Interview: Danny Howard

The Radio 1 DJ on motivational beats, marathon plans and racing on two hours' kip



When did you start running and why?

Probably in primary school, because I was forced to on sports day! But I’ve got a natural interest in sport anyway because I did a sports science degree when I went to university. Sport has always been a passion of mine. I was big on football and played a lot of it, and often in training running was part of fitness-building. Running is something I’ve done more as a leisure activity than getting into it more seriously and doing something like a marathon, although I’d like to do one one-day.

What is the main reason you have continued to run?

Because I want to keep fit. Although with my job and being away from home a lot it’s hard to keep on top of it. But I’ll always do it when I’m at home. If I’ve been away for a long period of time, one of the first things I want to do when I get home is keep on top of my fitness, and running is the best way to do that.

You did a degree in exercise and sports science, what did that involve?

When I was at college I didn’t really know what I wanted to do so the only thing I could think that I would enjoy doing would be sport. So the logical thing was to do a sports science degree at university. My initial long-term goal was to work with athletes in the 2012 Olympics. But then that got sidetracked with my DJing. It involved all aspects of sport and the progression of an athlete: psychology, biomechanics and the physiological side of it.

Did what you learned on the degree make keeping fit easier?

Yes, because you understood the benefits you would get out of it more. In anything you do in life, if you understand it and the mechanics of it, naturally you’re going to want to do it. So it definitely helped.

You said you have done a 10K. Where was that?

It was in Blackpool, my hometown. It’s called the Fun Run as a way of getting all ability levels involved, but it’s taken seriously by a lot of runners in the town. I entered it with my friends, and I started training maybe a month or so before it. Because I was disorganised I ended up getting my dates mixed up and I actually had a gig the night before, in Northampton, which is quite far from Blackpool! So I ended up having two hours’ sleep and then doing the 10K run, which is not the best preparation! But I still got a respectable time [52 minutes], and I’m happy with that. There were still people finishing once I’d got my breath back and my medal, anyway.

Where’s your favourite running route?

I live in Manchester now and it’s not the most scenic of places, so probably along the seafront back in Blackpool because it’s nice and refreshing, and really good to reduce stress levels. Running by the sea is a privilege that not everyone in the country has, so I do appreciate having it on my doorstep.

Do you still find time to run when you’re travelling while DJing?

No, because you’re in and out of a place within 24 hours, so you don’t really get a chance. So all of my running is done when I’m at home between trips.

Do you listen to music while you run?

Always. I can’t exercise without listening to music. A lot of my friends at university did research into whether music enhances performance, and I don’t care what the results were on that because in my case it does. If you’ve got a good mix on, or a song that you like, it helps you run or push yourself that little bit further.

What would be your favourite type of music to listen to on the run?

Obviously dance music. Not just because I’m biased towards that genre because it’s what I play but because it’s fast-paced, it’s high-energy, and listening to that as opposed to something acoustic or chilled out gives that motivation to push harder. Or something else with a bit of fire in it like rock or heavy metal is also good if that’s your thing.

What elements make up a classic running tune?

A fast pace, something that you enjoy and know, but the key word is energy – if there’s energy in the music that will come through into your running.

What would your running power tune be?

Something like Sandstorm by Darude. Or my own track Apex. Obviously I’m biased but it is very upbeat and fast – put that on repeat and you’ll run forever!

Do you think that being fit helps you when you’re a DJ?

Well, DJs haven’t traditionally been known for being buff, in the past they were sometimes a bit scruffy and pot-bellied! But nowadays it is important. DJs have somehow become like rock stars in a way in that it’s not just people going for the music, looking good also helps you have more presence while your DJ-ing. Quite often you’re not just stuck in a booth, you’re on a stage and the set is more like a production, so you have to try and match that and make sure the show looks good.

Have you ever found inspiration for a tune or mix, or solved a mental problem while out on the run?

The two scenarios where I get most of my ideas, and work out problems, are when I’m driving or running.

What would be your favourite post-run treat?

A Nando’s – butterfly chicken breast with corn and salad. That’s my ultimate Nando’s experience. I think that’s my sports science background coming in because I go for fairly healthy stuff after exercise.

What’s your typical run schedule like these days?

I try and go to the gym three or four times a week while I’m at home, and I’ve got this new thing where I run to and from the gym. It’s a good 20 minutes from my house to the gym, so I do a good 40 minutes of running three or four times a week. And then do weights at the gym on top.

Do you generally run alone or with anyone else?

I always run alone. I’ve made the mistake of going for a run with my girlfriend once, and it is just unworkable because either because she’s too slow, or she wants to stop to take a breather! Plus I like to listen to music and she likes to talk.

Have you got any more races planned in future?

My job makes it pretty difficult at the moment, but definitely in the future I want to tackle a marathon. But I want to prepare for it properly; I don’t just want to dress up in fancy dress and cruise it. I want to make sure I do it to the best of my ability. Whether that’s in a year or 10 years, it’s a definite life goal of mine.


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