ULTRATRAINING With POW Athlete Alliance member Rickey Gates


By: Stacie Sullivan

For professional distance runner and POW Athlete Alliance member Rickey Gates, running is much more than just a hobby, sport and profession. While his career as a runner has taken him to all seven continents and on a self-supported run across the United States, it’s also become a form of art. Running is a way for Gates to connect with the lands and culture that surround him and tell his story with a broader audience.

In Gates’ recent film, ULTRATRAINING, we follow him on a week long train trip from Santa Fe, New Mexico to San Francisco, California with stops to run along the way. The film marries the two forms of transportation—running and train travel—in a unique and organic way, showing the beautiful landscapes of the western United States and what it means to travel with intention.

We caught up with Gates to learn more about the film and his relationship with running and train travel:

POW: To start off, can you give a brief background on yourself and how you got involved with POW?

Rickey Gates: I’ve been a distance runner for over 25 years. In that time, the sport has taken me to all seven continents (ask me about The Race around the World at the South Pole…), running everything from 5k’s on the golf course to a self-supported crossing of the United States, to be followed by running every single street in San Francisco a year later. 

POW Athlete Alliance member Rickey Gates on his self supported run across the United States

Over the past decade I’ve had the great honor of guiding fellow runners through land and culture with the many running trips that I provide. As a result, I’ve also seen our changing environment that has periodically forced me to cancel trips due to forest fires. Witnessing and experiencing climate change firsthand, being personally affected by it, both emotionally and financially encouraged me to find an organization that would allow my voice to be amplified, hence my decision to join the POW Team Alliance. 

POW: Without giving too much away, what is ULTRATRAINING about?

RG: ULTRATRAINING is a quirky short film about the marriage of two antiquated forms of transportation—running and train travel. As both a lifelong runner and rider of trains, I was eager to join the two in order to allow a journey to unfold in an unhurried, organic manner. The film follows a week-long train trip from Santa Fe, New Mexico to San Francisco, California and the running stops along the way. 

Rickey Gates traveling by train while filming ULTRATRAINING

POW: What was your inspiration behind this project?

RG: When I was twelve years old my mom took me and my four siblings on a train trip from Denver to Chicago to New Orleans to Washington DC to Chicago and back to Denver. I loved how different the train trip was from the typical road trips we were accustomed to. I continued to take the train regularly between Colorado and California during the six years that I lived in San Francisco. It was then that I started looking closely at all of the amazing trail runs that could be accomplished from (or close to) an Amtrak train station. 

POW: What’s the draw of train travel for you? 

RG: I’m drawn to train travel for many reasons—the passing scenery, the magic of falling asleep in one landscape and waking up in another, the pleasure of somebody else doing the driving. What I love most though, is spending time with people that I don’t encounter regularly in my normal day to day. 

POW: In the film you mention that you want to travel with intention. What does that mean for you?

To travel with intention is to consider both the journey and the destination equally. In an age when our ability to visit far corners of the world can be nearly instantaneous, I feel that it is important to familiarize ourselves with the impact of our travels. With that said, I also embrace being an “imperfect advocate”—that the amount of impact I can have will vary based on circumstances and that ultimately the greatest change will have to happen at the highest levels. 

Rickey Gates running the Grand Canyon during a stop in Flagstaff, Arizona

POW: You talk about how running is more of an art for you now. How did your relationship with running evolve to be what it is today?

RG: To answer that, I have to give my personal definition of what I believe art is: Art is something, action or object, that helps us better understand our worlds—inside and out—in a way that words or other means fail us. 

In 2017, I ran across the United States because all other means of understanding my homeland were failing me. I designed my route specifically to challenge the notions that I hold about different places around the country. I documented the journey with photographs and recorded dialogue in order to share my feelings with a broader audience. Upon the completion of my crossing I knew that the act of running had transcended from sport to art. Ever since then, my running has become much more intentional: What are my actions saying to others? What are my actions saying to me? 

Rickey Gates running in the streets of Los Angeles

POW: What was your favorite part about making this film?

I had a great conversation with a guy on the train who had just spent three weeks at DisneyWorld and was en route to spend three weeks at DisneyLand. We both recognized and appreciated the inherent endurance in each other’s activities.

POW: What do you hope others will take away from watching ULTRATRAINING?

I hope that this film can serve as a reminder to both myself and others that climate advocacy can take on a lot of different looks, that how we travel impacts an experience as much as where we travel, and lastly, that Amtrak is awesome!

You can watch ULTRATRAINING below:

Stacie Sullivan

Author: Stacie Sullivan

Stacie always knew she wanted to pursue a career in the ski industry from a young age, having first clicked into skis at the age of 4 and writing her 8th grade career project on being a professional skier. While her dreams of becoming a professional athlete didn’t quite pan out the way she planned at […]