Runner, not only
In conversation with Caleb Gauge
Give us a short bio
I’m originally from Atlanta, Georgia the “Dirty South Capital”. This is where I started working in music - mostly in hip-hop since that’s pretty much the whole scene there. When you get drawn into the music community there’s such a strong connection between people so I’ve always just felt this need to contribute which is why I started throwing underground shows, first with Overthrow in Miami and then Lil Death in L.A. (which is where I live now and own my creative agency, Aethyr.) These shows were so cool because they were part of something bigger - with Overthrow we were part of the movement that brought the new wave of dubstep to the US, flying artists over from London. It’s so exciting to be part of a movement, whether you’re there from the very beginning or just tapping into it, I love that feeling. As I got older I was growing disenchanted. Not like jaded with the direction of music, just wanted more purpose. Underground music is built on parties, festivals, shows, parties, festivals, shows, rinse and repeat. It’s a vapid destructive cycle. We externalize and blame things like “the scene” when the real problem is within. And then boom I got leukemia. It was a total perspective change. Two years ago it was egos and addictions, and now when I’m running with my friends I’m seeing the best versions of them - we get inspired from each other. I’ve always been the type of person who wants to share my passions. I mean my dad was a preacher, so I’m kind of a preacher in my own way. Im always telling my friends - “Yo just come run 2-3 miles with me. I know in those few miles I can download some inspiration in that person and also get something out of them too.”
Why do you run?
I’ve been a runner for as long as I can remember, but honestly took it for granted. During chemo I couldn’t even walk and missed running so much. Once I was able to walk on my own again, I hobbled around the hospital halls all day fantasizing about one day running races to fight cancer. The nurses even nicknamed me “Track Star” haha. Don’t tell my doctors, but I started running as soon as they released me from the hospital. Six months after my transplant I ran a half marathon in San Francisco. It was surreal. These days I run because I can. It’s a gift that I cherish. I know my athletic abilities are finite and just want to take full advantage while I have the chance. I also LOVE the community aspect. Running surrounds you with the best versions of people. I found out my transplant doctor is also big time runner and fast as hell. What a trip going on long runs and races with the dude who saved my life!
What happens when you don’t do it?
I probably have some sort of post-cancer trauma, and it’s obvious running is my serum. I’ve adopted a “shark” mentality. I need to stay in motion and dread the feeling of physically not being able to run. Even on my recovery days, I’m hiking or cross training just to stay sane.
Describe the sensation of the long run - any mental, physical, spiritual changes?
They don’t call it LSD for nothing. Let’s be real. 20 miles is crazy. To get in that mind state, I try to make every long run a heady, ritualistic experience. The mental process usually starts a day or two before when I’m planning my course. I start just before sunrise. The first 8 or so miles are transformative: stiff, excited, too focused on mechanics, trying to sync my breath to my cadence… then the flow. Peak run is meditative and a lot of times emotional. If I’m lucky, I’ll catch that perfect cocktail of scenery, music, and adrenaline, that sends chills through my body. It can bring me to tears sometimes.
You just ran the L.A. Marathon - what was that like?
We’re spoiled in L.A. - it’s a runner’s playground: sunny and 70 degrees Fahrenheit almost year-round; beaches, mountains, urban terrain, desert, all within an hour drive. I just wish L.A. folks were more sociable on the trails.
Marathon training was going great until I came down with a cold in February for the first time since the transplant - couldn’t run for 3 weeks. Scary stuff. I went to the doctor feeling like I had aches in my bones just praying my body wouldn’t reject my new immune system. After I got sick my perspective changed from wanting to run a certain time to just finishing with a smile on my face. I was feeling good until right around Mile 22. You enter no-mans land, uncharted territory… so like beforehand you’re telling yourself “save your energy” “don’t bonk” but then all of a sudden every mile is taking forever. Finally I come up on Mile 23 - there’s a cheer zone put on by Koreatown Run Club - and all of a sudden I see this tall gentleman standing on the sideline and we kind of see each other and lock eyes (its Knox Robinson) and even though we’ve never met in real life we recognize each other so I run up and dab him twice real hard. It was awesome. That moment powered me up and I was running like a gazelle the last 3 miles.
We often talk about 'The High' as this altered state of being which exists only when you're totally immersed in something - whether it be making music, art or running. can you tell us about your experience with the high?
I think I’ve been chasing The High my whole life. When I was younger I was perpetually inspired by music, art, fashion, and sports. I realized my High was sharing my passions with others. That’s how I got into producing music and art events. That inspiration started fading a few years ago. I grew disenchanted and knew I needed a bigger purpose. After surviving cancer it just clicked. I’ve accepted mortality. Now just being alive and healthy is euphoric. I want to bottle that up and share it with people.
I am not 100% completely focused on the physical act of running - for me it’s part of a lifestyle around art, altruism and athleticism. The artist community is full of so many talented people but they’re surrounded by negativity and anxiety and it’s like they need this trojan horse to get them out of that - running can be that! For example, I have this music friend in Miami and we walk out of a local running store and he goes “I just wish running was cooler” and I’m like “I hear you but just watch me.” I love running - it IS cool, but I kinda feel like the running culture from an aesthetic perspective is stuck in the corporate marketing wheel. There aren’t a lot of brands doing something grassroots or authentic like there is in music… I’d love for there to be a real scene in running connected to art the way skateboarding has always been connected with the photography.
How do you think the running scene can evolve?
It’s tougher these days - the discovery process used to be genuine for everyone and now you kind of have to mind-fuck people into thinking they discovered something and this is a real problem for young kids today - they feel like they aren’t part of anything. When we were younger it didn’t matter if we didn’t “start” a movement as long as we were under the impression that we did, we still got to feel that ownership and be part of a community. Now it’s like you go on Instagram and feel like “it’s already been done. It’s over. I missed it.” When of course in reality that’s the way it’s always been - scenes constantly changing and evolving, but now we’re just hyperaware of our place in that lifecycle. People shouldn’t be so worried about being the ones to “start” something because I think joining an existing movement and changing it can be just as powerful.
In art the word juxtaposition is used really often, especially in music. With the Lil Death shows we were throwing in L.A. we wanted to make a junction between all the industrial shit we listen to in the 90’s with where we felt like it was going. And this formula worked. I feel like this is what you guys are doing too with Satisfy - I think this is where movements progress. You can’t be purist and be too afraid of juxtaposition, or you’ll never progress or evolve. I think generally in our culture this is something that has to happen a lot more. This is what I love. This is what I want to do more of.