Street Athlete: Nanna Barlby

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I’m so excited to have one of my very favourite people on Street Athletes today. The running collective I’m part of, Run Dem Crew, has connections with running crews all over the world. We have events called Bridge The Gap, where the crews all descend on one city for a weekend, run a race and cause general mayhem. The most excellent Nanna is part of NBRO, a crew of incredible runners (and ridiculously funny people) from Copenhagen. Her energy, great vibes and the wonderful support she gives everyone makes her an international crew favourite. Here, she tells her story and what motivates her – it makes for a great read.

– Name

Nanna Munnecke Barlby

– Age


– Occupation

Communication director at strategy consultancy ReD Associates

What’s your sport?

I run.
Last week I borrowed a racing bike – a month ago I did a mini Triathlon.
Funny enough I never thought of it as ‘sports’. It’s all just a part of my life.

– How did you get into it?

I am a late starter in life. Never did any trad. sports. But I do have a pretty high energy level and a lot of opinions about a lot of stuff… let’s just say there’s been a lot of talking about doing something but I was 34 before I finally did anything.

My badass friend and wingman Signe challenged me big time to start running. Provoked me actually. She is from a completely different world – Track and field, boxing – highly competitive, pushing boundaries is mandatory and winning is key. I am a hippie kid from the forest – my parents would rather carry me down the mountain then see me struggle. And later I had too much hippie anarchy in me to respect the authority of sports coaches – never felt motivated to prove my worth.

Signe and I talked a lot about how to actually become motivated to start – it was challenging her world too – the answer for me then was simple positive encouragement and constructive feedback.

I found the nerve to not just think about moving but actually freaking crawl those first 500m… 1K then build it to 5K and do my first race. And I found my competitive side along the way. It’s a cliché but it was a life changing conversation.

Signe also introduced me to NBRO Running and a huge group of urban athletes in Berlin Spring 2012 for the first #bridgethegap event which was a huge influence too. I was there by chance – ended up photographing and partying all night – promised never to be a part of their world without actually running. Then I joined CPH urban running crew NBRO running for real.

– What’s been your best moment in your sport so far?

Deleting an email actually

After fanning about in the 5Ks for a couple of years I finally did a 10K race. I went NYC for work in September 2012 just after completing my farthest run – 12K. Through the #Bridgethegap running community I met Jessie Zapo & Knox Robinson from Black Roses who organised a 20 mile Sunday run with Bridgerunners & Orchard Street Runners. 20 miles was insane, I argued around midnight – tipsy from drinking beer all day and gradually moving into hangover stage.

I wrote an email to Jessie that night explaining why I was not running the next day – I was too slow – too messed up – too untrained…’might do some miles but probably not’  ‘See you for drinks’  yaddayadda …
I read it – and then deleted it.

I left behind an old version of myself that morning and ran the whole 20 miles. Sped up the last stretch, had energy, loads of it. Ended the run in Times Sq. and kicked off a three day runners high celebration with yelling ‘I RAN 20 FUCKING MILES’ out the cap window in SOHO.

I went on to run my first official half the month after then one more and did the Copenhagen Marathon in May.
And I have told this story a thousand times – that run unlocked a whole new person. It’s very emotional for me.


– What motivates you?

Challenging myself. Like deleting that email and just do it.

It also motivates me to challenge others to just do it. To lurk them into say run a full marathon instead of the planned half like three girls did in May.

– How do you push yourself when you don’t want to train?

I have yet to learn to truly push my self.
My life is not set up so I can run all the time. And there are certainly times where I think sleeping is a much better training session – so I sleep. Then I run some other time – I do not have a rigid training schedule…yet!

In that sense I am still a novice. Maturing gradually to the stage where I do have to push harder. The fear is to turn in to the anarchistic teen, flip the finger leaving running behind. Guess it is time face running authority and dare to expose to myself what I really got in me.

– What’s your favourite motivational quote?

Quotes don’t inspire me. People do.

– What events do you have lined up for this year?

Running The Copenhagen Half this Sunday. Marseilles/Cassis end of October.

Between those two I want to become more focused in my training. Make a more structured dedicated plan. Get more out of it with dedicated friends. Smaller races 5K & 10K lined up to test progress.

And then I represent Right to Movement’s Palestine Marathon and I am running it April 11th 2014.
I am so proud to be part of this project. I also think theres plenty of touristy Marathons out there. This is different, I like that.

Sign up from mid September

– What role does fitness play in your life?

I have a stronger body at 40 then at 20. Stronger in all aspects of life – running helps bring that forward. That’s a lot.

– Do you draw inspiration from any other types of sport?

I get inspired by energy. I am up for any new challenge.

– What’s your top training tip?

Don’t think too much.
Reconnect to your body.
And remember you are competing against yourself.

– What do you do in your down time?

Sorry I don’t understand the question? Haha
I work, I am a mom there is no down time.
What’s next?


Follow Nanna on Twitter and Instagram

6 Responses to “Street Athlete: Nanna Barlby”
  1. Arie Rich says:

    Amazing interview! Love her and I don’t even know her. :) truly an inspiration. Love the answer about deleting the email and getting out there and doing that 20 miler. I’m training for my first marathon and I’m scared of the 20 miler! I know I will do it, I just don’t know what to expect. My farthest run has been 16.5 and that was something. Lol. I’m inspired by you. Stay blessed!

    • Nanna Barlby says:

      Thank you. Good luck w your first Marathon – I got really stressed because people were babbling about hours and minutes… pace, form, you know gels, carbs.
      And before my marathon I had a talk w a dear friend who is a very good runner and she look at me struggling and said ‘your goal should be to smile’ It was tough but not crazy to run a marathon. And I did not die. But smiled a lot both during and after 😉 danced the whole night too.
      Next one Ill look at pace etc.
      enjoy it. Ill cheer for you

  2. Maria reed says:

    You are awesome. Wish we had BridgeRunners in Houston

  3. Sune says:

    Happy trails Sunshine????

  4. mel says:

    INSPIRED. Thank you.

  5. Orsii says:

    Love this! Nanna is awesome :) Can’t wait to be able to properly get to hang with her some day soon!