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The Poet Laureate Of Running: Rickey Gates On Endurance & Empathy

By January 27, 2020January 23rd, 2024No Comments
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Episode #495



There are athletes. There are artists. Rare is the individual that inhabits the best of both worlds.

Meet Rickey Gates.

Both idiosyncratic and extraordinary, you may know Rickey as a distinguished ultra-runner. But peer just beneath the surface of his many athletic accomplishments and you will discover a thoughtful, deeply empathetic and uniquely expressive human.

After nearly a decade competing on the national and international mountain, trail and ultra running circuits, Rickey took his love for endurance, storytelling, photography and design — and fused them together to create an ongoing series of project-based, performance art adventures that go well beyond the bib.

Deemed “the rambling poet of the running world” by Outside magazine, Rickey is a true conceptual artist — leveraging numerous mediums to communicate a personal and humanist perspective on the inner workings of society, self, nature and human potential.

Notable ventures include his solo, unsupported run across America. The upcoming, exquisite and arresting feature film Transamericana that chronicles it. And his debut book Cross Country that travels inside Rickey’s 3,700 mile journey through over 200 photographs, stories of individuals and ultimately the innermost depths of his own mind. Hitting shelves April 14, 2020, the book is available for pre-order here.

There's a benefit to stepping outside of our comfort-zones and looking people in the eye. It work in both directions, makes us feel more human, and taps into a greater empathy.

Rickey Gates

In addition, and the project he is perhaps best known for, in 2018 Rickey ran every single street in the city of San Francisco. A feat as logistically challenging as it was athletic, the 1,300 mile undertaking involved running 30 miles every day for 46 days, along the way logging 150,000 feet of elevation gain and meeting countless fascinating people along the way. A master stroke of creative movement, it’s a statement that grabbed headlines around the world. Underscored the importance of human connection. Symbolized the value of community. Celebrated human potential. And in turn, inspired countless people to mimic in their own respective cities.

I implore all of you to check out Every Single Street, a beautiful short film produced by Salomon that perfectly captures the spirit of this endeavor.

In between his feats of artistic and endurance grandeur, Rickey hosts adventure running retreats called Bus Run Bus and Hut Run Hut, with a trail run adventure retreat in Japan scheduled for September 2020.

Fun over fast. That’s generally what I tell people.

– Rickey Gates

What strikes me most is Rickey’s profound empathy for people. His curiosity about the world. His poetic lens on the human condition. And his multi-disciplinarian vision for a better more unified world.

Running’s Jack Kerouac, it’s not often you encounter a human as present, thoughtful, and creative as Rickey. A man who reminds me that we can all connect more profoundly with our natural environments and communities. Express ourselves more authentically. And love more deeply.

Today, Rickey shares his story. And it is an absolute gift.

I encourage you to watch it all go down on YouTube, as we weave in footage from Rickey’s cross-country run and the upcoming film Transamericana. And as always, the audio version streams wild and free on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

My hope is that this conversation will leave you deeply touched — and better than before.

Peace + Plants,

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Thanks to Jason Camiolo for production, audio engineering and show notes; Margo Lubin and Blake Curtis for video, editing and graphics; portraits by Ali Rogers; and theme music by Hari Mathis, Tyler Piatt & Trapper Piatt.

*Disclosure: Books and products denoted with an asterisk are hyperlinked to an affiliate program. We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.