Who run this world? Running crews (literally).

Mountains, glaciers, deserts, trying weather, extreme temperatures and congested cities? Bring it on. There is no boundary too great for running clubs (alternatively referred to as running crews) – a steadily rising trend sweeping the world one stride at a time.

This form of group exercise is not for the weak-hearted, weak-minded, weak-spirited nor weak-kneed. Running clubs push you out of your comfort zone, offering the chance to be inspired by fellow running enthusiasts and explore new places in ways you could have never imagined. From Rio to the Alps to the brutal landscape of Iceland, these communities of runners are kicking things up a notch.

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“Running is free. Running has no barriers,” said Rebecca Gentry, a Nike+ Run Club (NRC) coach who has travelled to places such as the Rhône-Alpes in France to run with Nike. “All you need is a pair of trainers.”

As a brand, Nike is famous for pushing boundaries, and its newest collection (including a new line of running trainers) is helping to test the limits like never before. Inspired by the northern lights in Iceland, Nike’s new Flash collection is designed to keep the most audacious runners safe, dry and warm while they battle the elements in even the most extreme conditions.

For Volume 13 of SUITCASE Magazine, we travelled to Iceland and put pieces such as the Aeroloft Flash running vest and Shield Flash Max running jacket to the test. We took on the black beach of Mýrdalshreppur, the Skógafoss waterfall and frozen roads in the land of ice and fire.

Sub-zero temperatures and gruelling, near-arctic conditions were no match for the iridescent, waterproof items that enable those who wear them to combat the chill in even the most unsavoury of winter weather. Thrill-seeking runners are finally being provided the equipment they need to further their adventures.

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“Everyone looks totally different in running kit – I take people as they are on each run as their runner self,” explained Rebecca. “Then you become friends on social media for example and see they’re a CEO of a big company or a parent. Whereas while they are running they are just them, who they decide to show (or not) whilst we pound the pavement.”

Running clubs attract a large variety of people with different skill levels. Charlie Dark founded Run Dem Crew (RDC) as an alternative running crew for those looking for more of a community than just a place to competitively sprint a few miles and be done with it. He finds the sense of motivation and community important, both for the morale of the crew as well as the personal development of each member through their running.

“We pride ourselves on being family first and running crew second,” said Charlie. He further explained: “People want to feel part of something and it’s harder to sack off a run when you know you have friends waiting for you.”

He says that while running is the thread that brings all the members together, it’s really the passion for exploration and discovery that motivates the members to push themselves.

“I always say that running is one of the best legal highs you can ever experience with an endorphin rush like nothing else,” Charlie said.

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While he considers New York City his favourite place to run (noting that “the bridges are no joke!”), the most exhilarating run he’s gone on was a 10km in a favela in Rio, guarded by military security detail due to a tentative peace treaty between the local police and drug cartels.

Rebecca’s dream locations to run include Nepal and New Zealand, as they “both offer challenging trails and unbelievable vistas of interesting countries”. However, while the groups travel far and wide to push themselves to the brink, it doesn’t always have to be a giant production to get something out of their runs. They also find adventure in the cities they call home.

“We barely even touch the surface of appreciating the beauty we have in front of us,” Rebecca explained, saying that running has made her become more present.

Charlie agrees, “I’ve definitely become more aware of my surroundings since I started running and have learnt to see beauty in my immediate surroundings especially in places I’d previously ignored. I feel like I’ve stopped fighting against my city the more I’ve become entrenched in the world of running.”

The world of running, or running the world, will continue to redefine the standards of the traditional group exercise.

This article was written in collaboration with Nike.

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