Photographers Pim Rinkes and Roberto Brundo have captured some of the Braves around Kreuzberg wearing the Oakley Re:SubZero glasses and Sha Hussain, founder of mental health running collective Be More You, has interviewed these fab-four of the Braves.
Sha asked them about their journey into becoming members of the Braves, as well as touching on topics including gratitude, community, mental health and reflecting on themselves as individuals in the uncertain times we live in today – giving them the opportunity to let go of the things that may have been weighing them down and normalising the conversation around mental health – this was in response to the tagline of the day:
“Let nothing weigh you down!”
Enjoy the interviews and the editorial looking into Pele, Lena, Wesley and Anna.
Who are you? and how did you become a member of the Braves?
Friends of mine have been part of the Braves for years. I’ve always heard stories about the amazing team spirit and fun approach to running. I decided to see for myself and joined Thabo‘s team at the 2019 HOOD LAPS. I felt so welcomed and have considered myself a member of the Brave family ever since.
I am Lena Koro, 28 years old and I live in Berlin. I am originally from Ukraine.
I’ve been a member of the Braves for 7 years and at the same time one of the captains who make people get up way too early every Saturday morning to run up hills and drink coffee with me.
I came across the Braves through friends. I was a Nike Run Club Pacer at the time and was taken to ‘True Love Thursday’ by a friend who ran with the Braves.
One thing I never told is that I had to do the workout at Nike first and then rushed unbelievably fast to run with the Braves. I ended up running 30k on Thursday nights, but it was always worth it.
“It never felt like a hassle because I basically spent my week looking forward to running on Thursday nights with people that bring me joy.” 7 years later I still look forward to every Tuesday and Saturday.
My name is Wesley, 27 years old, born in Dortmund, Germany and raised both in Dortmund and Accra.
I am a model and a prospective sports economics student. After living the last 4 years in Düsseldorf I moved back to Dortmund last year. In Dortmund, there is no such thing as a running crew and because of the fact that I’m a big fan of the Braves and everything they embody I took the chance to join them for an event in Berlin and we stayed in contact. I really enjoy knowing that I have a community in Berlin which welcomes me whenever I’m visiting the city.
My name is Anna, my nickname is Rassa. I am 26 years old and grew up in a rather small south German village near the Alps.
After some years of living in Amsterdam, I moved to Berlin in 2017 for my art school studies and have been working here creatively in the fields of graphic design and styling ever since. Becoming part of the Braves was more of a coincidence than planned – my friend Jansen took me to track and ever since they can’t get rid of me.
Relationships and social connections are crucial to meaningful lives. Too often we lead our lives as individuals where each person is on a mission to steer their own ship of happiness to shore. This is unrealistic as we are social animals and are hard-wired to bond and depend on fellow humans. Connecting with others and being part of a community promotes love, intimacy and a strong physical interaction with others. It is also fundamental to our health and wellbeing.Sha Hussain, Founder Be More You
Why is having a sense of community important to you?
I have always chosen community over competition.
My attitude towards running and my role in our community have evolved over the last few years because there were times, I felt super lost and didn’t know what I wanted.
Often in life and in sports when you start doing something you don’t know what works for you, where you belong and where to position yourself. You start comparing yourself to others and what they are doing. This can create pressure and blame. Especially when you are questioning why you’re not running as fast, or as frequently as others are. I’ve been through it all, and I struggled madly until I realised that what works for others doesn’t work for me. I took the pressure off when I admitted to myself that I can only run with our Berlin Braves community, and I don’t have to chase any kind of ideal that I’m just not. Our community is not only the reason I run at all, but it is part of my identity and who I am today.
To be honest, being part of any “community“ is pretty new to me.
“Being part of the Braves community allows me to connect but more importantly to form proper friendships with people of different ages, occupations and interests than me, which is awesome”.
As I recently found out while joining the Braves for the first time, it’s really uplifting to have a feeling of belonging and a shared passion.
A sense of community is something that is not as present in Germany as in other countries. I hope that clubs like the Braves and other sports crews can strengthen the communities in Berlin and show that we can all make a difference.
Rassa, Wesley, pele and LENA wearing the 2022 BRAVES collabs with EA SPORTS x BSTN ANd the OAKLEY RE:SUBZERO glasses.
In your opinion, what do most people think within the first seconds when they meet you for the first time?
I believe as a pretty open person with sick hair colour.
A self-confident silly goose.
Many are surprised at how open I am to people and how quickly it feels familiar. And I firmly believe that people never forget how you make them feel. I really try to make sure it’s a good first impression.
The second thought might be that I wear pretty cool running outfits, but that’s just a guess….
That’s a tricky one! I really try not to focus on how I may be perceived as I feel like that part is completely out of my control. People want to see what they want to see. I just try to be my authentic self in every new encounter and hope that this is appreciated by the ones I truly care about.
This is a pretty good question, I think people’s first impression of me is that I’m a pleasant and open-minded guy.
What importance do you place on your mental health compared to your physical health?
When my mental health is not in the right place, my body shuts down. Unfortunately, I am none of those athletes who can run their head free, I have to make sure that my head and body are in harmony. Being a running Captain with the Braves brings in another aspect of how important my mental health is. It reflects what energy I give to others in my sessions and how I can support my team. Mental health is a priority and I care a lot that my sessions reflect that. I want people to go home with a good feeling and try to take the pressure out of their own heads because I think a lot of people get caught up in their own unhealthy expectations.
In the past years, I have paid more attention to my mental health than to my physical well-being, without understanding how both are inter-connected. So juggling mental health has been something I have been occupying myself with and I feel like I am getting better at it in the same way that I have been improving my running for the past years.
I figured out at a really young age throughout the competitive sports I did that mental health is more important than physical health. If your mind is in the right place you’re able to overcome almost every physical setback, especially in sports, that’s what I’ve learned really soon.
Competing in an Elite Sport and aspiring to become an Olympian Takes both extreme physical and mental fitness. For me, the general term „fitness“ applies to both aspects in the same weight. I can physically be in the best shape of my life, however, if my head is not in the game there’s no way to display my abilities in a competition.
How could you be kinder to yourself?
I would like to be able to process losses and setbacks faster and try and move on to the next event in my life or career more quickly. Although it’s important to learn from previous mistakes, dwelling on the past just for the sake of dwelling won’t get you anywhere.
By trying to accept me for who I am, therefore also to accept all the failures within. As I think my goal should always be to accept myself even more, so I can be kinder to myself.
I could be kinder to myself by literally being kinder to myself. There are some internalised personality traits in me, for example, I can be very demanding and merciless when it comes to my own performance. I am currently reminding myself to look at myself with the same softness and patience that I would look at other people that I love.
Can you name three things that you are grateful for today?
I am grateful that it’s summer and that after the run with my friends we can bike home and it will still be warm.
I am also thankful for talking to my family on the phone and they are doing well. This makes me feel very loved.
Today my PMS game is strong, so I am very grateful for my flatmate Lea, who gave me a big hug and kiss. My friend KAT spend one hour of her lunch break demonizing hormones with me over the phone. And of course for my exciting life in Berlin
First of all, I’m grateful to see the light of day, second of all I’m grateful for the human beings who are surrounding me every day and thirdly I’m grateful for being able to do what I love today.
My family, my health and my profession.
Which of your personality traits and achievements are you really proud of? And What in particular makes you feel proud of them?
I am very proud of the fact that I have always created my own happiness, I have simply done many things without thinking twice. There have been many setbacks in my life and I have never let them throw me off track, I always forget about them but I am proud of how I deal with things and that I have a strong character.
Me, making the youth Olympic team in 2018 whilst graduating top of my class. It really put me on the map as an athlete. But also showed me what amazing things can happen when hard work meets opportunity.
I’m really proud of my stress-resistant character and my calmness. They have helped me out in every possible situation thus far. When I keep my cool, I will be able to overcome all obstacles facing me.
When Has been the last time you did something that nobody expected you to do? Maybe not even yourself? And How did that make you feel?
I believe that I have developed a lot this last year and that many good things have fallen into the right place. As it has boosted my self-confidence and when you are confident, people become confident in you. For instance, when you start living life the way you really want to, everything becomes a domino effect. Your self-esteem increases, you radiate positive energy, and you pay attention to the environment in which you move.
Finishing a bachelor of laws whilst competing full-time as an athlete. No one thought I could do it. Except for my parents maybe.
I was extremely proud of my academic achievement and felt like I’d achieved a huge milestone in growing up.
Last Question, How will you make today great?
I am currently in Istanbul waiting for my connecting flight to Ankara, where I will be competing tomorrow. The highlight of today will be a super nourishing dinner and an early night. As I am trying to gather as much strength as I can perform to my best ability tomorrow.
By spending time with people who are good for my mental health 🙂
I’ll just get myself the third iced coffee and keep on hanging on my balcony, woop! (.)(.)
I’ll make today great by trying to be the best person I can be today.
Thank you guys,
This coming Saturday I’ll be delivering a safe space workshop, where the Braves community can come along and be their authentic selves, without fear of judgement or criticism.
A place where they can come to listen, be heard or just be present at the moment and learn new skills to improve their mental wellbeing and outlook on life.
Let’s break the stigma around mental health, one conversation at a time and let nothing weigh you down!
Founder, Be More You