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Men Of Note

Making Tracks

Producer, poet and Run Dem Crew founder Mr Charlie Dark picks his pace-setting playlist

  • Photograph by Mr Oliver Trenchard

Mr Charlie Dark has been synonymous with British underground music since his group Attica Blues signed to Mo’ Wax in the 1990s. Following the band’s break-up at the turn of the millennium, he founded seminal London events Urban Poets Society and Blacktronica at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, before setting up Run Dem Crew, a revolutionary running “family” (“not a running club”, they note), in 2007.

“I didn’t plan on any of this,” the producer/poet recalls with a laugh. “It started because I had to get fit for a one-man theatre show, so I began running. It was embarrassing. I was so unfit I could only bring myself to run at night to avoid people seeing me. It became this private little lifestyle of mine. I’d go on these mad adventures at night that no one knew about – London became like a PlayStation game to me. Then my friends started noticing the change in my physique and one of them was like, ‘Can I come?’ Everything grew from there.”

To “remix running culture” has always been central to Run Dem’s philosophy, so it’s no surprise that swapping music plays a huge role in the crew’s community. “It’s like the best warehouse parties – every colour, creed and religion in one place,” Mr Dark says. “London is an amazing melting pot of different cultures, so it’s essential to have a soundtrack that reflects that as well.”

For his MR PORTER playlist, Mr Dark wanted to give our readers an authentic experience of pacing alongside the crew. So, has he got any tips for us before we lace up and hit the road? “Run for time, not for distance,” he says. “Run for the first three songs to get started, then run harder for the next seven, and so on. React physically to however the music makes you feel. I’ve found that the more you run, the more effective you become at handling life. It’s not about training for a marathon and then stopping once you’ve accomplished that. It’s about having 13 miles in the chamber at all times. As long as I can run from Stratford to Ladbroke Grove, I’m good.”

MY PERSONAL BEST

Mr Charlie Dark’s five essential running tracks

“Discovering the music of Gil Scott-Heron had a huge impact on my career choices as a teenager and was one of the reasons I became a poet. Running for me is an extension of that poetry; a chance to make music that soundtracks my city and run with it in my ears as I navigate the streets at night.”

“This was the first track I ever listened to on my very first run 10 years ago. It’s one of my warm-up tunes that I use to set the tone of my run. Settle into the groove, meditate to the lyrics and gently let the legs tick over. Trying to hit top speed as soon as you leave your house is a common mistake that people make when they first start running. You have to remember that it takes a little while for the body and mind to warm up to the task ahead. I always take the first couple of miles nice and steady.”

“This is my time-to-get-this-run-started track. I’ve always had a passion for drum and bass, particularly the down-tempo tracks with a twist – and this has a nice progression that feels like it’s soundtracking your run as you move towards your goal. It’s also got a number of sections that you can use to push your tempo from landmark to landmark. I like to pick a lamppost ahead and then sprint towards it as the sections change.”

“The feel-good hip-hop tune to raise the spirits when you’re really not feeling the miles ahead. This is my superhero tune that puts a smile on my face. Always reminds me of fond memories dropping it in clubs and watching dance floors erupt. On a good day, you might find me rapping along as I run past.”

“My watch-me-fly (aka the intervals) tune. In order to take your body out of its comfort zone, you have to switch up the pace of your runs over the week. This has lots of big breakdowns, which you can use as recovery before the beat kicks back in.”

Mr Charlie Dark’s Run Dem Crew playlist for MR PORTER

Head over to Spotify to hear the full playlist

1. “Running” – Gil Scott-Heron 
2. “Can’t Come Down” – Photek 
3. “Sincere (Jazzanova Sincerely Yours Remix)" – MJ Cole 
4. “Ulysses” – Om Unit 
5. “Pump It Up” – Joe Budden
6. “Kuku” – Flako 
7. “Take Off” – Faze Miyake
8. “Higher Ground” – TNGHT
9. “I Am The Black Gold Of The Sun (4 Hero Remix)” – Nuyorican Soul
10. “Night” – Benga & Coki
13. “The Offbeat” – Wildbirds and Peacedrums 
11. “Chasing Rainbows” – Fhloston Paradigm
12. “Music” – LTJ Bukem
14. “Hard” – Breakage (featuring David Rodigan and Newham Generals)
15. “London Living” – Plastician (featuring Jammz)
16. “Hyph Mngo” – Joy Orbison
17. “Amazon” – El-B
18. “Lighter” VIP – Champion
19. “Booo!” – Sticky (featuring Ms Dynamite)
20. “It’s Alright, I Feel It” – Nuyorican Soul 
21. “Boss Trés Bien” – Quartette Trés Bien
22. “The Silence” – Om Unit (featuring Jinadu)

running gear

  • Soar Running Colour-Block Mesh T-Shirt

  • Iffley Road Pembroke Running Shorts

  • Arc'teryx Stride Thermal Stretch-Jersey Running Tights

  • Nike Running Air Zoom Pegasus 32 Flash Mesh Sneakers

  • 2XU Running Cap

  • Suunto Core Brushed Stainless Steel and Rubber Sports Watch