I’m A Competitor: Ben Gibbard

Singer, songwriter and guitarist Ben Gibbard runs about 50 miles per week, despite the challenges of being on the road. Photo: Jeff Clark

The rockstar likes to roll for miles on end, preferably off-road. 

For Ben Gibbard, singer, songwriter and guitarist for Death Cab for Cutie and The Postal Service, running and rock and roll are a harmonious blend. He started running in 2007 after he quit drinking. In 2011, he finished his first marathon in 3:56 and last year completed his first 50K. Trail running is vastly different from your “day job”—how do the two mesh? No matter what kind of ego boost I get from a cheering crowd, it won’t get me up the mountain the next day. It’s easy to understand how musicians become narcissists, but just because I play music doesn’t mean I’m a better person. Trail running bruises my ego, and I need that balance.

How do you train?

My goal is to run about 50 miles a week. I do three 8- to 10-mile runs and then a longer one, usually three to four hours. Last year my buddy Nick Triolo came on tour as our wilderness/trail coordinator. He cased out trails and put together a training plan. When we tour, I definitely look for trail races to do.

What is it you like about running ultra distances?

They make you acutely aware of your smallness. Everyone gets in over their head at some point and is beat back by the trail. You have to process your own pain and figure out why you are out there. You can’t fake your way through an ultra.

Are you running or racing at most events?

I’m not yet at the point in my training where I have enough to really race at longer events. I have nothing left in the tank to gas it up at the end. Trail half marathons are good confidence builders for me. I’m always ready for them and feel like I can turn it on and race. When I’m in a race, I don’t want to see anyone I pass again until the end.

How did you befriend trail running elites Scott Jurek and Krissy Moehl?

Scott is a solid dude. We’ve been running a few times. To see an athlete of that caliber unleash and take off up a hill is impressive and inspiring. But he’ll ask some creative questions while we’re running, and I have to wait and catch my breath on the downhills before I can respond. I met Krissy Moehl for the first time after Squamish 50 in 2013. I had just finished the 50K and she had just won the 50-miler. She looked all fresh and happy. I felt awful, was dehydrated and am proud I didn’t throw up when we were talking.

Post-Race Splurge: I would eat a veggie burrito from Taqueria Cancun [in San Francisco] with a giant bag of tortilla chips and a gallon of their signature green sauce after every race if I could.

Gear To Go: I love my Ultimate Direction SJ Ultra Vest. It’s like the Trapper Keeper of my childhood but for ultras.

Sound Byte: One of the many things I love about trail running is that I have yet to meet an a**hole.

Twittersphere: Get a glimpse of Ben’s running adventures on Twitter, @Gibbstack, where he often posts to #trailfail and #runnernerd.

This piece first appeared in the February 2014 issue of Competitor magazine.


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