It’s difficult to believe that Nienke Brinkman only started out in the Dutch running scene three years ago as she’s now deemed one of the best marathon runners in the country. From setting world records to taking podium spots in recent races, her journey to the top has been more a burgeoning success than a slow ascent, something that almost all professional athletes hope for.
An essential part in Brinkman’s practice comes down to the various trail routes she embarks on in her spare time. Like her participation in road races, trail running happened purely out of necessity in an effort to get out of the house during the pandemic. “One of the only races that was still on was the Zermatt Marathon in Switzerland,” she says, reflecting on the beginning of her sporting journey. “It’s not a typical trail but a race up an alpine mountain and since then, I really got into trail running and have done a lot of different races.”
Ahead of her biggest pursuit yet – the 2024 summer of sport in Paris – Brinkman fronts the latest Hypebae feature with Nike as its brand ambassador. Delving into her relationship with trail running, she explores how the sport has come to offer her a meditative experience that also equips her with an expansive skillset for the marathons that lay ahead.
“When I go to new places, I always plan a route,” says the athlete as she evaluates an unfamiliar course across Epping Forest. Navigating this new route, the visuals capture her simultaneously training her body back from a recent leg injury. “It’s all very much a mental process,” she explains. “To deal with going hard at different times in the race means learning to mentally process that this is the easy part and there is still a very hard patch coming.”
For Brinkman, switching from road to trail helps her to grapple with this mental process, with both terrains providing a different running experience. “The combination is useful because trail running brings me a lot of strength while the road encourages me to build up speed,” she says. Looking down at her head-to-toe gear, the athlete adds, “Since I run on different terrains, the right gear is important to get through this.” As well as her waterproof running clothes, she shares why Nike’s Pegasus Trail GORE-TEX sneaker is the perfect fit for her running style. “Going uphill, the grip and the lightweight feel of the shoe is really handy. But if I’m going downhill, it helps my technique of feeling where I’m going with my feet.”
Besides the physical benefits of trail running, Brinkman has become an advocate of the sport’s holistic offerings, often studying the benefits of how connecting with nature can help with well-being. “People should actually go out and listen to nature. It's good for psychology,” she explains. “Sometimes I call it a micro holiday because you are there for a very short time but it can sometimes reset the brain.”
As we stop to take in the scenic landscape, she reflects, “It can be nice after a huge season to switch off on the trails. The wilderness just brings you that feeling that you don't need to look at your watch all the time. You don't need to really think about your pace. You can just go away for hours and return feeling relaxed.” It’s this feel-good element that keeps Brinkman dedicated to the sport, and hungry to find new routes and exciting paths, noting that “when you are enjoying yourself, good performance will come.”
Explore the full campaign produced by Hypebae in the gallery above. To shop Nike’s Pegasus Trail GORE-TEX, head to the brand’s website and select partner stockists now.