In the world of plentiful urban run crews, one can’t speak of the movement without highlighting leadoff influencers like Denmark’s NBRO. It began with shared interests outside of running as much as it did for the desire to run hard. Founding father Anders Roemer recounts how it started and how it’s going.
Thirty-one marathons into his running career, Anders Roemer of Copenhagen, Denmark, has yet to retire (or tire) from long distances. The father of two, who works full time as a psychologist and frequently moonlights as a DJ, somehow consistently logs upwards of 60 miles a week and has clocked a personal best marathon of 2 hours and 32 minutes.
“It helps me stay young,” says Roemer, 39, a runner for more than two decades. “I think my body is in a way better state than it would be if I didn’t run.”
Roemer’s entry into running began in 2001 as a teen. He segued from playing handball and volleyball to solo runs in a forest near his home. Running was something he did simply as a means to remain in shape. He started with running a mile and gradually enhanced his endurance on his own accord as opposed to leaning on books, videos or other resources to guide his development. “I’m homegrown,” he says, laughing.
When Roemer was around age 19, he entered the Copenhagen Marathon, his first attempt to run 26.2 miles. “They thought that I was completely insane,” he says of his friends, all non-runners at the time. “It was kind of shocking to people that I did a marathon.”
Roemer continued to run alone and contemplated joining Sparta Atletik, one of Denmark’s leading track and field clubs. But in 2010, a different opportunity swayed him in another direction. Roemer participated in a Nike event in Copenhagen that challenged runners to tally as many miles as they could around the lakes of the city’s Nørrebro neighborhood. He joined alongside friends Troels Frederiksen, Mike Hansen and Karl Oskar Olsen, co-founder and creative director of fashion label Wood Wood.
After the Nike event, the four continued to meet for weekly runs on Saturday mornings and named their newly formed collective NBRO, denoting the Nørrebro neighborhood where they convened. Apart from their pooled attraction to running, the guys shared interests in streetwear, sneaker culture, music and more, and seamlessly threaded it all together with NBRO.
NBRO became known as a vogue group of runners who countered a clichéd image of running that had long existed. They partied as hard as they’d run and wore stylish, mostly black running apparel stamped with an NBRO logo, which was created by Olsen’s graphic designer. NBRO’s image and way of life began to entice friends, then friends of friends, to join group runs. NBRO continued to unexpectedly expand.
Roemer says he didn’t intend to start a big group when he set out to run with a few friends. But as the crew grew, he was conscious of maintaining an unconventional structure. No rules, no membership dues, no requirements to be part of the tribe. NBRO was a one-of-a-kind group in Copenhagen that established a running culture that had not existed, according to Roemer.
Coincidentally, NBRO’s setup was much like other groups that had begun to pop up around the world — like Bridge Runners in New York City and Run Dem Crew in London. They too defied the status quo of how runners existed and essentially became culture.
Roemer says that NBRO was founded organically and not under the influence of either group. Only later did he and the other crews find each other, sparking what became known as Bridge the Gap, a movement to bring together global running crews. Collectively, the crews would heavily influence iterations of urban running crews worldwide.
While one doesn’t have to be fast to join NBRO, many happen to be. Several members have run a marathon in less than 2 hours and 40 minutes. In fact, this past February, three NBRO members placed among the top-10 finishers in the Miami Marathon (Roemer was 10th overall).
What had started as a means to have a few people to train with ultimately had a ripple effect on the running scene in Copenhagen and in Denmark in general. Roemers has noticed a slew of crews have formed in other parts of the country. “I think it’s very nice,” he says. “The more clubs, the better.”
Since the group was founded in the fall of 2010, Roemer says the number of NBRO members has mostly been unaccounted for, but he estimates that over the past five years a core of 250 people consistently take part in NBRO’s training sessions, which have expanded to nine a week; NBRO has 10,000 Facebook members and more than 23,000 Instagram followers worldwide.
“Considering the growth, I guess we just tapped into something very typical for our generation,” Roemer says. That is, training that is effective and flexible. “I don’t want to put a limit on it. It’s accessible,” Roemer says.
NBRO’s culture includes a diverse range of people of various ages and professions, among them a doctor, lawyer, car mechanic, architect, biologist and student. “That’s something very beautiful about NBRO,” Roemer says. “It’s super healthy to meet and spend time with people that I wouldn’t meet otherwise.”
He adds, “we’re all completely alike when we change into our running clothes.”
While the majority of NBRO’s founding fathers have ventured off into other directions (e.g., Olsen went on to found premium cycling brand Pas Normal), Roemer has kept his roots planted and intends to continue to champion the crew with help from what he describes as a “patron” group, 15 select and trusted long-term NBRO runners.
And despite its existence for more than a decade, NBRO has continued to stand tall, which has admittedly surprised even Roemer. “For years I’ve said that I don’t understand how we can still be relevant,” he says, adding that he expected someone to take over the space ages ago. “But we’ve managed to create lasting culture.”