NN Running Team creator Jos Hermens look back on a historic first year for a team which was chock-full of a bounty of golden memories.
Since the project’s launch in April, the team achieved so much; winning three marathon majors with Geoffrey Kirui (Boston), Eliud Kipchoge (Berlin) and Geoffrey Kamworor (New York) as well as runner-up placings for Kenenisa Bekele (London) and Abel Kirui (Chicago). On top of this, Geoffrey Kirui secured the World Championship marathon title in London, we have seen the emergence of Ugandan superstar Joshua Cheptegei, who just missed out on the world 15km record in Nijmegen by three seconds, and we also witnessed Eliud’s jaw-dropping 2:00:25 performance as part of the Nike Breaking2 Project.
Meanwhile, our athletes posted several national records and NN Running Team members between climbed the podium a staggering 100 times in top-level international road races around the globe.
We have also been hugely encouraged by the positive response we have received from fans, organisers, sponsors and the athletes themselves to the NN Running Team project. One of the most uplifting elements to our first year has been the positive feedback from our fans saying how much they appreciate how we give our athletes a platform for their stories to be told. This has been reflected in our fan engagement via our social media accounts and our website. So far we had a staggering 11.5m digital impressions with a large number of fans sharing and liking our content. This keeps us highly motivated to produce more content and share our stories in future.
Underpinning all our success in our first year has been the amazing support given to us by NN, our great partner, who dared to dream with us to make this innovative running project possible. They have fully co-operated during our first year together and they have launched some exciting sponsor activations of their own in an effort to make running more appealing. They, for example, created the NN Running Team Challenge in which runners could challenge Dutch record holder Abdi Nageeye on a treadmill. It was fascinating to see the response of runners as they were blown away by the incredible pace Abdi performs at when running a marathon.
With their longstanding commitment to sponsoring running events in Europe and Japan, it is easy to see why NN are such a great fit for the project.
More broadly too, the opportunity to put together this world-class group of athletes into one team has created an interesting sponsor platform, which has allowed us to start working with several new sponsors since we launched.
Looking back on the first year of the team, I’m extremely satisfied with what we managed to achieve. We invested in a running water system at our Kenyan training camp in Kaptagat and we are also installing solar power. Out of this same camp we have a physio working for the Team and in future we plan to expand our medical care, so it is available for all athletes. We also hope to work together more closely with the IAAF to modernise the advertising rules and create more opportunities for athletes. Meanwhile, we will continue to interact more with fans, not only by sharing stories, videos and photos, but making them feel more engaged with the Team.
Long-term, our vision remains that we would like to see more teams join us to increase a greater level of competition. I think we have proved the value in creating a team, which I believe would lead to an enhanced sophistication in team tactics at big races.
For the future, our biggest challenge is to give greater clarity around the concept of ‘teamship’ and to challenge the way of thinking as running as a solely individual pursuit. We have several training camps in Africa, where our athletes work together in training and in preparation for competition. That might be pacing another athlete or assisting them in some other form in training. That is teamwork, and our aspiration is to clearly present the importance of this to the world.
To all, have a very Happy New Year. We cannot wait to continue this journey in 2018.