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I’m A Competitor: Rock ‘N’ Roll Drummer John Wicks

The Fitz and the Tantrums drummer gushes about trail running.

John Wicks caught the ultrarunning bug last year and has entered The Rut 50K for the second straight year.

Fitz and the Tantrums drummer John Wicks left the glitz of Los Angeles three years ago for Missoula, Mont., his wife Jenna’s hometown, for life in “our version of heaven” with their twin 5-year-old daughters. Wicks, 43, realized he ran better the longer he went and turned to running trail ultras—last year he ran the inaugural Rut 50K in Big Sky, Mont., in 8:03, describing it as both heaven and hell. We caught up with Wicks between tours to learn more about what drives him.

Have you always been a runner?

No, I wasn’t a runner at all. My wife being pregnant was an impetus for healthy changes. I started running on the beach and liked the solitary part of it—I’m an isolated and secluded guy—but I needed a goal, an end to the rainbow. I ran the Palos Verdes Marathon in 2010 (in 4:20:37). A couple of months after moving to Missoula, a neighbor suggested I try trail running. That was it; I was addicted, obsessed. It became a great excuse to get outside. The miles started to build and my runs got longer and longer. I’ve realized I can handle the pain.

Do you run when you tour?

Running gives me the ability to get away when I’m on the road—it gets me off the bus so I’m not staring at guys staring at their phones. I also use it as a way to remember each individual town and really focus on the feel of a city—otherwise a tour can become a blur. As the drummer, it’s important to be in shape, but I also have to be careful about not going overboard with miles when I’m performing.

RELATED: 12 Reasons To Run The Rut 50K

How do your running and musical goals mesh?

Right now my running goals are eclipsing my drumming goals in a lot of ways. I love doing races and trying to keep up with people better than me—surprising people, especially myself, is good! I have my eye on a 100-miler. I’m also inspired by the guys blurring the lines between running and climbing; combining the two gives me an amazing feeling of flying. I’m taking climbing lessons so I feel more confident.

Do you work with a coach?

No, but I want to. I know so many good runners that sometimes I think things should happen by osmosis! For the winter, I added in some Nordic skiing. When I’m training for a race, I’ll do back-to-back long runs and incorporate hills. Sometimes I just head out in the mountains for a few hours to see where I can go. But I know I’m putting on a lot of junk miles and need to train smarter so I’m not beating myself up.

More About John

Smart Fueling
The No. 6 ultimate cheeseburger meal at Jack in the Box used to be a regular occurrence. Now I’m mostly vegan, but it can be hard on tour. I fueled with dates during my last ultra.

Gear to Go
Kahtoola Microspikes changed my life. They let me run through the Montana winter without slowing down.

Favorite Run
I’m spoiled with the trails living in Missoula. Columbus, Ohio, is my choice for a city trail. I also enjoy Lake Shore Drive in Chicago, and Asheville, N.C., is another favorite.

His Approach
I watch and research and then go tackle things I might not yet be able to do.

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