Running While On the Road
Whitehorse’s Luke Doucet might be Canada’s fastest rock star
While the vast majority of marathoners spend the day before their big race relaxing and nervously awaiting what’s to come the following morning, Luke Doucet often finds himself on his feet.
Doucet and his wife Melissa McClelland are on stage many Saturday nights of the year performing as the rock outfit Whitehorse. This December, Doucet decided to fit a marathon into a short tour of the American Pacific Northwest. “I decided to run the California International Marathon in Sacramento,” says the 43-year-old who, when not in a tour van, calls Toronto home. The night before the race, Doucet and McClelland were onstage in San Francisco playing a headlining gig. After the encore, they got in the tour van with their entourage, including their two-year-old son Jimi, and drove two hours north so he could tuck in a 42.2k race at 7 a.m. the following morning. After the race, they hit the road for a gig in Portland, Ore. that evening.
“Rock and roll has its lifestyle pitfalls,” Doucet wryly. “Everyone is celebrating around you while you work, and in my mid-30s I decided that I’d kind of like to do this forever.” So he started to curb the cavalier approach to eating, sleeping and partying embraced by many musicians on tour. But it wasn’t until McCelland made a crack at his slowing metabolism that Doucet decided to make a big change.
“Melissa made one joke at the expense of my waistline and I just said, “OK, got it.”
He started running five, then six days a week. After he realized he’d been running everyday he tried running a half-marathon distance. He was hooked, and now has run several marathons, including an impressive 2:46 personal best.
With the exception of a few months trying to sell office furniture in Vancouver, Doucet has been a professional musician since he was a teenager. His constant touring and recording schedule was initially a challenge to his running, but he started to embrace the chance to run in all sorts of strange places. “I kept a log for a while, and I had 130 cities that I’ve run in,” Doucet says. “There’s no better way to get to know a city than to go out and kill 15k in it.”
Doucet says he has a soft spot for running in the Canadian Prairies, particularly Winnipeg, where he grew up after spending his early years in Halifax. “There’s nothing better than going for a run out my mom’s front door,” he says of his go-to route when he passes through on the summer festival circuit.
Just as Doucet’s fall 2016 wrapped up, Whitehorse finished recording a new album of original material that was recorded in Toronto and Brooklyn. “A significant portion of my writing output in the last six years has been a product of, and deeply inf luenced by, my runs,” he says, noting that running is essentially a drone. “Your brain starts to do stuff to entertain itself. I’m not even necessarily aware of it; but after a week or two it drives me crazy and I’ll sit down with a guitar.” That’s when Doucet latches onto a lyric and the music at the same time.
The new record promises to be somewhat of a musical departure for the band, who’ve been labelled as “Americana,” even though they have always explored everything from blues to tracks driven by a drum machine. The upcoming album will have “Portishead, British trip hop and Beck elements,” Doucet says, perhaps again allowing the cerebral nature of the run creep into their song craft.
Doucet thinks he’ll probably skip a spring marathon, as it’s always tough to figure out the logistics of tucking in a marathon as he did while on the road in December. “That’s partly why I chose last fall to get into training hard,” he laughs, knowing that the first half of 2017 will be focused on supporting the album, and getting back to some of his favourite running spots while on the road.—
"THERE'S NO BETTER WAY TO GET TO KNOW A CITY THAN TO GO OUT AND KILL 15K IN IT."