Most of us are citizen runners. We are amateurs. We do this for a myriad of reasons, but for 98% of us it sure isn’t the pay check. I have to couch that statement in that I detest the term “weekend warrior”. I think that referring to ourselves as this derides the effort, practice and discipline we apply to mastering the art of running.
Conversely, when we step outside of being an amateur runner we are all professional at something. Barrett Hocking makes his living as a professional musician, moving between the classical and contemporary spheres. In person, Barrett’s easy going nature belies the ongoing discipline and attention that his profession demands. Whilst Barrett describes running as a way to clear the head and gain some perspective on his life, I have no doubt that having the dedication to endure countless hours of repetition in the mastery of an instrument goes a long way to explaining Barrett’s love of running long distance. Running and Music are similar in the sense that it’s not just about the end goal, but the process of achieving that goal which makes these undertakings so worthwhile.
I was lucky enough to host Barrett and a group of others on a spicy trail run around Riverhead Forest. He had to catch a flight basically right after we ran, so our time together was limited. In lieu of a recorded conversation, Barrett generously agreed to my request for an email interview. Enjoy.
Where do you call home?
What is your current occupation?
Musician. I am a freelance musician. I play trumpet for many different groups/bands/orchestras and also do some one-on-one music tuition. Some of the main groups I play and tour with are The Black Seeds and Orchestra Wellington where I am principal trumpet.
How long have you been a runner?
Officially thought of myself as a runner when I did it on my terms for enjoyment, which was about 2007. I ran in school events, as everyone did, I played rep soccer, but never was into harriers or anything like that. I was in the Army band down in Burnham, Christchurch for a while and we were made to run there, I didn’t really enjoy being told what to do ‘fitness-wise’ but I guess this could have been the start of the bug!
I think running has become a big part of my life. I love the time by myself, clearing my head, a bit of a de-frag really.
What’s your main motivation for running?
I was studying for my masters in London at the time and I needed something else that wasn’t music. I lived very close the Hyde Park, and I physically and mentally couldn’t practise my trumpet all day, I just needed a mental break from studies. I wanted something that was not related to music. A release I guess. So I thought running… loved it, didn’t cost much for shoes, shorts etc (we’ll that what I thought at the time!) and I had a release from intense study. Done!
But now this has morphed into a kind-of addiction I think!
While still in the UK, In 2008 My brother in law asked if my wife and I wanted to go away for a long weekend to Kent while he ran a half marathon. We agreed, then I did a wee Google and found out about these half marathon things and what it took to complete one. I had about 7 weeks and thought I could enter this, so both my wife and I took on the challenge of our first ½ Marathon! And then looking into what was the next challenge, a small while later, a marathon etc. I’m sure you know how this goes on.
Currently I run for personal enjoyment, health and chasing the runner’s high.
Could you give us a small insight into your usual running or training routine?
I am very lucky to be friends with the legendary Marty Lukes, so when i’m in need of advice (which is most of the time!) This is the guy I contact. So basically I plan on one main event a year, and the period leading up to this I like to know exactly what i’m doing (3-4 months) out. Then the other part of the year I like to have a loose plan, but planned looseness! I just run for the love of it, how long, short fast or slow I want.
Are you a structured programme type of person, or do you run more by feel?
Both, leading up to events I like to be very structured-knowing my day to day schedule months out from my goal. But then for the other period no, I like to run how/when I want with a basic theme of alternating short and fast vs long and slow runs.
Where are your favourite places to run and why?
Living in Wellington I have many options for some beautiful trails, many. I live one KM away from an entrance to Belmont regional park and there’s a great network of tracks in there. But for bigger missions we have the Tararua and the Orongorongo ranges handy. I think Wellington is pretty special as the running community is very busy and active organising group runs with WORM (Wellington Organised Runners Meetup and many other missions going on around the area.
What facet of running do you enjoy most? What stands out as the best experiences for you and why?
The process of getting to the start of an event, or meeting in a DOC carpark 0-dark-hundred hours about to embark on a mission through the wilderness is very exciting for me, just about to start the journey, not knowing what lies ahead.
A vivid memory was finishing my first 100km, the Tarawera. This was the year of the “fire course” so we did a out and back. Firstly it was amazing to see all the elites coming back towards us slow guys and gals from Tarawera falls at 1 million miles an hour, Sage Canady, Tim Olsen etc…amazing. Then finally making it to the finish line with my folks and other friends, it was so special. Just amazing to know that I actually made it, and I did this with a smile on my face too.
How is running important to you and your life and it’s direction?
I think running has become a big part of my life. I love the time by myself, clearing my head, a bit of a de-frag really. As with life and technology things can get a bit frantic, and it’s just great to jump on the trails. But also its great getting out there with friends and meeting many interesting people, sharing experiences and telling stories.
Currently I run for personal enjoyment, health and chasing the runner’s high.
Music or no music when running? If so what do you enjoy listening to?
When I run, especially when i’m in the hills, no music. Definitely no music. For a few reasons really. Sort of a token answer, but I love the sound of nature. If it’s just me and silence. Amazing. Or if it’s the sound of the wind (which it normally is in wellington…) or birds chirping, feet on gravel, amazing. And then there is the technical-musical side of things, (for me) the tempo of the music would have to be in sync with my pace, so this is a bit of a problem normally too. So the answer is no. BUT! As an exception if I am on a long run I always have my ipod shuffle in my bag if I get into a really dark place and need a distraction to get me to the end goal. But thankfully this hasn’t happened of late!
You are a professional musician. There are some obvious parallels between running and music. Both take discipline to master and involve large amounts of delayed gratification. Both pursuits can be equally beneficial/ruinous to the mind, body and soul depending on how you approach them. Does running complement your musicianship? Especially as a musician whose speciality is brass?
Great question. Absolutely there are parallels. As for playing a brass instrument, this is one of the tricker instruments to play as for starters we make the sound of the instrument ourselves by buzzing our lips, then the instrument acts like a megaphone and makes it louder/nicer to listen to and then easier to change pitches using the technology on the instrument (valves or a slide). And running, as we know! We do this all ourselves too, one foot in front of the other and adding shoes and clothing it makes the process more enjoyable!
But yes many many things cross over, I do a lot of music tuition also and I make a lot of references to students regarding sports. Warm ups, Warm downs, flexibility, breathing, endurance, range/distance, the mental game, form, stamina, technique are all words we relate to as runners and equally to musicians. And even preparing for a running event with a taper leading up the the day, this is also quite common in music leading up to a major concert/recital, we would do something similar with our preparation-probably not as much carb loading for the musos though.
How do other musicians react when they discover that you run ultra marathons?
Some think it’s pretty weird! Mostly the same as non-musos reactions, the old “can’t you just take a car?” and “why?!” To be honest they are all super supportive and interested in the process and what it’s all about. Kind of nice to chat about something that is not music for a bit.
I do remember doing a gig in Perth with the Black Seeds in 2012 which was one week before my first ultra event, the Kepler. We were doing a gig with Katchafire on the Saturday night, I had never played with them before so hadn’t really got to know the guys yet. Anyways, they were playing their set, and we were on after them. Our manager was on the side of stage getting ready for the changeover to setup the Seeds gear etc. During their set Katchafire’s trumpeter comes off to rest for a tune he wasn’t playing, and our manager asks if he wants a beer, he says “no thanks, I have this running event next weekend down in Te Anau, just taking it easy…” our manager clicked, passed on the bizarre coincidence to me, long story short, Andy Mcdowell (Trumpet/running legend) was their trumpeter at the time we met backstage that night and we have been mates ever since and catch up when we can and go for trots in the trails. Classic NZ!
What advice can you give to people who want to follow their dreams and to do what they love?
What does Nike say, Just do it. I was super lucky that when I started playing the trumpet for fun I was in primary school in Timaru. And now a couple of years later…. and I am essentially just doing the same thing, but it happens to be for a living . Very special.
Where to from here? where do you see yourself in 5 years from now ?
I am very keen to complete a 100 miler in the next year or so. I’m a big fan of the ultra runner podcast.com and they recently had a great interview with Jade Belzberg on her first 100 miler that was very inspirational and enlightening. This sounds like a great plan I think . And also heading out on more backcountry missions, bagging some huts and just getting out there and enjoying it even more!
2008 Canterbury, Kent ½ Marathon
2009 Fleetwood ½ Marathon
2010 Blackpool Marathon
2011 The Dual, Auckland (42km)
2012 Kepler, Te Anau (60km)
2013 Tarawera, Rotorua (100km)
2014 Northburn, Central Otago (100km) Hutt Valley Ultra (60km)
2015 Crazyman, Xterras. Hutt Valley Ultra (60km)
2016 DC-RR, Wellington Region(73km) Hutt Valley Ultra (60km)