Words by: Kieran Alger
Ask anyone who’s run the world famous Marathon des Sables – a six-day, 250km ultra across the Moroccan Sahara – what they enjoyed most and they’ll tell you the campsite camaraderie tops the epic views and wild desert dunes.
Each open-sided tent on the bivouac becomes home to eight people and during the days spent sleeping sardined inside, sharing the joy and pain, highs and lows, strangers become lifelong friends. Your tent mates become the life force that gets you up to the start line every morning and carries you to the finish line every evening. In the face of adversity, you become an unbreakable team.
So it was a big shock when three years after we all finished the Marathon des Sables one of our eight, Sam, revealed that he had been diagnosed with Stage 4 bowel cancer. Still in his thirties with a young family, Sam was facing the challenge of his life and I had this feeling that – just as we had done in the desert – we should do something to show him his team was with him.
I had an idea. I sent an email to the Marathon des Sables group saying: “Hey guys, do you know the Thames is 184 miles long? Who wants to run it?” Within minutes, one of our eight, Fabrice, had replied and thrown his hat into the ring. By the end of the day, three others had signed up. And the challenge to run the length of the great River Thames, approximately 184 miles from its source to the Thames Barrier was born.
We’d run in support of Sam and to help raise money for the charity he’d been raising money for, Children with Cancer.
The Thames snakes from its source in the west of England in Gloucestershire, via famous towns and cities like Oxford and Henley, past the former home of King Henry VIII at Hampton Court Palace and through London out to the Thames Barrier beyond Greenwich, the home of time.
Less than two months later, after a couple of us were sidelined with injuries, three of us laced up our trail shoes, clipped on our ultra vests and started an epic journey along this historic river. Here’s what happened.
Photos by: James Carnegie
Thames Source to Sea: the stats
- 190 miles run
- 7.25 marathons in 3 days
- 60 hours overall
- 44 hours of running
- 9.5 hours sleep
- 14 min/miles average running pace
- 343,717 steps
- 23,890 calories burned
Deep in the heart of the biggest city in the U.S. is one of the last places you’d think to look for a tight-knit crew of long-distance runners. But New York is a city like no other, and Black Roses NYC is a run crew like no other.
“People always ask me, how? How can you be a runner in New York when the odds seems so stacked against you?” says Jaybird athlete and Black Roses captain and co-founder Knox Robinson. “The things that are amazing about being a runner in New York are also the things that make New York amazing—the incredible diversity, the rich history, the population density. Sometimes it’s a challenge to navigate all that intensity, but with that comes opportunity. You have to embrace the city as a canvas to create, in a way.”
Knox is no stranger to running—he ran competitively at Wake Forest before moving to New York to work in music, and for years he managed indie artists and served as editor-in-chief of the music culture magazine, The Fader.
A modern renaissance man, Knox now lives at the intersection of running, music and urban culture—exploring the city streets with the Black Roses, coaching fellow runners through the Nike+ NYC Live running initiative and staying busy with a variety of other creative projects.
After trips to Tokyo and London to explore underground urban running cultures, Knox returns to New York in Track 05 of our Run Wild film series to link back up with the Black Roses—a diverse crew of runners that have come together over their shared passion for high-performance urban running.
“The centrality that running has in the lives of our members, is pretty sharp on and individual and community level,” Knox says. “People in the group are there because they want to be there, from various walks of life and diverse backgrounds and cultures to dig deeper into the promise and the potential and the passion for long-distance running.”
But Black Roses is different than your average social clubs or recreational running groups. There’s a serious focus on performance, and it comes with a distinct counterculture vibe.
“Black Roses don’t really care what other people think, don’t really care about being cool or being popular, and ironically that comes together to make it occasionally pretty fucking cool.”
The way Knox and the Black Roses see it, passionately pursuing running and living in a dense urban environment don’t have to be mutually exclusive.
“I would love it if running became even more deeply entwined with the fabric of urban living, because that’s gonna ideally change urban living for the better,” he says. “Lacing up your shoes and going out there for a run just to dig deeper into yourself, there’s nothing more radical and revolutionary than that.”
Photos by: Greg Snyder
Check out the playlist that Black Roses NYC run wild to:
Long heralded as the birthplace of mountaineering, the Alps above Chamonix, France have evolved over time to become a global epicenter of mountain adventure sports, drawing climbers, skiers, runners and myriad other outdoor athletes from around the world.
“People look at the mountains quite differently than before,” says local mountain guide Johanna Sullivan. “Before it was just going to the top, now it’s about pushing the limits.”
In 2013 as a relative unknown, Jaybird athlete Rory Bosio won the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc, one of the world’s premier ultra races that begins and ends in Chamonix. In 2014 she returned and became the first woman to win the race two consecutive years. But this year Rory returned to the valley with the intention of looking at this inspiring place as less of a proving ground, and more of a place to experience the freedom and playfulness of the mountains.
“Running in Chamonix is the epitome of true mountain running…You’re just connected with everything around you, and you feel at home,” she says. “We’re just these free beings in the mountains, and the line between running and climbing and scrambling and almost feeling like you’re flying gets blurred.”
In Track 4 of Run Wild, Rory links up with ultra runners Martina Valmassoi and Fernanda Maciel to explore and play among the rugged trails, dramatic scenery, and rich history of mountain culture that make Chamonix such a special place.
“As a runner if you can shift your goals away from not worrying about PR’s or what the watch says and simply run because it feels fucking amazing, the mountains are a playground,” Rory says. “You just ask, where can my legs take me today?”
Photos by: Adam Clark
Check out the playlist that Rory, Martina and Fernanda run wild to:
To watch the previous episodes click here.
Tokyo. Modern metropolis. Cultural hub. A capital city that defines sensory overload— neon signs, flashing lights and 13 million people. But as modern, massive and bustling as the city is today, there remains a very traditional undertone.
“There is a hardcore pressure to conform in Japanese culture,” Knox Robinson says. “Running on the other hand, is an act of rebellion, is an act of freedom, self identification and self selection.” It was in this desire to do something that defied the cultural norms where Athletics Far East Crew was born. Founded in 2011 and inspired by the ‘70s running club Athletics West, AFE was formed on the principle of transcending the social conformity that is so deeply ingrained in Japanese culture. The crew’s motto—Do Not Blame Others but Yourself—embodies its mission to use running as a vehicle for individual expression.“There was a sense that something new was being created that hadn’t existed before,” says Jun Hirano, a fashion director and one of AFE’s founders.“There’s a contrast of people who just wanna follow and fit in to society and that’s a whole culture and tradition,” says Lono Brazil III, a model, DJ and leader of AFE. “At the same time people like to do the opposite because of that. Whether people think it’s cool or not, I’m going to express my own way of running.”
Now a hub of urban running culture in Tokyo, AFE is a collaboration of people from all walks of life, who run for all kinds of reasons. “I feel like people have this open space to express more, where as before people had to follow the rules and be what they expect you to do,” Brazil says. “People understanding this—how being yourself is the ultimate solution to happiness.”
In Episode 3 of Run Wild, Knox travels to the Far East to meet up with Jun, Lono and AFE for a deeper look at the faces, sounds and streets of Tokyo’s underground running scene.
Check out the music that Knox, Lono and the AFE Crew ran wild to:
To watch the previous episodes click here.
“If you listen very closely, you can hear a rhythm…and I use it as a source of inspiration.”
There’s a common thread between running and music, one that Charlie Dark has followed nearly his entire life. A poet and writer who grew up listening to pirate radio and eventually became one of London’s premier DJ’s, Charlie began running after feeling disillusioned with the music industry and needing a positive change in his life. Initially running at night to avoid being seen by his neighbors, Charlie was soon joined by a few friends. This initial group eventually grew to become Run Dem Crew, a running and creative community he founded that counts its members in the 100’s. Now a large, multi-faceted organization committed to uplifting the next generation, Run Dem Crew hosts group runs, workshops, films and provides mentoring advice for runners of all ages throughout the city.
In Episode 2, Knox Robinson travels to England to meet Charlie, hear about his beginnings with RDC, and explore their intertwined passions for running and music on the streets of London.
Check out the music that Knox and Charlie ran wild to:
To watch the previous episodes click here.
“For the first time in history, we’re in a position to understand how people do what they do, and how they achieve these staggering goals. We want to know the breaking point.”
What are we all capable of? And what happens when we hack those capabilities to push them even further? Last winter, Jaybird invited a diverse group of running athletes including Rory Bosio and Knox Robinson to Park City, Utah to look for answers.
This high-performance training camp was led by renowned sports scientist Dr. Andy Walshe, who believes that the key to performing and executing at the highest levels starts with one simple yet incredibly powerful technique—breathe.
Check out the songs that powered this athlete camp:
Jaybird athlete Knox Robinson is no stranger to running, whether it’s in the New York City marathon, the dark city streets, or between the multitude of projects that make him a modern running renaissance man. Knox ran competitively at Wake Forest before moving to New York to work in music, where he managed indie artists and served as editor-in-chief of the music culture magazine, The Fader. Living life at the intersection of running, music and culture, Knox now explores the city streets as captain and co-founder of the Black Roses NYC run crew, and coaches fellow runners through the Nike+ NYC Live running initiative. But this passionate purveyor of running culture is looking to explore and learn from urban running cultures beyond the Big Apple. This summer he sets off for a fresh perspective.
Click here to learn more about Run Wild: Chapter 1.
Firmly established as one of the best female ultra-runners in the world, Jaybird athlete Rory Bosio ran her first ultra in 2007. In 2013, as a relative unknown, she won the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc, one of the world’s premier ultra races. In 2014 she returned and became the first woman to win the race two consecutive years. She’s stood on podiums and set course records around the world. In 2017, she ran the GR20 trail across the island of Corsica in 50 hours—a trek that takes most people two weeks. But after all the wins, fastest times and female firsts, Rory had to take a step back to ask herself a simple question—“Why am I doing this?”
Rory now sets off on a global journey to explore running culture, find her next challenge, and return to a place where she has nothing to lose.
Click here to learn more about Run Wild: Chapter 1.
Trail season, commence! It’s that time of year when the days grow longer and the mountains are calling to be climbed. This week, we kicked off our Trail Tromp Series with Cotopaxi to give you a good reason to keep moving all summer long. Our Trail Tromp Series is a monthly meet-up that provides two options: group hike or group run. We are excited to give you an opportunity to hike/run with Jaybird athletes and Cotopaxi ambassadors all while pushing yourself and exploring the public lands that surround our home base in Park City, UT. Our goal is to bring individuals together through a mutual appreciation of our trail systems and the outdoor access we have right in our backyards. Future events will be posted on @Cotopaxislc Facebook page. Our first event was sold out, so be sure to sign up early each month! We welcome all abilities and age levels, but please be conscious of the trail difficulty and length to make sure it is fitting for you. Join us in making new friends, celebrating comfort in the discomfort, checking new hikes off the list and score some rad Jaybird and Cotopaxi product while you’re at it!