Pascal Adler’s life was on a trajectory that could easily have ended badly. Thankfully, a series of chance encounters created a relationship with running and changed his life in ways that, as a wayward teen, he could never have predicted.
Running has deeply embedded rhythms. The repetition of feet hitting the ground – left, right, left, right. The syncopation of the daily, weekly and monthly schedule. The regularity of the seasons as hard miles in winter turn to the optimism of spring, then the joy of summer is followed by mellow autumn… before the whole cycle begins all over again.
Perhaps those rhythms are all the more obvious to Pascal Adler because as a drummer in a hardcore band, rhythm is his daily practice and his passion. Plus, Pascal is a runner – although that was not always the case.
“I didn’t start out with any interest in running,” says Pascal.“ I was pretty lazy as a child and the only physical activities I was into were BMXing and skateboarding.” What really caught Pascal’s attention, though, was drumming. By the time he was 12, Pascal was already setting his sights on being in a band and before long he was beating out the rhythm in a heavy metal group. And Pascal was not just playing in the band – he adopted the whole lifestyle.
“I really got into the metal scene,” Pascal explains. “Like, I was drinking, smoking and drumming hard from the age of 12. I had long hair and only wore black clothes. The whole deal. ”As Pascal’s focus on drumming sharpened, everything else fell away. “I started drumming for a touring band,” says Pascal,“ and everything else gave way to that. I even stopped regularly skateboarding.”
He may be a runner now but, looking at Pascal, it is not hard to recognise the youngster he was. He’s still dressed almost completely in black running gear – including a pair of Zen Running Club ZR01 shoes (which Pascal says aren’t actually black, but close enough) – and his bare arms are covered in tattoos. His hair may be cropped short now, but there’s an edginess to the cut.
But look a little deeper and you’ll find a man who took a completely different path to the route down which his teenage years pointed. And it all started one Sunday afternoon.
By the time he was midway through teenagerhood, Pascal was on the road with a band. During this period he had a chance encounter with a different culture that would redirect his life – which would ultimately help him find running.
“We had a new bass player in the band I was touring with, and one day he told me that he was going to a Sunday afternoon hardcore gig. I’d never heard of anything like that. I mean, the gigs we played and went to were late at night. That was the metal way of doing things.”
Still, Pascal went along, and found the hardcore scene for the first time.
For those who don’t know, hardcore and metal music are related but crucially different. The way Pascal describes it, hardcore developed from heavy metal music via punk. Initially punk was a reaction to metal: faster, harder and more raw. From punk a new genre emerged – hardcore punk. And in time the “punk” element was dropped, leaving hardcore as its own distinct style: pulsing, driving rhythms with distorted guitar sounds. Powerful vocals.
The hardcore Sunday afternoon gig itself was not what changed Pascal’s direction. What happened afterwards was crucial. A group left the gig and went skating, and Pascal joined them.
“When we started skating I offered round my cigarettes, and everyone refused. Then I asked who wanted a beer. Again, everyone turned me down. I thought that was very weird.”
During the gig, the energy had been as high as any Pascal had encountered watching bands. It’s just that no one was smoking, drinking or taking drugs. To make matters even stranger, it turned out that the people Pascal was skating with were all vegans. Pascal had stumbled into the straight edge hardcore community. And life would never be the same again.
“I was 17 when I found the straight edge scene,” says Pascal. “It was 1996 and so I consider myself to be a bit of an old-school, straight edge vegan.” A couple of months after that Sunday gig, Pascal decided to try out the new lifestyle he’d discovered. And he found a way of life that really worked for him. It stuck and Pascal never looked back.
Years passed. Pascal fully embraced his straight edge lifestyle. He played in hardcore bands. And worked for a film and television production company.
But life was not easy. The day job was demanding, with long hours and a lot of stress. And drumming was not the release it might have once been. Despite the fact that the band was a hobby rather than a job, Pascal and his bandmates took it seriously. “And as the drummer, you have to always be there,” explains Pascal.
“It really isn’t possible to practice without a drummer. So I felt the pressure of never letting the band down.”
Eventually, after 12 years, the band split. Pascal needed an outlet for his energy. “It wasn’t easy to drum,” he says. “I would have to drive to the rehearsal studio to get on a drum kit. But running? Well, that was something I could do right out of the front door.”
Pascal had trainers (although he admits they were more like sneakers than proper running shoes) and basketball shorts and a drawer full of band T-shirts. So he started running. The first few runs were hard. But Pascal persisted. Quickly, running became a core part of his life and he was heading out the door every other day.
While Pascal’s straight edge lifestyle meant he was in better physical shape than many of his contemporaries, there were certain aspects that added a little complexity. Not least the fact that Pascal is vegan.
“I was used to looking for vegan shoes for everyday wear or for skating,” says Pascal, “and it was not hard to find running shoes that were vegan. The problem was they were made entirely of plastic. So whilst they theoretically OK, I knew they were not great for the planet.”
That conflict persisted until Pascal discovered Zen Running Club. “I first came across Zen Running Club on social media. There was so much about the brand that I connected with. For example, my fiancée teaches mindfulness and is very zen in everything we do. And I’m a runner. So we already felt like our own zen running club. And of course I loved the fact that the shoes are made from plants – so they’re not only vegan but also getting very close to being completely biodegradable.”
After getting his hands on his first pair of ZR01s, Pascal was converted. “I’m not really a competitive runner,” he says. “I run for the love of it. But at the same time, I’m quite a committed runner, so I don’t want to compromise on what I have on my feet.” In fact, Pascal reports that in the past few months he’s started building track workouts into his training and has seen his times for races – for example, the recent Berlin half-marathon – drop quite significantly.
Pascal is clear that his journey with running was sparked by some chance encounters… which seem to be thanks, in part, to the ethos of openness in the hardcore scene. Finding Zen Running Club came from Pascal’s curiosity and willingness to try something new. And the brand brought together a number of threads woven into Pascal’s life: his concern for the environment, his adherence to a vegan lifestyle, his passion for running. And, thankfully, the fact that the Zen Running Club range includes an – almost – black style.
Find out more about Zen Running Club at zenrunningclub.com