There is power in community — in coming together as one to celebrate, to collaborate, and to create something meaningful together. Joy Run Collective is doing all of those things and more by bringing together underrepresented communities through running. The group was founded by Huyen (she/her) who, after noting how running and self-confidence are tied together, wanted to create a space where BIPOC* and queer individuals could feel safe and inspired to begin running. Thus, Berlin’s very own Joy Run Collective was born.
As a company that has always shined a light on athletes who are helping create new impacts on sport, Nike noticed just how much Joy Run Collective was empowering those to feel comfortable in their running journey. Nowadays, they work closely together to make running and the sports world a safe space full of compassion, inclusion, respect and — most importantly — joy.
As a fashion designer herself, Huyen is always looking for sportswear that moves alongside her and makes her run truly stress-free and smooth. Spearheading Joy Run Collective and being a leader in the running community means she wants to both feel good and look good regardless of the weather. It’s why Nike’s new Aerogami innovation — reactive technology that senses sweat on the skin and automatically opens up built-in vents to provide increased airflow and space for moisture to escape — means so much to her and her collective. She says it best herself: “This clothing moves with you as you move through the world.”
To learn more about the Joy Run Collective community, Schön! chats with Huyen and captain Sahra to uncover more about the group’s goals, their work with Nike, and beyond.
What does Joy Run Collective stand for? What is the running group’s overall ethos or philosophy?
Huyen: We see Joy as an evolution of WAYV Run Kollektiv which focused on empowering BIPOC & queer runners. Now, with Joy, we wanted to emphasize female-identifying people more and ease up the access for beginner runners.
Sahra: We’re on a mission to break barriers in the running world. Disrupt the dominant culture through our shared values of joy, compassion, acceptance, inclusion, and respect.
Running can be an individual sport, but also can bring people together by creating a community network of runners. How has community and connection shaped your experience as a runner? How has it influenced the foundation of Joy Run Collective?
Huyen: I think without the community, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Whenever I go out running, I don’t do it for personal reasons only, I also do it for other community members from my team, and also for people who don’t see themselves represented. The community is what keeps me going when it gets tough, and it feels so great to be able to run for a bigger purpose than yourself. E.g. my mum picked up walking/running in the park after I left a pair of my sneakers at home. Or another time, we visited the Shanghai run community and found out that a queer run club was started because they felt inspired by our work and saw us sharing our stories online. Inspiring beyond Berlin is amazing.
Sahra: Our collective running journey has fueled mine in many ways. Not only have we gained valuable firsthand knowledge from one another, but being part of Joy has also made me trust and believe in myself as a runner. That everybody who runs is a runner. Feeling comfortable taking up space in the running world, that growing up I barely felt connected with due to poor representation. I genuinely love how organically we’ve built a sense of womanhood, created friendships, offered mutual support and shared vulnerability.
Joy Run Collective and Nike partnered up to support the running community and access thereof in Berlin. Both the collective and Nike have one major thing in common: running is in your DNA. How do you work together to create positive change through this sport?
Huyen: Since the beginning of our run community, it has always been about creating access to sports and expanding the reach, so it can benefit more people, especially women and girls with migration backgrounds here in Germany. With the support from Nike, we can come together and expand our shared values of empowering people to start their journey into sports.
Sahra: In a nutshell, it is about sharing expertise, access, and knowledge. We value the different platforms through which we reach many people and can address important topics such as cycle-based training or queerness in the sports world, where both sides can learn and grow.
Can you describe how you’ve seen the innovation of Aerogami, the running jacket built to solve runners’ problem of regulating body temperature and ventilation, help encourage and embolden runners?
Huyen: As a fashion designer, I am drawn to style as well as functionality at the same time. When I go out for a run, I want my outfit to look good, so I can feel good, but it needs to be versatile and weather-resistant first and foremost. I’ve been a fan of Nike’s innovations before, and the latest Aerogami innovation is so meaningful as it adapts to your own unique body. Instead of sticking to your body when wet or when you’re sweating, instead of moving against you, I think it’s wonderful that this clothing item moves with you as you move through the world.
Sahra: Aerogami is removing one of the barriers to enjoying a run: the unpredictable (Berlin) weather. What I love about this technology is that it is centred around the runner’s performance and the importance of airflow, so they feel comfortable and confident regardless of the weather conditions. Breathable apparel is a major key for every distance.
For those who have never run or are new to it, what are some of your advice or tips that you’d give?
Huyen: Baby steps, baby steps. Every minute that you’re out there running or walking counts. Don’t get caught up with distances, start with the idea of “time on feet” so instead of counting the km or miles that you ran, count the time you spent outside moving your body to your rhythm. Every step is a win.
Sahra: Start slow, embrace your own pace and meet your body where it is today. Celebrate the journey and your small achievements! You got this.
For those looking to join a running club, can you tell us what they can expect?
Huyen: They can expect a community of like-minded, driven and motivated people, who celebrate movement in general, and who are also there to support you when you’re having a rough day. Running can truly become a team sport and doing hard things together is so special, as it connects you on a deeper level – anything afterward feels so much easier to approach and accomplish.
Sahra: The number one theme is support in your running journey. Whether you’re lacing your running shoes for the first time or you’re embarking on your first half-marathon endeavours. In an age of busy schedules, you can expect an off time with coaching, community and motivation that nourishes your soul.
How did you discover running, and what made you want to become involved as a member of Joy Run Collective?
Huyen: I started running about ten years ago and have been running longer distances since 2015. Back then, I used to live in NYC and being exposed to the international running culture, I mostly saw male captains and coaches – so when I moved back home to Germany, I decided I wanted to start my team empowering more marginalized communities to become active.
Sahra: My passion for running ignited during my Bachelor’s – where I discovered a sports routine for myself that doesn’t require much. Looking back, I realize that I unconsciously delved into the simple art of running, making it a constant companion through all the hurdles and fortunate events of life. I understood that running wasn’t just another sport I tried; it was a new perspective and approach that I invited into my life. As one of the first members of Joy Run Collective, this community has inspired me by how we can grow, uplift each other, and constantly learn and unlearn.
As runners, what does your personal style and your freedom to express yourself as you run mean to you?
Huyen: I love to empower myself through my style and my running. It’s incredible to be able to build up confidence in your body and mind through movement. There is an art to running and there is so much beauty in movement. Similarly to dressing for work or school, I think dressing for running can be powerful and depending on my mood and the workout, I can dress myself to feel strong or cheerful.
Sahra: Movement plays a crucial part in feeling in sync with my body, allowing me to express myself in different layers, colours, and fabrics so my body feels comfortable and aligned. My moods and needs change with the season and weather conditions. But I think that leads to being present at the moment, checking in with myself and integrating these feelings into my style.
How would you define your own ‘successful’ run — beyond performance, win or loss and personal bests?
Huyen: A successful run is when I can stay in the present moment, and feel the fresh air entering my lungs. When I can witness the seasons change and when I can feel and be in sync with my body.
Sahra: That run where you were not in the mood for. Throwing on a running pair didn’t feel easy at all – but I came back feeling rejuvenated and deeply grateful for the fact that my healthy body can withstand the toll of long-distance running.
How has the city of Berlin inspired you to motivate other runners and spread the word about Joy Run Collective?
Huyen: Berlin has a lot of potential to further grow as a running city. I feel like here, we have still so much space and potential to grow and co-create the running community. Compared to those bigger cities like New York or London, Berlin is still a fairly affordable space to live and with its young and political spirit, I feel like we can help change how running and health and wellbeing can look and feel.
Sahra: There’s so much potential in Berlin when it comes to running. The city is full of sports enthusiasts with different needs and the city can hold a place for everyone if the spaces are created. Berlin is so dear to my heart, here I have joined a running team for the first time and felt welcomed. Since our community plays a big role in my everyday life, it naturally happens to me to spread joy about us.
Joy Run Collective prides itself on creating the space for queer / Black, Indigenous, and of Color women, non-binary, trans*, gender-fluid and inter* runners can come together. How has it been to see the community grow both in size but also in representation?
Huyen: Over the years, our run community has provided such an amazing safe space for people to come together, not only to run but also to share meals, to visit exhibitions and to (un)learn together. We support each other off and on the track, and it’s been magnificent to witness the community bloom and thrive together.
Sahra: It’s heartwarming to witness more individuals finding a welcoming and supportive space within the running world. To see interested people reaching out. Our possibilities of growth only reinforce the importance of our Joy mission.
Nike’s culture of innovation is focused on solving the timeless needs of all runners. What role do product innovations play for you as runners?
Huyen: Innovation for me as a runner plays such an important role because I’m curious about how technology and creativity can come together to advance our individual dreams and in general the overall human potential.
Sahra: Product innovations help me to face and overcome different challenges to become the runner I want to be and to be able to push my limits.
Lastly, as you look ahead to the future, where do you envision going with Joy Run Collective?
Huyen: Similarly to Sahra, I would love for Joy to grow and reach younger as well as older runners. There are so many benefits to running and sports, and we would love to inspire others to get started and keep it up. We see running as a long-term sport which we would love to do when we’re older, thus taking each other by the hand and supporting each other throughout our different life chapters is meaningful. And who knows, why not have a Joy in other parts of the world, too?
Sahra: To continue the vision of an inclusive sports world and inspire others through movement. One personal dream is to inspire young women with migration backgrounds through a holistic approach to movement and creating a nurturing environment (my younger self would have loved and needed that). Let’s see – I would love to witness Joy growing and becoming intergenerational!
director. Jonas Huckstorf
dop. Max Buchheim
styling. Noah Kächelin
talent. Thi Minh Huyen Nguyen, Sahra Abdulaahi + Joy Run Collective
hair + make up. Mai Anh @ Liganord
post production. Trey Studio
music + sound. Phillip Hagmann
production studio. Jonas Huckstorf
assistant. Moritz Hilker