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David Rosales, 36, a singer-songwriter based in Huntington Beach, California, plays an ode to trail running in his new song “Good to Be Alive” from his latest album Brave Ones, to be released April 27, 2018.
David talked with Trail Runner about his journey as an artist and athlete, and what trail running means to him.
What came first, the trail runner or the musician?
I was running in the hills I grew up in as a kid before I picked up a guitar. But, the spirit for both have been side-by-side the whole time.
I’m an incredibly competitive person, almost to a fault. I’ve played sports my whole life, from football and baseball to surfing and snowboarding. And as I’ve gotten older, the opportunities for healthy competition have become increasingly limited.
This unhealthy competitive spirit began to seep its way into my music. Essentially, my whole approach to my art was askew. Art shouldn’t be competitive, and it was bumming me out. I decided to sign up for a trail race in the Santa Monica Mountains with a couple friends to try to channel that energy elsewhere.
I started training my body and mind. I just fell in love with this new world and community. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve made a ton of mistakes along the way—everything from running without a headlamp at dusk, which led to stepping in a hole and spraining my ankle, to looking down at an app on my phone to start a race and stepping in another hole leading to the same swollen result. Pushing too hard and too fast leading to Achilles overuse, check. Not hydrating enough, check. You name it, I probably did it.
Anyway, I finished that first race. I had a blast competing and channeling that spirit into healthy competition both with myself and others. It’s been fun to see the progress from my first race to where I am now, having recently completed my second ultra distance on Catalina Island (the Avalon Benefit 50K) with a first-place, age-group finish … not bad for a kid with asthma.
How has trail running inspired you?
Trail running has become a huge inspiration for me as a songwriter. So much so that I actually wrote a song about my experience and love for it. It’s one of those songs that came pouring out one night.
Is running a part of your creative process
I would say it is, but not in the way that most would think. When I’m flying down the trail or grinding up a hill, I’m not trying to write the next hit. I don’t even run with earbuds as I get far too distracted. When I’m out there, I get away from everything. I clear my head and listen to my breathing and feel my body. I’m having little conversations with myself and I’m completely in the moment.
It’s this meditation that I go through, so that when my legs stop moving and my heart rate comes back down to resting … this wild spirit is tamed and I can focus.
Are there other ways trail running has affected your life?
I’ve found that trail running is this endless mixed goody bag of invaluable lessons and overarching tools that I can dig into and directly apply to my everyday life. Words like humility, independence, freedom, expression, community, empowerment, perspective, discipline and resolve come to mind.
It’s been a saving grace for me in more than a couple of ways. Other than the obvious energy level boost and beneficial health aspects, trail running has given me patience … having kids did that as well.
The most life-changing impact has been learning to “trust the process.” For example, when I was running 5Ks I never thought I’d be able to run an ultramarathon distance.
This patience that I’ve had to have with my body and the steady build of mental fortitude is like nothing else I’ve ever experienced. There is no cheating the miles or a hill. You get exactly out of it what you put in. I truly feel that anything is possible; you just need to put in the work and be patient with the process.
What is it like to live in Los Angeles as a trail runner?
Between growing up in the foothills of Los Angeles, going to college in San Diego and now raising my family in Surf City USA (Huntington Beach) … I’m about as Southern California as you get. I love it here.
California in general, is as diverse as it comes—both with the people and terrain. You really can’t beat the year-round runnable weather here. There’s enough diversity in the natural terrain to keep most anyone happy.
How do you balance your life as a musician, family man and runner?
It’s tough. It takes the right team around you. Fortunately, my wife and children are super supportive, whether it’s for touring or hitting the trails.
When I was single and without kids, I was overflowing with time. Yet, I wasted a lot of it. Now, with the benefit of perspective and experience, I maximize time like crazy. I try and squeeze every last minute out of every day.
It’s exhausting, especially because of the nature of my industry and playing shows into the night. I don’t get half as much sleep as I should, but there’s something about being up before anyone else, lacing up my shoes and slipping out into the quiet of the morning for a run.
When not taking the trails or the stage, David Rosales loves spending time with his wife and two young children.