Anyone who has ever lived in and loved New York City only to ultimately leave it behind for one reason or another, knows the feeling. It’s an uneasy nostalgia, bittersweet defined. We tend to remember the hard parts through rose-colored glasses, while reminding ourselves that it was us who chose to leave. But more than that, we remember the good and the great, the things that brought us to the City in the first place; the culture, the excitement, the opportunities.
For Daniel Marin Medina, it’s the hustle he misses most.
After running the Berlin Marathon four years ago, Marin Medina, with an eye toward the pursuit of his work as an artist, decided to permanently move there from his longtime home in New York City. Berlin’s bustling scene full of creatives and expats, along with a lower cost of living and an abundance of space that New York City simply doesn’t have the capacity to match made it a natural destination for the devout runner and illustrator.
Its denizens also lack the combative, competitive spirit that imbues so many New Yorkers, which creates a bit more of a laid back, communal vibe amongst its creative scene. Of course, that’s where Medina feels pangs of nostalgia for his life in New York City.
As an expat in Berlin with a New Yorker’s spirit, he tries to balance the German city’s more relaxed sentiment with his natural inclination to outwork and outhustle everyone. And like so much else in his life—running and art, his Colombian roots and his American upbringing, training and relaxing—the pace of his new home is something that Marin Medina continues to try and find some sort of stasis in.
Marin Medina grew up in a family of soccer players and for much of his childhood, carried a sense of guilt that he was letting his father down, despite his father being nothing but supportive as Marin found his way.
Medina started running at age eleven after his family moved from New Jersey to Illinois. He recognized almost immediately that he’d finally found an arena in athletics in which he could excel. His body, he suddenly noticed, was almost perfectly built for running long distances fast. In high school, he ran cross country, helping to lead his team to myriad success in sectional, regional, and state meets.
After enrolling at Parsons and moving to New York, Medina decided to stop running competitively and focus on enjoying college life and pursuing the arts. Though by his senior year, the itch came back and it needed to be scratched. He started a running team at Parsons called the “Narwhals,” which eventually led to a relationship with New York’s Nike Run Club (NRC). Over the next few years, he started pacing for NRC and running marathons and races around the globe.
Still, and as it always does for everyone, the New York Medina knew was beginning to change. Many of his friends and cohort were leaving town to chase other dreams in other cities. After learning he’d qualified to run Berlin’s 2018 marathon, he visited the city on something of a reconnaissance mission. After four days in Germany, he knew his next visit to Berlin would be more permanent.
A few months later, just weeks before the marathon, Marin Medina arrived in Berlin for good.
His first few years in Berlin, Medina admits he was a bit jaded at the lack of sexiness in the city’s running scene. The scenery, the people, the routes, all of it came off as a bit drab in comparison to his time running alongside some of the world’s best and most well-known runners in New York. Even his favorite route in town, a road called Danizer Straßse, is described by Medina as rather monotonous.
Now, with a few years’ worth of hindsight, Medina recognizes it was the aforementioned lack of hustle that had him turned slightly off. Once he was more fully ensconced in the scene, he started to recognize the beauty in the city’s subdued nature and the communal sensibilities of its people, where he now recognizes a strong community with an amazing and distinctly German energy. That is, a place and a people that lack that ever-striving hustle so many New Yorkers possess as a point of pride.
Of course, the one thing he couldn’t find was a corner of the running community focused on anything but straight, white men. Despite Berlin’s reputation as an international city, most of the nations represented tend to be other countries in Europe. This relative homogenization meant Medina didn’t see the variety of faces, of races, and of nationalities in Berlin that he did in New York. Sure, a Dutch man and an Austrian woman are culturally different, Medina notes. But not in the way a Korean family and a Puerto Rican family living on the same block in Jackson Heights might be.
The desire to create a group that could offer a more diverse roster while also fostering a place where runners from more historically marginalized communities can feel safe and be visible is why Medina founded Wayv Run Kollektiv in 2019 alongside his friend Thi Minh Huyen Nguyen. Wayv aims to give members of the Black, gay, trans, femme, and queer communities a safe and more visible place to gather and run. The group, which counts roughly thirty regular members, hosts weekly track practices, long runs, and strength training sessions.
Like almost everyone who’s ever lived in, loved, and left New York, Daniel Marin Medina misses the City. But in Berlin, he’s found a place where he can express himself as a runner and an artist, and one that doesn’t have to be constantly hustling, constantly grinding, and constantly competing, even if that’s what he misses most about New York.