The Nine Four’s exclusivity helps to build a sense of community among members, says founder and crew-leader Paul Ward.
The crew - partially sponsored by Puma - is one of Cape Town’s most exclusive running clubs where members can join per invitation only.
Ward, a photographer and director, lived in Berlin in 2013, where he was introduced to a running club called the Berlin Braves.
On returning to South Africa, he founded The Nine Four in 2013 with a group of friends.
“[The Nine Four is] a running crew, a family of people who meet up two to three times a week. The golden thread is running. But it also has nothing to do with running in all honesty," he says.
Its name is derived from 1994, the year South Africa became a democratic state.
“I wanted the name to represent a crew who is a mix of people - that in the previous old South Africa would have been illegal,” he says.
Its logo, a white rabbit, symbolises an animal that you can chase, but would struggle to catch.
“[The Nine Four is] a group of people who will be there for you no matter what, that will help you better yourself and push towards your goals,” Ward told Business Insider South Africa.
“It’s a safe space where your ego is left at the door, and you are free to be the person you are without society's pressures and stigmas.”
Ward says branding the club was important to help members feel a part of it.
In Prestwich Street, the club has a clubhouse called The Burrow where team members meet before runs.
“We look after the space ourselves - no [better] team bonding exercise like cleaning the floors after a big party.”
Ward advises beginner runners to start slowly, build up to bigger runs, and get people to join along the journey.
“Also running is an individual thing, it’s deeply personal, nobody can run those kilometres for you, but in a crew you have people who can help you through it, who can encourage you to keep going.”
“You don’t need anything to run, you don’t need access to a field or a pool or sports equipment, you just need your legs,” he says.
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