“Enter to Learn, Go Forth to Serve.” That motto is clearly visible at the front entrance to Lower Merion High School on Montgomery Avenue. Many of us probably pass by daily without taking any notice of it, but Dave Spandorfer definitely took those words to heart during his time as a Lower Merion student. His running-wear line, Janji, aims to fight the global water crisis. A portion of the proceeds from each purchase goes to groups that are working to alleviate the worst water-supply issues. Founded almost three years ago by Spandorfer and college pal Mike Burnstein, the Boston-based company has it’s own pretty cool motto: “Run for Another.”
MLT: How did Janji come to be?
DS: I was competing in the Division III Outdoor Track and Field Championships my senior year [at Washington University in St. Louis]. It was one of those really hot days where there was a record high temperature. If I didn’t have access to water, I would’ve passed out. When we finished that meet, we were so motivated by the idea that water is critical to running, and we wanted to do more through our sport. So we decided to create Janji as a way to give water to people in need around the world.
MLT: Where did the name come from?
DS: It means “promise” in Malay. It’s about our promise and giving back through the sport of running.
MLT: What’s Janji’s fundamental mission?
DS: We believe that by running for something bigger, you can go farther, and you can go faster. We want to create a nation of runners in the U.S. who can give all those people around the world with lack of access to clean water the right water that’s so essential for running itself.
MLT: How did your Lower Merion roots influence you?
DS: I never would’ve started running if it weren’t for Lower Merion High School’s cross-country program. The coach I had, Megan Capewell, really inspired me to run for something bigger than just myself. That’s what helped inspire me to be so passionate about running and so passionate about the power of running. Between all those runs around Narberth, Ardmore and Gladwyne, I really discovered how amazing the sport is and how inspiring it can be.
MLT: Any fun stories about your time on the track team at Lower Merion?
DS: I’d never really run before. I showed up at my first day of practice, and they asked me if I’d like to come to the first meet of the season. So my first time running with the team was a race. They gave me a uniform on the bus, and I suited up, and I ran. I knew right then and there that it was the sport for me. It’s something that really requires you to find strength within yourself.
MLT: Where is your favorite place to run in the Philadelphia area?
DS: I love the Haverford College loop. In Philadelphia, Valley Green Trail in Wissahickon Park is maybe my favorite place to run anywhere.
MLT: Do you have a favorite Janji product right now?
DS: Our first product was our Kenya Shorts, and they’re still one of my favorites we make today. They’re different than your everyday running shorts. We love creating amazing colors that are inspired by different countries. They’re wild, they’re fun, and the sizing and cut are perfect for the average runner who wants mobility.
MLT: Where can you find Janji products?
DS: At Philadelphia Runner and Bryn Mawr Running Company, along with our online site.
MLT: What’s the future for Janji?
DS: Helping more people, giving more clean water, and continuing to support runners here to run for something bigger.