Last week, I was privileged to be invited to experience the launch of Nike’s latest addition to the Flyknit lineage, the Flyknit Lunar 2. The launch of the new shoe coincided with the unveiling of the new Nike Brand Experience store, located in the heart of Berlin. Yep that’s right, the kind folks at Nike were lovely enough to send us out to the German capital for an exclusive preview of the store followed by an eventful run through the twilight city to trial the new running sneakers. Hop on after the cut.
It’s exciting to be part of such a global community. Each encounter, each conversation initiated with the knowledge that beyond the sometimes awkward introductions is an inspiring story behind each runner’s personal journey. It usually starts off with I know a guy who knew a guy…
I too have a similar tale of connected companions and cliché coincidences that explain how I found myself about to race through the streets of an unfamiliar city with a mob of friendly ‘strangers’. Since joining Yin & Yang, the city what I call home (not Tokyo lol) has begun to shrink at an alarming rate. Through mutual friends (mainly the Y&Y family, RDC and the NYC Bridgerunners), I have been inspired to start my own journey in running. A year and a half with plenty blood, sweat and tears later, my decision to drop the excuses and lace up has blessed me with some dope experiences and allowed me to cross paths with some cool individuals…an accurate indication for what my time in Berlin would be like.
I joined 100+ handpicked runners (from the casual hobbyist to the dedicated), bloggers, press and esteemed members of the international Nike community to gather in Berlin and brave the elements with a run through the city to celebrate the latest Flyknit release. Unbeknown to me, I would begin my running way ahead of my scheduled race in Berlin. After a painstaking night of journey planning to avoid the chaos of the planned tube strike, staff shortages at tube stations forced me to hail a taxi heading to Heathrow. This unplanned detour meant I forced to practice my Usain Bolt sprint finish impression down the concourse of Heathrow Airport (a ninja must always make a dramatic entrance) just in time to catch my flight. Unfortunately my luggage did not have the same luck…arriving a few hours later on the next flight #sigh
After a short yet turbulent flight, I was dreading the idea of combating Berlin’s infamous chill after recalling my dad’s tales of an icy city. The sight of a frozen River Spree near the airport confirmed my dad’s forewarning. Berlin is rightly nicknamed the ‘Grey City’ but lacks the temperamental winds and rain we are ‘blessed’ with in London.
Luckily, Berlin’s Tegel Airport and its notable hexagon terminal building lie within the city limits and was a short taxi ride to our Hotel. As we approached, the neon ‘Life is Beautiful’ sign perched on the 10th floor of our temporary abode, reflected my first impressions of Berlin and its 3.4 million inhabitants, quirky and friendly.
Our newly opened hotel ’25 Hours’ was conveniently a stones throw away from some of the city’s tourist spots; the Kaiser Wilhelm Church , Berlin Zoo and most importantly the new Nike Berlin Store. After a mini German feast inspired by the local cuisines of the city’s Arabian/Turkish immigrants, our small gang eagerly dropped off our luggage and headed down for a tour of the new store. Obviously we opted for the stairs to rack up the Fuel points. Despite not being open to the public, we were met by a crowd of curious onlookers peering through the store windows at the ever-growing mob of Nike runners.
Upon entering the store, I overheard (I was not eavesdropping, I promise) a quote from a fellow blogger, which perfectly embodies the underlying concept to the Flyknit philosophy.
“Just like the strands of silk from the humble silkworm is stronger than steel so does the Flyknit technology combine it’s lightweight properties with strength and durability.”
The Flyknit Lunar 2+
After the success and popularity of the Flyknit Lunar+1, first seen adorning the feet of Nike’s elite runners during the 2012 London Olympics. The Nike design team have decide to pioneer again by engineering a stronger, more dynamic and pressure absorbing running shoe.
The Flyknit Lunar 2 features the updated design which pairs the powerful and ultra-light Nike Flyknit upper with more soft and responsive Nike Lunarlon cushioning.
- Nike Flyknit construction seamlessly integrates areas of high breathability, stretch and support where needed most
– Lunarlon cushioning system provides support and plush, responsive cushioning
- Data-informed outsole follows a forefoot pressure map to help encourage an efficient, natural range of motion through toe-off
- Dynamic Fit technology uses Nike Flywire to wrap the medial arch for added support and a glove-like feel
You can buy the Flyknit Lunar 2+ on Nike.com
The first surprise of the evening was the charming presence of global Creative Director of Nike Running, Sean McDowell. A keen runner himself, Sean was on hand to walk us through the innovation behind the Flyknit Lunar. Sean shunned the typical scripted press release in order to participate in a genuine conversation. Such subtle efforts speak magnitudes about Nike’s culture to embrace feedback and engage consumers and influencers alike.
Sean graced us with a condensed version of the Flyknit’s inception. Feedback from Nike’s pool of international professional athletes revealed the demand for a pair of light yet durable running sneakers. This led to Nike partnering with an aerospace company to re-engineer a light yet strong compound used in space which would later become the core material for the Flyknit Lunar sole.
I was also lucky enough to catch Sean for a round of quick fire questions before he disappeared in the sea of foreign journalists and photographers.
Derek: Can we expect to see the Flynit Lunar to be continued 10, 15 years down the line?
Sean: Absolutely. We can already see the beginning of the Flyknit legacy right now. From the Airmax – to the Hyperfeels, elements of the Flyknit technology is being embedded into the DNA of Nike Running products.
Derek: What distance is the Flyknit built for?
Sean: The Lunar foam was initially engineered with short – mid distances in mind but Flyknit Lunar is effective even at a marathon level
Derek: What was the motivation behind the Nike Steam Lounge?
Sean: Jamaican Track & Field athletes using the Flyknits expressed that the shoes were shrinking due to their hot climate. The result was a shoe modelled onto the unique contour of the runner…so we replicated the process. The fusebale yarns on the Flyknits bond together for snug fit on he foot.
Following the session with Sean, we had 2 hours to roam the city, After some light networking with our fellow runners, I headed back to the hotel to change into my running gear and make enquires about my absent suitcase. I had regrettably left my contacts in my hand luggage; I was apprehensive about running in my glasses but it was either that or think of a good excuse to hold hands with someone for the duration of our run.
As the sun began to set, the runners emerged from their hotel rooms to rendezvous at the Nike store where we discovered the 2nd surprise of the evening…the introduction of 4-time American Olympic gold medalist, Allyson Felix.
As a professional track and field sprinter, Allyson stressed the importance of the right footwear to both maxmise performance and minimise the chance of injury. The vast majority of the runners, I had met in Berlin were either mid or long distance runners so it was refreshing to hear about training in the Flyknit Lunar from a sprinter’s POV.
Allyson also approved of the bold colourways.
“You are only on the track for a few seconds so you need to make your presence known”
After a brief Q&A with Allyson, we shuffled towards the store’s exit in anticipation of the final activity on Nike’s itinerary. After many enquiries and puzzled expressions, we were instructed to raise our gaze to the skyscrapers, which dominate Berlin’s airspace. Voilà! We were awarded (along with dozens of passers-by) with a specular 4D light show projected on the side of a towering nearby building. The end of the building projection was met with a united countdown, which marked the start of eagerly awaited run.
Our 7k run was hardly the annual Berlin marathon but we were all pumped and psyched for a chance to trial the Flyknits whilst (for many of us) exploring the unknown streets of a new city. Our synchronized mob navigated the forests, parks and canals that make up a third of Berlin’s geography. We coordinated our efforts like an single organism pulsating good vibes through the veins of Berlin’s streets. We weaved our way past iconic landmarks like Brandenburg Gate, dived under pedestrian tunnels emerging underneath the towering Berlin Victory column with a soundtrack of old school hip-hop and 90s club tracks filling the icy air.
Before we commenced our run, we had been advised not to be tempted to end the route with the usual sprint finish. The reasoning behind this advice was made soon made apparent…the only thing standing between the exhausted mob and the finish line was taunting high-rise building. The vertical sprint up the 20 flights to the summit was awarded with an amazing view of Berlin’s cityscape. A patchwork sea of modern building juxtaposed with monuments and architecture of yesteryear.
After the run there was no talk of finish times or personal bests. We just wanted to savour the experience; the experience of running in the new Flyknits, the experience exploring a new city and (most importantly) the company of new friends.
Plenty of sweaty selfies later, we took the lift (thankfully) and returned to the solace of our hotel. The majority of runners opting to crash on the inviting hammocks placed strategically in the lobby after the gruesome ordeal of the stairs. We washed away the evening’s hardship to begin preparation to tackle a completely different sport, Berlin’s vibrant nightlife.