March 8, 2020

Inspirational Runners 014 : Richie Hardcore.

Richie Hardcore. Photo by Paul Petch.

I first met Richie on a shoot for Microsoft and GPR ambassador Michelle Dickinson and quite simply, he intrigued me. Richie is from the external a ‘tough looking dude’ covered in tatts and a presence that can be somewhat unnerving. Yet when you take time to ‘scratch’ below the surface, Richie has alot going on in his life- and most of which is an attempt to help others in the best way he knows.

Like all of us he’s not perfect and does not pretend to be, and that’s a large part of his charm. He has many passions and focusses in life that weave a ‘devil and angel’ type of existence with a constant search for balance and meaning. Richie is unique in the sense that he wears all of his short comings and triumphs on his shoulders for all of us to see, connect with and learn from. Or not. It’s upto you.

I see Richie Hardcore as a fighter, an advocator of drug free life,  a slave to the physical, a genuine bloke with a big heart. He’s also a runner. So let’s chat with Richie to find out what he does and how running is part of that.

There’s like a sudden stillness to my busy head and everything is suddenly ‘just’ rather than all the ‘constant regrets and could have beens’ that whirl around all day every day.

Where do you call home and what is your current occupation? I call Grey Lynn home. It’s an inner suburb in Auckland. I’ve lived there for about ten years and plan to stay there until I can’t afford the rising rents anymore. I’m self employed as a Muay Thai and boxing coach and personal trainer. I run classes for beginners, fitness enthusiasts and fighters alike, train some pros when they have fights coming up and also do strength and conditioning work with private clients to help them with their physical, mental and emotional well being.

I also have a contract with a Ministry of Health programme called Community Action Youth and Drugs or CAYAD. I work in a team at Auckland Council and we’re tasked with coming up with preventative approaches to reducing alcohol and drug harm in our communities. Outside of that I do some occasional radio work and a little social commentary on television from time to time.

What is inspiring about your story is that you are passionate about raising real world issues in society that most ignore or are not aware of. Can you tell us more about this? Thanks man, that’s kind of you to say that it’s inspiring. Well, I figure if you have a platform, no matter how small, then you should use it. I see so many people with profiles way bigger than my own just promoting booze and junk food and the same old sexist shit and it’s depressing, but I figure rather than fight the old, be the change you want to see right? I started doing independent radio way back in 2020, and from there increasingly found different media outlets would ask my opinion or views on things from time to time, so I just share what I know when asked.

The last couple of years I’ve been invited to do several spots public speaking at things like The Women’s Collective, or Creative Mornings or speaking in schools, and I’ve really just shared my journey and what lessons I’ve picked up along the way. Basically I just say yes to invitations I find interesting and go from there. The advent of social media has allowed us all to share our ideas, and for every selfie I chuck up, I also try and use it as a space to create meaningful dialogue as well.

I’m pretty conscious of my body and I feel better about myself when I’m leaner and running is a great way to incinerate calories.

I grew up listening to really politicised, activist orientated music in Hardcore, punk rock, and hip-hop, so from a young age I guess I’ve always thought music and media should be about more than entertainment. Society sucks, why would you want to go along with what is taken as normal , you know? So when I’ve found myself in positions to talk to an audience, big or small, then I’ve always felt almost obliged to use the opportunity to talk about something real. It’s not always popular to go against what’s mainstream, but I think so much of what’s out there these days is vacuous or pushing negative messages and indoctrinating people with shitty and unhealthy behaviours, so if you can push back against that, then you should.

Richie talking with the Womens Collective. Photo by Paul Petch.

You have been involved and are currently associated with many great causes, being a positive advocate for a better world. Can you share some of these projects/ associations? I’m a board member at Rape Prevention Education, we are an organisation that runs education programmes about sex, consent, sexual violence and healthy sexual relationships. I’m a White Ribbon ambassador, and I’ve just been asked to be on the board their as well. White Ribbon is an international organisation tasked with stopping violence against women in our society, based around the pledge “I promise never to commit, condone or remain silent about violence towards women.’ Given men perpetrate the bulk of violence against women and children it’s about men leading by example and talking to other men.

Uh, I was the face of a national campaign last year called ‘Are You That Someone’ which is about stopping sexual violence and encouraging bystander intervention. I was part of the really amazing ‘My Body My Terms’ campaign that Jo Raj and Lizzie Marvelly created, again, looking to create a consent culture and stop slut shaming, and victim blaming when it comes to sexual violence.

I do some advocacy around homelessness, I’ve done some stuff with Lifewise, they are a great organisation. And I occasionally have been involved with Safe Animals From Exploitation, SAFE. I’ve been a strict vegetarian for 17 years and promoting animal rights is really important to me. And yeah, ,my day job CAYAD, bought me into working the field of drug and alcohol harm reduction. My whole life I’ve been hurt emotionally by other people close to me using drugs, so I really want to be part of a change that reduces the harm alcohol and drugs cause in the world so future generations have it better.

How long have you been a runner? I started running infrequently when was maybe 15 or 16, but seriously from 18 onwards. I’m old now, that’s 18 years of reasonably serious running. It was an essential part of my routine as a competitive fighter. I competed in Muay Thai for a long time and had a couple of pro boxing fights as well and running was a great part of my success in those sports.

Auckland running is pretty awesome. Photo by Paul Petch.

Auckland running is pretty awesome. Photo by Paul Petch.

What’s your main motivation for running? What are you seeking? Fitness, adrenaline, freedom, mindfulness? Well when I was competing it was about performing to the best of my ability in the ring. No matter how good you are, if you don’t have the fitness you’re going to limit yourself. That’s true of all sports. As I got older and my focus in life started broadening, I’ve come to learn that health is more than just physical, so running has actually becoming an essential part of helping me with my mental and emotional health. I’m a pretty sensitive person, I hurt emotionally easily and often, and I guess I have some mild anxiety issue going on the more I think about it and learn about myself, so running helps me keep a handle on all of that. I also believe our physical health is intrinsically linked to what’s going on in our heads and in our hearts (you know, figuratively), so being as fit as I can be most of the time is really important to me. And to be honest, I’m pretty conscious of my body and I feel better about myself when I’m leaner and running is a great way to incinerate calories.

Could you give us a small insight into your usual running or training routine? Are you a structured programme type of person, or do you run more by feel, as and when the desire takes you? I used to be really structured when I was fighting, with four scheduled running sessions, two days strength and condition sessions and five or six boxing and Muay thai sessions, plus yoga all crammed into a week but now I’m a lot more chill. I try and run two or three times a week, do strength or hypertrophy a couple of times a week plus some of my own bag work or sparring, when my old injuries allow ha-ha. I try and do yoga once in a while too, though I should do it more as it makes me feel great. I’ll do some high intensity stuff when I feel like it too with guys at Ludus Magnus or Cross Fit HPU, all the crew at those places are beasts!

Where are your favourite places to run and why? You know, I really enjoy running in foreign cities, that’s the coolest. You see so much more than public transport. I did my first half marathon in Melbourne when I was living there. But if I’m home, I have some nice loops around inner city Auckland, I like running along Westhaven Marina, through Ponsonby and Grey Lynn. I kinda exercise my demons or augment my upbeat mood depending on how the day takes me, bumping some jams and badly singing aloud running around there pretty regularly.

Are you an event kind of guy? If so what’s your favourite distance and are there events that stand out? I’ve done a few half marathons, I really enjoy those. The Duel over on Rangitoto was memorable as a beautiful run. I’m not especially fast so I don’t aim to win but I like to try and hold myself to respectable times and max out by the end. I guess from fighting I learnt to work to my threshold and I still carry that on in my running for fun. I actually just got asked to do the Auckland Half today for charity, for HELP, their fundraising and comms manager got in touch, they support survivors of sexual violence so I’m running it in drag ha-ha. It’ll be fun, I think, I better get fit.

Do you experience the often talked about Runner’s High? if so, can you describe it? What circumstances are you most likely to achieve this? Oh totally. Love those endorphins man. Um, I dunno man,when the music is perfect, and my stride is super steady and I feel strong and I’m smashing something out, it feels pretty incredible when I’m done. There’s like a sudden stillness to my busy head and everything is suddenly ‘just’ rather than all the ‘constant regrets and could have beens’ that whirl around all day every day. I’m suddenly mindful for a moment and it feels, I dunno, peaceful. A gentle elation kinda washes over me and I just can’t help but smile.

What facet of running do you enjoy most? Be that races of any distance, training, engagement with community, solo runs. What stands out as the best experiences for you and why? I enjoy running with friends, I’ve some amazing runners in my life who really push me and encourage me as a runner. Shout out my girl Anna Bramley, you’re amazing and Lydia O’Donnell, you guys are my idols. But that said I use running as me time, and I think running alone is my favourite, with an awesome playlist. I get pretty emotionally warn out sometimes and running kind of re-energizes me and then I can face life again after I’ve logged my km’s and not had to talk to anyone.

Richie amongst it at the gym with GPR ambassador Dr. Michelle Dickinson. Image by Paul Petch for Microsoft campaign.

How is running important to you and your life and it’s direction? It’s vital. I had this surgery last year where I had some pins put in my ankle and foot and a torn tendon repaired tendon and I totally fell into an emotional slump. Running is like, I dunno, a true north. Training in general is essential for me, but running has a special place.

Music or no music when running? If so what do you enjoy listening to? Music for sure! What I listen to is mood dependent. If I’m happy, I like a lot of trap music and hip-hop, if I’m ruminating about heartbreak or the wrongs of the world then definitely metalcore or hardcore. Last little while for the heavy stuff I love Bring Me The Horizon, Architects, Amity Affliction, Stick To Your Guns, Of Mice and Men, Trapped Under Ice, Bear Tooth, Northlane, a whole bunch of bands you never heard of ha-ha. And for trap and electronic stuff on the good days, I really like this cat Lunice, Yellow Claw, Skepta, RL Grime, shit like that.

What advice can you give to people who want to follow their dreams and to do what they love? Um, well, believing in yourself is a good start. That’s advice I need to follow myself. I don’t take some risks or start new ventures because I’m a little crippled by self doubt at times. Or I over think all the risks and it stops me from even trying. So yeah believe in yourself, say yes to opportunities even when they scare you, and understand that happiness isn’t in money and stuff but in what you achieve and how you affect people around you.

…believe in yourself, say yes to opportunities even when they scare you, and understand that happiness isn’t in money and stuff…

Do you have a certain philosophy regarding running and the concept of community engagement and advocacy? Can running benefit the wider community in more ways than increased fitness? What if everyone ran? I think we could reword this to ask what if everyone moved with meaning, with intention. Running is amazing, it works me, for you, for people like us, but it’s not for everyone. But if we got everyone moving doing something, then yes, regular meaningful movement would help the wider community without a doubt. I’m in LA right now and I see people so obese they are in mobility scooters. At home, doing the drug and alcohol work, I’m working in the broader field of public health and often I go to meetings and at least two thirds of the people in any given space are overweight, obese and with an unhealthy pallor. Imagine if offices had walking meetings and policies about the food allowed at farewell morning teas? The leading killer in NZ is obesity related illness, and that’s so preventable with good public policy coupled with some cultural change initiatives. And you know what, it’s not cause all those people are gluttonous or lazy it’s because shitty food is a coping mechanism for our crappy society. And it’s marketed heavily, and it’s cheap.

The leading killer in NZ is obesity related illness, and that’s so preventable with good public policy coupled with some cultural change initiatives.

Imagine if we made meaningful movement mainstream. Sure there is a new push towards clean eating and working out, it’s hot on Instagram and in affluent circles, I’m fully into it, but that’s often preaching to the converted. How do we get everyone moving, all the time. A municipal leader of some place in Mexico City I visited once, I forgot where exactly, he would run with his team in the city to see what the actual problems where. That’s amazing. He’s actually connecting with real people and also leading by example about having a healthy lifestyle. So many of my peers have anxiety, and stress and I see and hell, I feel this deep spiritual malaise. I see people trying to cover it up with drugs and alcohol and food and shopping and tinder and sex but I truly believe regular meaningful movement would help deal with a lot of those dark, hurt and lost feelings we all struggle with.

Richie Hardcore. Image by Paul Petch.

Where to from here? where do you see yourself in 5 years from now ? Ha, the big question. I’m not sure man. I want to help people and make a positive impact on our society and make a good living at the same time, but I’m kind of stuck about what exactly I’m going to do to do that. I’ve been talking about opening up my own gym or space to run programs and train fighters, and help folks with their issues out of for years now, but some self doubt and lack of organisation (and money!) has been holding me back but it’s still something I think about a lot.

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Creating a cool space people can come have fun, get healthier, stronger physically and emotionally and deal with their issues whatever they may be, that’s not corny. I also like the idea of being in politics to push for big changes, but when I got asked to run in next years election I mused about it and decided I wasn’t ready yet. So who knows, I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing and have some faith the universe will show me the right path. I suppose I’ve been having a kind of existential crisis the last few years and dealing with some big change in my life, so what I do know is that I’d like to be more content, I want my head to be less busy, to be be in a healthy relationship with myself and someone else, and to have some more passport stamps.

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Imagine if we made meaningful movement mainstream.

Your top three tips to achieving happiness or balance in life? 1. Learn to understand yourself and what your drivers of behaviour are. If you don’t know why you do what you do and think what you think, you’ll never be able to change them. Knowledge of self is key. 2. Move meaningfully regularly! Exercise often, eat well and sleep lots. 3. Find a coping mechanism that builds you not breaks you. Life is always going to be difficult so finding a way to deal with it that’s not escapist and harmful to yourself and others is so vital to live a rich and full life. I see so many people limiting their potential through what they do to deal with life, and it’s sad to see.

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