I like to do things, and I especially like to do things with my friends. Unfortunately, lots of the things I like to do, my friends have no interest in doing with me. For instance, I like running, but lots of people don't. Which is why Nike's We Own The Night is so unusual: a 10km run that even people who don't like running enjoy. Last year, WOTN was like being part of a glowstick-driven, poster-filled party for those in the know - this year, it felt like a movement.
WOTN is a women's night run, organized by Nike, that takes place yearly in a variety of European cities. It marks its difference from other races even before you arrive, providing its runners with beautifully designed, wearable t-shirts and custom made tote bags before the event. The run itself takes place in Victoria Park, and the runners village is ablaze with activity and movement hours before the start time. Elle UK had a tent, which provided beauty treatments (and, much more importantly, free hairbands), as did Nike+ (I'm a huge Nike+ fan, being wildly keen on tracking my running distances and the excessively cheerful celebrity mantras that celebrate each run), Vita Coco and SixPhysio. There was a temporary sculpture, in the centre of the runners village, on which every participant's name was written. There were also, and perhaps most importantly, toilets. There were sufficient, well-maintained toilets, and if you think this is a usual, or obvious state of affairs, you have been attending much, much better races than I have.
In the lead-up to the race, Nike offered a series of free training and preparatory events for the participants: there were gait analysis sessions, yoga classes and a weekly run club, for runners of all abilities. We Own The Night placed itself as a friendly, non-competitive 10km race, and did all it could to encourage new or underconfident runners to sign up. Its posters exhorted women to 'rally their crew', which meant that the race itself was filled with women running with their friends.
This team-ethos was borne out on the night, which began with a hilariously upbeat warm-up session, led by Nike and the Equinox Master Trainers, admirably assisted by DJ Martelo and The Fox Problem. The tone was set from the beginning, as runners ran through light tunnels pumping out Beyonce to lit-up forest installations. There was a steel drum band and a jazz quartet, playing re-worked pop hits and feel-good classics, and greeted by cheers and raised arms by those who passed them. Possibly my favourite part of the race, apart from my friend's patient tolerance for my continued and exuberant insistence on pointing out and analyzing every nickname written onto the backs of shirts, was that the park was lined with men. Brothers, boyfriends, husbands, friends: they stood along the race, in the rain, cheering and smiling. 'I love this,' I said to my friend. 'Isn't it great to see men coming out to stand about passively, whilst women do things?' My friend didn't reply, but that might have been because the finish line was in sight, and she was racing towards her complimentary glasses of fizzy, and the beautiful Alex Munroe necklace that awaited her.
The post-race party was spent in the runners champagne bars, chatting to other delighted women and watching Nick Grimshaw mess about on the DJ decks. Nike donated £4 from each We Own the Night entry to Women Win in support of programs that help get young people more active in each WOTN city. Post race, women can unlock even more funds for the girls in their cities by reaching their respective distance goals using Nike+ and sharing them on Facebook and Twitter.
The support is made as part of Nike's commitment to the global Designed to Move initiative. Find out more at http://www.designedtomove.org. WOTN: showing my friends that doing things with me is always better than not.