When I started running—seriously running, like, with a watch and plantar fasciitis—a few of my co-workers gave me grief.
Not a lot of grief, just a bit of good-natured teasing: ‘We hate you now that you’re always talking about running, you total bastard.’ Stuff like that. That was a little over two years ago, and now look where we are—I’m interviewing TJ Bottom, the Category Director for Roark’s new Trail Running division, Run Amok, on the eve of their second season release. Funny old world. TJ is a long-time Utah-based runner (trail and road) with more than a few thousand miles on his legs. At Run Amok, he is—among other things—the guy that tries stuff out before it hits the production line, so I figured he’d be the best dude to talk to about the brand. I called up and we chatted for almost an hour. Mostly about shoes. When we did talk about Run Amok, this is what we said:
Hey TJ, let me first say thank you and Roark Run Amok for giving me the opportunity to talk about my favourite thing: running.
I don’t know how familiar you are with Monster Children, but we’re a surf, skate type thing—we don’t run.
Oh, I know, I’m familiar.
Right, so when I got into running a couple of years ago… I wasn’t exactly ridiculed, but some of my co-workers took a dim view of it. So, it’s nice that it’s all come around. You’re helping me install a new pillar in the Monster Children offering.
That’s so funny. I come from an action sports background too, and I went through that same crucible with like, ‘Dude, what are you doing? You’re not coming out tonight?’ I’d be like, ‘Nah,’ and be running. Then I started posting stuff about running and got some shit for it, but now it’s come full-circle where everyone’s like, ‘Bro, I’m so sorry I gave you shit—running has changed my life; I can surf more, I don’t drink anymore…’
And that’s where the inception of all this came from…
Yeah, Ryan Hitzel, the founder of Roark and I have been friends for years and he did the same thing. He used to be a heavy dude, and then I saw him at a trade show and he was like, ‘Dude, I got into running and it’s the best thing ever.’
Had he lost weight?
Oh, yeah, a lot.
That’s also cool.
Yeah, and then with the brand he was like, ‘I want you to help us make this happen,’ and we talked about it for a year and then finally this past holiday season we rolled it out and it’s awesome.
That’s rad. Run Amok has a distinct vibe. What is it?
Well, I guess we’re super-influenced by music, all of us… So, Jeff Johnson—I’m not sure if you’re familiar with him, he did that movie 180 South?
Oh, the guy who travels to Patagonia to climb that volcano?
Exactly. He’s a legendary storyteller. So, he and Rio Lakeshore who is one of our other ambassadors—he runs 100 miles a week…
That’s like 160 kilometres. Insane.
I know, it’s bananas. So, Rio, Jeff, myself, and Hitzel, you know, all of us were influenced by music putting this first season together; like, punk rock, dub and all sorts of unconventional stuff, and that’s the common thread. Our tagline is ‘Somewhere Between Freedom & Chaos’, and that’s the kind of disruptive clique message; it’s about camaraderie and music, chaotic graphics on super-functional pieces.
Tell me about the range. It’s good running gear. I scored some bits a few weeks ago—thanks for that, by the way.
Oh, yeah, you’re welcome!
So, I got some shorts and stuff and it’s all really good to run in, like, I look forward to them coming up in the laundry cycle.
Oh, cool, yeah, we’re working with Drirelease and Polartec, who are industry leaders in comfort and moisture management, and then we’re applying, you know, what we consider rad graphics inspired by our travels.
Yeah, the designs are cool, and they’re reflective, which is obviously a big one.
Yeah, there are reflective hits on the shorts, tops and even some of our hats, so they fit into the endemic run culture as like, Yeah, that shit looks cool but can you really run in it? And we’re finding we’ve actually been pretty successful there.
I dig it. I run in Nike and New Balance stuff mainly, and it’s functional but it’s also pretty flat and basic. So, it’s nice to see some gear that has something interesting going on. People are really getting into trail running at the moment, right?
Has Run Amok been selling well?
Yeah, I mean when we first started, we sold about 600 pairs of black Alta 5” shorts in just two or three weeks. At the time, we were like, ‘Oh, these will last, they’ll get us through a couple of holiday sales,’ you know? And that was November, and we were thinking who’s gonna buy 5” shorts before March? So, fortunately, and unfortunately, we quickly moved through a lot of our hero pieces.
Alta? Isn’t a trail somewhere?
Yeah, all the first season—the Alta, the Bommer Ridge (7”), and the Serrano(8”)—are all trails around Laguna, so paying a little homage to the local trails in California.
Yeah, and the intention is to continue that with the naming system moving forwards.
And outside of creating a line of trail running stuff, are you guys getting involved in the community?
Oh, yeah, there’s initiative to do a lot of community involvement; for instance, on Wednesday (2nd June), we’ve got simultaneous events going in Utah, Colorado and LA—Run Amok events on Strava where people can join up.
Yeah, so we’re gonna have kegs, beers…
Not so much, ideally, they’ll be conversation pace. Like, in Utah we’re gonna run up this one summit, loop back around a gully, head to one of the shops that support us, have a few beers, spin some records…
That sounds like a good time.
Yeah, it’s gonna be a lot of fun.
How great is running, dude?
Check out the Run Amok range at roark.com/run-amok