Nikolaj Manuel Vonsild from When Saints Go Machine featured on DOXA RUN Journal

We just launched a limited collaboration with Danish musician When Saints Go Machine. How can the life of a musician, spending his days in the depths of the studio or performing at festivals, align with long runs. We met up with leadsinger Nikolaj Manuel Vonsild to learn more about his relation to running.


- Nikolaj Manuel Vonsild
- Musician, When Saints Go Machine
- Copenhagen, Denmark
- IG handle @whensaintsgomachine
- Photo credit Simon Birk


When did you start running for the first time and how was your experience?

"One of my friends Kim signed me up for a 23K trail race about five years ago and it killed me. I really wanted to burn the forest down, level it out and put in a nice freeway or something instead, I think I kind of stopped running just to run after that, unless it was for boxing training. Second time I really started running was two years ago, but I feel like I have only been a "runner" for a year maybe."

How does running affect your life?

"Sometimes I feel like it's what keep my head from spinning too much. There are so many opposite values, running compared to music. With running you go do your training pass for the day, it might be hard and maybe it feels fucked up sometimes, but you know exactly how long it will take or how far you need to go and that's it. Music is a monster compared to running, it grows, changes shape, follows me in my sleep, makes me forget everything around me in the most beautiful way, but spending so much time with my own thoughts is not always healthy. When I'm running there are no thoughts, I just listen to what my body tells me and try to keep my pace steady. So running plays an important role in balancing me out."


What is your favorite running pass?

"Hard to say, I just started training for real this year in January, so I keep it really simple, because I don't know any better. I like 4 x 10 min. threshold intervals with 1.30 min. baby steps in between, with a warm up before and slow run home afterwards. It's special to me because it's all about having a steady pace, if you go too fast you really loose your breath and the next 10 min. becomes hard. Being able to just keep going feels amazing and it makes me feel like I can go run a nice race if the run felt ok. With boxing we also used to go do hill reps on Copenhill and I really enjoyed how fucked that felt. After an hour of up and down, flat ground feels really wobbly in a funny way. I should get into that again I think. "


COVID-19 seems to be a game changer in many ways, how has it affected your training?

"It made me start running again, so thank you COVID-19 I guess. I had nowhere to go so it didn't really make sense to me to use a bike, so I just started running further and further away from home and it was also of way of distancing while still hanging out with friends."


Carbon shoes is the new weapon for breaking records. What is your own experience with carbon shoes and do you have a specific goal for the season?

"I love all running shoes, Carbon ones not an exception, I don't think they're all great for racing and breaking records though, some like the New Balance RC Elite V2 are really nice for long runs, especially if there's some faster parts in the middle or end of training pass. My legs also feel a lot better afterwards than they do after running in lower stacked daily trainers. However I can't use them all, somehow all Nike super shoes fit really weird on my feet, so on race day I'm Adios Pro 2 all the way, for now. I am super geeky about shoes, I want to try them all and I think they might hate me in all the running stores here. I'm the type of customer that never leaves and ask way too many questions.
This year I had the goal to get faster and run the Berlin Half marathon and I already did that, but I'm also still in the middle of training for my first marathon, I just don't know if I'm actually going to run the race yet. There's so many things stressing me out at the moment and I don't want running to be one of them (or I might just be scared I will get depressed afterwards), so I might be at the starting line for Copenhagen marathon this year, or not. Other than that my goals are to get a bit stronger and get more miles in my skinny twig like legs, so I can maybe run a couple of longer trail races north and a full marathon next year."


What kind of role does the food you eat have according to your everyday life and training?

"There's a lot of stuff I can't eat, like gluten and lactose etc., so I just eat what feels OK in my stomach, that's all I care about. Not being able to eat pizza or pita bread makes me angry and sad, so I drink a lot of lactose free chocolate milk. No alcohol right now though. Not having a hangover while running feels a lot better."


It's finally raceday. What do you eat and drink before the gun goes off 4 hours later?

"I eat two corn or rice biscuits with peanut butter, maybe some blueberries and drink a glass of chocolate milk."


If you could go for a morning run with anyone in the world, who would it be?

"I would choose my good friend Yen Towers, who I also produce music with in a project H2OP, we run together a lot, mostly long runs and threshold and it's something I truly love. We might talk a bit about how to finish up a track we're working on or what vibes resonate with us at the time and a bit about how the body and mind feels. Deep and so simple at the same time. To me this is a special kind of bond that I don't really share with anyone else. I think it would be stressfull to go for a run with someone I'm a huge fan of or whatever, what if the person's pace is weird? and how much are we supposed to talk? I like when everything becomes silent after a while, except for the footsteps. "