday came the sunshine, and an exciting return to the Eden Project, one of the many Landmark Millenium Projects that sprouted up around the UK in the year 2000. Eden is very unique, both in its construction and in the way that the business is run. It is an educational centre, a charity and an exciting tourist attraction too, all built inside a 160-year-old exhausted China Clay quarry near St Austell, Cornwall.

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The striking Biomes are not only awe inspiring, as their honeycombed spheres spread across the base of the quarry, they also provide carefully controlled climates that have allowed for the recreation of Mediterranean and Rainforest environments, with over 1 million plants and wildlife contained within. Maintained by a mix of paid employees and volunteers, Eden is an inspirational learning space for both children and adults alike, and it adapts with each season to bring the place to life.

St Ives was our final port of call. Limited battery meant limited images, but I couldn’t believe how much the town felt like being in Hawaii (OK, not Hawaii, Hawaii, but kinda close…). I don’t think photographs would have done it any justice either way, but with the town’s tropical plants and overgrowth, humid weather, sun, sand and sea… I didn’t realise places like this even existed on our own shores.

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The lay of the land means that everything spills out into the town centre. Overspill parking located at the tip of the hillside creates a constant flow of  people descending like a colony of ants to the beaches, so it was alive with residents, tourists and sun chasers by the time we arrived in the early afternoon. With it’s four beaches, a Tate Gallery and thriving water sports scene, St Ives has quite a bit to offer culturally – It even has the capacity to keep a small time streetwear scene happy through the guise of The Academy Store.

So that was that. A flying visit, that brought showers and sunshine, and friends and family together, including aunties, nieces and cousins that met for the first time. Sadly short, but all the more sweet.

In Retrospect: New York (State of Mind), January 2014

Disclaimer
I first picked up a camera in 2006, but it wasn’t long before the weight of an SLR became a burden and my passion faded… By 2010, I relied on my smartphone alone to capture moments, and instead of compiling them into albums and sharing them with my friends and family with the stories that accompanied, each shot would receive a quick spot of editing and hit the relevant social media channel.

It’s a funny thing the way smart phones have played a role in changing, well, pretty much everything… But it’s something I find myself thinking about more often, and if I don’t make any changes to the way I live now then I will have no photo albums to share with my kids, and I may even miss the memories and stories as they happen. I don’t want to miss that golden Instagram moment after all…

From now on, where I go, the camera goes too (within reason). So far this year, I’ve set a new standard for globetrotting, hitting three different countries in the first three months, and the first trip of the series was none other than the Big Apple which presented a great opportunity to put this resolution into practice.

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A room with a view. It was hard to believe that I’d been higher than this when visiting The Shard, London, but being surrounded by endless high rises really warps your perception of size.

To set the scene, I’ve been dreaming of visiting New York since I was small. I think to most westerners, New York City is a pilgrimage that everyone has to make in their life time, but thanks to the influence Hollywood cinema, this was one I specifically wanted to make in the depths of winter – And, oh, did I get my way. Snow is one thing, but a snow storm in New York is another. High rise canyons create wind tunnels that whip every bit of exposed skin into submission, making anything higher than -23°C feel like a heatwave.

The trip itself was a celebration of epic proportions – highlighting not only Christmas and New Years, but also my birthday which had passed earlier in the month, my Mum’s birthday which would take place while we were out there, the year of my Dad’s 60th, and the general togetherness of being away as a family unit. My brother, Alex, was present with his other half, Sophie. My Mum, my Dad, and of course my partner in crime, Daisy.

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Windswept and jet lagged, we hit up Times Square in the snow immediately after checking in to our hotel.

The proximity of our hotel to Times Square can literally be described as a stones throw, and no amount of cold was going to stop us venturing out into the city, starting with this cultural intersection in the heart of Manhattan. Iconified as the ‘The Crossroads of the World’, Times Square was already alive with preparations for the approach of Super Bowl XLVIII. As part of the celebrations, Times Square would transform over the next few days into Superbowl Boulevard, playing host to a variety of football-themed experiences and inviting key broadcasters to broadcast live from the central media hub, and it was already alive with excitement.

The first of many out-of-focus tourist shots.

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Our first full day in the city invited new weather, too – almost. The same sub-freezing temperatures, fine, but a clear enough sky to appreciate the grandeur of the towering skyscrapers that enclosed our hotel, and a view of the harbour which served as a reminder that Manhattan is a city surrounded by water. Daisy and I were keen to make the most of the fact that we had arrived on a Sunday, and ventured straight over Williamsburg Bridge after breakfast in search of the infamous Brooklyn Flea Market.

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We started out feeling fairly optimistic that morning, and had expectations that we would spend the bulk of our trip on our feet. Having spent most Christmases and winters in the Canadian Rockies, we figured we had experienced the worst chills the world had to offer, and that faux-fur lined hoods and Vibram soles would be sufficient defenses against the cold. We made it across 11 blocks before we caved and hailed a taxi… But the brief bit of fresh air meant I caught my first real glimpse of the contrasting architecture I had expected to find, and this SWMPY gem.

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Brooklyn Flea Market was a breath of fresh air. While I enjoy my share of flea market shopping back home, the bulk of flea and vintage markets that the UK has to offer are fairly stale – You can expect to see a fair share of dusty plaid shirts, Barbour jackets and ‘worn in’ Converse. Williamsburg’s Sunday Flea, which takes it’s proceedings indoors through the winter, opened my eyes to an otherwise undiscovered level of craft, hosting a wide range of sellers that possessed visual merchandising skills that could easily rival Macy’s holiday window installations, and a selection of some of New York’s most inviting food vendors.

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New York City is a funny place… There’s something oddly familiar about almost everything that gives this city it’s character – Yellow cabs, the subway, sky rises, bagels… – in the sense that you’ve seen it time and time again in popular cinema and big budget US TV series’, but it’s still incredible to experience all of those things first hand.

Strolling through Brooklyn with my parents and Daisy.

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Day two was a designated retail day. We started out as a group and met for breakfast at one of my favourite places to visit when in London (Le Pain Quotidien) before heading our separate ways. While that might seem like a bit of a cop out to some, their family sized tables meant the 6 of us could easily break bread and share stories from the previous day’s events. Mornings that start with good coffee and eggs in the company of my nearest and dearest will forever remain my fondest.

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Daisy and I headed for Lower Manhattan and the West Village with my parents by exiting into the Meatpacking District via the High Line, an interesting walkway which runs between West 20th and West 30th on a historic freight rail line above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side. The public space provides a unique way to escape the hustle and bustle of the New York streets, and hosts food vendors and cinema screenings during the better seasons.

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After that, it was a case of ticking boxes. New York has been at the heart of the fashion industry for some time, most notably by playing a role in shaping the direction of the streetwear movement in the early 90s – A movement that I’m sure most wouldn’t predict would hit the main stream two decades later – so it was insightful to witness the same sights and sounds that influenced the generation that brought the whole thing to life, the same retail locations on the same streets.

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Fresh & CO was easily one of the best discoveries we made. Flavoursome fresh made-to-order food with good quality produce.

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Nike’s 340 Canal Street Pop-Up was still present in the form of the NYC coffee truck floating outside Nike’s 21 Mercer location (although worth noting that it’s not actually rigged up to serve coffee), and The Big Gay Ice Cream Shop in the West Village was an interesting and accidental discovery too. The window decals were hard to miss – As was this guy tripping over dog leads. If my marketing career falls short, at least I know I can take my chances in NYC as a dog walker. Cafe Habana on Prince Street was an essential pitstop too, as the corn-on-the-cob is literally incredible.

Day three marked our last full day in New York, my Mum’s birthday and our only remaining opportunity to hit the key tourist spots before sunset (The timing was really important. My brother exercised his military precision and planning skills to ensure that we hit the middle of Brooklyn Bridge heading into Manhattan as soon as the sun went down). Our agenda consisted of breakfast at Ground Zero, followed by the Staten Island Ferry for a view of the Statue of Liberty, then a rush via any other missed locations, before a group wide rendezvous at the Brooklyn Heights Subway entrance and a scenic stroll back into Manhattan over the Brooklyn Bridge.

As romantic as the plan was, nothing prepared us for the bitter cold that would greet us at the half way point, and our PM plans to visit the Golf Club at Chelsea Piers was called short. Still, crossing the infamous landmark as the overcast sky faded to black and the city came alive with tungsten light was an incredible experience. One last subway ride home, and a stroll through Superbowl Boulevard before dinner with the O’Neill clan and our last night in the city was done.

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Our short stint in NYC meant that the bucket list was only half completed, but a late afternoon flight left a few remaining morning hours available for a desperate scramble to Grand Central Station, Central Park and the MOMA. We made the most of our last chance to eat at Fresh & CO, and flew through for breakfast and a quick lunch time pick up for the journey home.

Central Park was probably my favourite moment of the trip. Again, it’s another one of those places that I’ve seen so many times before in films and television that it had become almost trivialised in my mind. Seen it all before… But imagine trudging through miles of snow, fighting against a bitterly cold wind to the backdrop of busy New York traffic only to discover 778 acres of beautifully crafted park land slap bang in the middle. The contrast of this against the New York City skyline only emphasises how pure this park really is. Truthfully, it left me momentarily in awe.

It was the calm before the storm that was the journey home. The chance to dip my toe in all that New York City has to offer. But I’ll be back… Sooner rather than later too, I hope.

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Stay Humble…

No matter what anyone says, humility is probably one of the most difficult qualities to grow old with. There comes a time in the life of every man, woman and child when they will be filled with the overwhelming desire to wallow in a sense of smugness and triumphant pleasure – An act known as gloating.

Maybe you got straight A’s in your exam results, or maybe you just reached the lamppost faster than the man on your left… How easy is it to revel in your own success with modesty? How easy is it to take pride in your work and achievements without your ego catching up? How easy is it to do the thing you love for the love alone and not for the medals and the PB times..?

There is a fever that is working it’s way around the urban running community presently, and that fever is speed – And it’s in no way surprising. If anything, it’s an inevitable journey for every runner. The Bridge The Gap community is comprised of crews and runners who, as each year passes, are growing in size, gaining momentum and getting stronger. While this was never the aim of the game, it is only inevitable that a community this large would promote progression, and each year get that little bit faster, and that little bit more serious about what they could achieve.

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Lets also not forget that running is fundamentally a sport. While some sports receive a little more love than others, the professional running standard is regularly showcased, and the beacons of the running community are no different either. They’re fast, and we see them fly. In fact, we absolutely love to see them fly. They strive to get faster, too, and when they can’t get any faster, they lose, and they’re disappointed…

It’s been a difficult few months for me. For a good part of my time as a practicing runner, I was content crushing timeless distances in good company, but as routes grew weary and my city seemed to close in on me, the challenge of a medal race was a logical next step.  As quickly as that new journey started, though, ticking the half-marathon box left me injured on the sidelines, and hungry for progress.

I won’t deny that my ego was bruised, and as I encourage members of my own crew towards new challenges and distances, of course I have my own comeback in mind. The races that I too want to run. PB’s I want to crush. Things I need to prove to myself. Proof that I was always capable of bigger and better – And that’s where the fever starts.

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Humility is often associated with weakness, and timidity, when in actual fact humility is simply the recognition that the action or accomplishment of one man is no greater, and no lesser, than the action itself. Humility is the absence of pride; acknowledging your own independent talents and flaws, strengths and weaknesses, in a vacuum. Instead of comparing yourself to others, focus on yourself.

The beauty of running is that, at the end of the day, it’s as solitary a sport as you want it to be. The fun of crew running, though, lies in those moments that you share with your friends and your team mates, those moments when you discover your limits and learn to push the boundaries of your ability and breakthrough. Those moments of progress. Those moments that you probably wouldn’t have been able to discover yourself, alone. It provides a platform for personal exploration, offering us all the opportunity to find out what we are capable as individuals, with the support of others.

At what point does the management of egos and the pursuit of progress come at the detriment of those around you? Well, that’s a question that you all have to ask yourself – As I have done already, on my own solitary journey back to the start line. Since becoming a part of this community around this time last year, I honestly can’t remember a time when PB fever has been so high, and I can’t help but get the impression from some veterans that this might be the case not only for our generation, but for theirs as well.

For those who are new to this movement as a a whole (and by that I mean even new to running), it’s hard to concentrate on running alone when people are throwing times around left, right and centre. Maybe I played a part in that, and maybe I didn’t, but one thing I do know is that I am determined to change that mindset moving forward.

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Running without a goal is a useless endeavour, and Still Waters, just like the rest of this community, will equally always remain a crew driven by goals. What we should aim to change, though, is this:

- Encourage each other to choose one battle at a time… If it’s your first time achieving a medal in a certain distance, train hard and make finishing your target. Of course, you will have a time in mind because you will know what your body is capable of, but don’t let that take over.

- Remind each other to forget about what everyone else is doing and focus on ourselves… Forget what shoes everyone else is wearing, forget what sort of speed everyone else is running, forget how many miles such and such clocked last week… Just do you. It’s hard not feel the influence of those around you, especially if you find yourself regularly training with people who might have a little more experience in running than yourself. Push yourself, and allow them to push you, but set your own goals based on your own ability and be proud of yourself when you hit them, even if you’re the last one to do so.

- There’s a time and a place to PB but not every race you enter will be the time or the place. Sometimes you have to race for a feeling, and not for a time, and this is OK. Learn to manage your own expectations and, most importantly, be humble with your goals.

I’ll leave you all with these eternally wise words from Run Dem Crew leader, Charlie Dark, who must’ve felt my head buzzing from 163 miles away and dropped something on his instagram this weekend that summarised my thoughts beautifully:

”It’s not how fast you go, it’s how you cross the finish line. PB’s and P.R’s are important to some and it’s good to have goals but eventually you end up with a box full of medals and a brain full of times you can’t remember. Many of us in this movement fell into running through accident or necessity but let us not forget the fun as we push towards the finish line.” – Charlie Dark

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The Nike Free Experience

Sometimes you just find yourself in the right place at the right time, and another two days with work in London meant I had the opportunity to attend the The Nike Free Experience at Victoria House, London before a flying exit back to Manchester.

With the 10 year anniversary of the Nike Free in full swing, Nike decided to ride the wave of excitement that was gathering in the city ahead of Sunday’s Virgin London Marathon, and offer a select handful of press, publishers and online influencers the chance to experience the evolution of Nike Free with classic swoosh flare.

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While the athlete remains at the heart of Nike’s brand ethos, creative spaces and incredible visuals displays fall hand in hand with product innovation, so to coincide with the launch of Nike’s latest developments in the natural motion revolution (specifically, Nike Free 3.0 Flyknit, Nike Free 4.0 Flyknit and Nike Free 5.0), the space showcased an array of colourful and dynamic installations, and dipped it’s toe into the running archives to pay homage to the pedigree of silhouettes that represent Free’s early family tree – The Genealogy of Nike Free.

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The lucky shortlist of attendees also had the privilege of an audience with Nike Running Creative Director and VP, Sean McDowell – The visionary behind the latest Nike Free line. During a short interactive Q&A session, Sean offered the listeners valuable insight into the design process that has driven Nike’s pursuit of natural motion over the years.

Sean shared stories that spanned the most important moments of the Free journey, from Mark Parker’s demand for a t-shirt for the foot that would result in the Air Presto, a Tobie Hatfield design that ditched traditional shoe sizes for a xxxs-xxxl sizing structure, to the detailed study of Kenyan barefoot distance runners that would lead to the split-toed Air Rift.

A more anatomical heel shape, and distinctive hexagonal flex grooves were a few of the standout features introduced to the latest Nike Free range as a result of discoveries made at Nike’s Sports Research Lab at the brands global HQ in Portland. Sean emphasised the importance of Nike Co-Founder Bill Bowerman’s direction (“It’s all about the feet – it’s not about the shoes”), and their obligation as designers to find ways to mimic the body’s biomechanics through constant product innovation.

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To sweeten the deal, an on-site Nike ID studio meant that everyone got the chance to flex their creative muscles on the latest Nike Free ID options, and while I did take part (a little disappointed by the launching colour palette, I must admit. Introducing an incredible multi-blend upper on an ID Flyknit for the first time and two-toning it against a contrasting pale grey was a bad move guys…), I may have taken my eye off the ball a little bit.

For some reason, I’ve discovered that the Nike ID studio forces grown men and women to revert to a state of pre-school creativity where all combinations are worthy of consideration, the creator limited only by the amount of coloured crayons they have… As a result, I spent more time screen watching over people’s shoulders than working on my own, intrigued by their inability to commit to one swoosh over the other.

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An ongoing knee injury meant I missed the pleasure of a 5km test run lead by the one and only Charlie Dark, founder of London’s infamous Run Dem Crew, and my lack of appropriate fitness attire meant I also had to pass up on an NTC workout session with Joslyn Thompson. Next time, guys, next time… Just don’t miss me off the invite, OK?