Bandit: a running brand for the community
What do you get when two brothers with a strong passion for running go into business together, creating a brand solely revolving around the sport and the community it builds? The answer is Bandit. And the potential repercussions of going into business with your family, but lucky for founders Nick and Tim West, none have yet to happen. What started in a basement is now a Brooklyn-based running brand inspired by the triathlon and marathon community their father introduced them to when they were kids. Bringing runners of NYC together, Bandit connects participation in the passion of running with some of the nicer gear you can get your hands on. Having not trained for a marathon, Whalebone went on a casual jog with Nick and Tim to talk about what’s around the next curve for the sport and what a runner’s high really means.
Pre-run ritual. Tell us about it.
Nick West: Rice cake with honey peanut butter and a big ole thing of water with a Nuun hydration tablet about an hour before if I’m headed into the woods for a trail run or planning to do anything over my normal 1-3 miles on a treadmill.
Tim West: My toxic trait as a daily runner is that what I should’ve been doing throughout the entire day, I try to do five minutes before a run: hydrating, fueling, theragunning, stretching, etc. I do all that quickly, hit some high-knees and butt-kicks for good measure, and head out the door. Hasn’t failed me yet.
Top 5 songs to run to?
NW: I basically have two main music moods while running—the angsty music I listened to in high school or very relaxed, meditative instrumentals.
- Sparta: Glasshouse Tarot
- Circa Survive: Act Appalled
- W.H. Lung: Inspiration!
- Misha Panfilov Sound Combo: Days as Echos
- Destroyer: It’s in Your Heart Now
TW: I’ve been out of commission on the music front for a couple months following the mistake of leaving my AirPods on an airplane. Let’s go with…
- Night Moves: Colored Emotions
- U.S. Royalty: The Desert Won’t Save You
- Jay-Z: Feelin’ It
- Tame Impala: Powerlines
- Billy Squier: The Stroke
What led you to start a running gear brand—what is the main feature you focus on to enhance the experience of running?
TW: Nick and I have always been entrepreneurial—legitimate lemonade stand kids, through and through. Something our pops passed down to us in a roundabout way. We also grew up in the NJ/NY skate and surf scene where the most admired brands were born out of a community or group of friends, rather than some scientific business formula. I knew I eventually wanted to do something together with the NYC running community I was a part of, just needed to figure out exactly what. I ended up starting with a single product I, myself, was looking for—high-performance running socks—and took it from there. The main thing we focus on to enhance the experience of running is the people who make up the community. Everything we do or make at Bandit is driven by conversations we have with runners. We’re able to improve a lot of things simply by understanding what’s important to runners. It’s not rocket science, just good old-fashioned listening.
NW: About a year after launching we both sat down and thought about how we wanted to crystallize our mission. It now literally reads, “Evolve the full experience of running.” And so as an apparel brand we’re looking to evolve styles and aesthetics from our own unique perspective (this is all led by our amazing Chief Designer, Ardith Singh). But outside of apparel, we think through all of the experiences within the world of running and how we can push and evolve them—be it how elite athletes are sponsored and supported, to how we can make the spectator experience more exciting. There are so many incredible humans in this sport, and if we can help to tell those stories in new and unique ways, people will get more and more invested.
What do you wish for the future of running? Is there anything you notice now that you are working to change?
NW: The first thing I noticed when jumping head-first into this world was again, how many amazing stories there are. Very real people with real jobs, and families, accomplishing incredible things. That may be Davey Ruiz powering through an 8.5-hour marathon or Kiera D’Amato breaking the American Marathon record at 37 years old while balancing family life with two kids and a small business. This isn’t something we’re changing, so to speak, but something we really want to contribute to. Other brands tell great stories, and we’re proud to now be playing a part in that.
TW: I definitely wish for the future of running to be more inclusive and diversified than it currently is. A more level playing field with equal opportunities and support for everyone. In 2020, the National Runner Survey showed only 3% of U.S. runners are Black. That’s a number that can and should be significantly higher. We’re always working to support representation in running by hosting inclusive events, promoting different clubs, highlighting community members, and giving back to charitable organizations. But shoutout to all of the great clubs and runners out there who are truly leading the way on this front. Check out Boogie Down Bronx Runners, 718Run, Goldfinger Track Club, MileStylers, TeamWrk, Rage & Release… The list goes on.
What’s behind the name Bandit?
TW: A Bandit in running is someone who runs a race without registering. It’s generally frowned upon, but we saw it in a completely different light. One of our company values is empathy, and so we really thought about the name—why would someone bandit a race? Maybe they don’t have the money? We’re not passing judgment at face value. The first true bandit was Bobbi Gibb who snuck into the Boston Marathon before women were allowed to race because they were deemed “physiologically incapable” of doing so by the rule-makers at the time. Absolutely insane stuff that was worthy of some civil disobedience. So with a little empathy and some historical knowledge, we fell in love with the term, despite its surface-level stigma.
How do you encourage the community through running? How do you wish to expand this as more people shift into healthier lifestyles?
TW: Gonna hit this question with the Uno reverse card and talk about encouraging running through community. There are so many great run clubs out there, especially in New York, and every single one of them are inclusive to all paces and levels. My intro to Brooklyn Track Club was DMing their Instagram account and just rocking up to a Tuesday night workout. If you’re looking to start running, I highly recommend joining a club because the people are great and it’ll change it from something you may initially dread to something you look forward to.
For Bandit, we love being the connective tissue between all the various clubs and bringing everyone together under one roof, whether it’s during our unsanctioned street races, Saturday workouts, or our post-race after parties. The clubs don’t get to mix and mingle that much, so that’s where we come in.
Explain a runner’s high to someone who might not love running.
TW: I feel like a slice of butter… melting on top of a big ole pile of flapjacks. You’re so dialed in and zoned out at the same time that your legs are essentially on autopilot while your head is euphorically in the clouds. Does that make any sense? You just kind of feel invincible.
NW: I’m still searching for it in the woods. Let me know if you know where to find it.