Charlie Engle
One of the runners I admire is Charlie Engle. Some may know of him from his run across the Sahara or his races with Racing The Planet. I often play the video Running the Sahara at LBC so you may have seen him. Charlie has accomplished a lot in the running world which I will list below. I first heard of Charlie many years ago in an article about one of his runs. Hearing his story I was impressed by this guy who found running later in life and embraced it. Ultimately running got him through some tough times. His spirit and enthusiasm are admirable. Every runner is on their own journey and Charlie’s journey is one I think many here will connect with and find inspiration from. I sure do!

www.charlieengle.com Charlie’ webpage, blog, bio, adventures and more.

Some of Charlie’s Accomplishments:(from Wikipedia)
• 1989 Big Sur Marathon
• 1991 Napa Valley Marathon, Boston Marathon, and Big Sur Marathon
• 1992-95 Ran dozens of marathons, triathlons and 10k races [
• 1996 Men’s Winner, Nanango forest 52K, Australia; Boston Marathon
• 1998 Raid Gauloises Ecuador [
• 1999 Winner (Men’s Division) Southern Traverse Adventure Race, New Zealand
• 2000 Hawaii Ironman; Eco-Challenge Borneo; Raid Gauloises Tibet/Nepal
• 2001 Eco-Challenge New Zealand; Expedition BVI Adventure Race, British Virgin Islands; Discovery Channel World Championships Adventure Race, Switzerland
• 2002 Eco Challenge Fiji; Raid Gauloises, Vietnam
• 2003 Winner, 250K Gobi March, China; 5th US National 24 Hour Championships; 8th, Badwater 135-Mile Ultramarathon
• 2004 Winner, RAAM (Race Across America) Co-ed team division; Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim Run; 2nd, 250K Atacama Crossing, Chile
• 2005 Winner, 220K Jungle Marathon, Brazil; 3rd, Badwater Ultramarathon; 3rd , 250K Coastal Challenge, Costa Rica; 3rd, Mauritania Challenge 250K
• 2006 Winner, 250K Gobi March, China, team division; 3rd, Badwater Ultramarathon
• 2007 5th, Badwater Ultramarathon; 13th, Furnace Creek 508 Cycling Race; 2nd Overall, Death Valley Cup
• 2008 Running America – record attempt for crossing the United States
• 2009 4th, Badwater Ultramarathon; 4th, Furnace Creek 508; 1st, new record, Death Valley Cup
• 2013 Brazil 135 Ultramarathon 50+ age group record
• 2015 Racing The Planet Ecuador
• 2016 Icebreaker Run – Relay Across America

_____________________________________________________________________________________

Interview:

Shane:
Charlie, thank you for agreeing to be interviewed. In the age of podcasts and Skype I chose to go a little old school and send you some written questions so I could post them on the shop webpage.

Reading your bio and from what I know about you, can you tell us briefly who Charlie Engle was before your thirties? I believe it was your thirties when you started running. Before that what did you do?

Charlie:
As a kid, soccer was the first sport I ever played but I wasn’t very good. I liked running up and down the field though. Then as a teenager, I played all the major sports including football, basketball, baseball and track. I was a pretty good runner but I just didn’t have the discipline to train hard. I was more interested in chasing girls.

I went to college at the University of North Carolina, but instead of playing sports and studying, I started drinking and doing drugs. I flunked out of school and started working. I sold fitness memberships, I sold cars and I got married. I also kept destroying myself with drugs. Finally, after my first son was born in 1992, I realized that I would not survive if I did not change myself. Finally, I took responsibility for my life. I stopped using drugs and I started running. Once I began running, I just never stopped. I discovered that using drugs was just my way of hiding myself but running was just the opposite. When I ran I felt free and happy and I knew that I was no longer hiding.

_____________________________________________________________________________________
Shane:

You have been very open about getting sober and running. Can you tell us a bit about that? (One reason I feel many people can relate to you is in the running or endurance sports world there are quite a few stories out there similar to your beginning. – People hit a bottom and then find an outlet which one way or another gets them to a better place.)

Charlie:
It’s difficult to explain what makes a person become a drug addict. I think it is a combination of genetics and environment and probably a thousand other big and small things. For me, running shines a bright spotlight on the person that I am. Sometimes this spotlight shows the good things and sometimes it shows that I am not perfect. I think that many people who struggle with addiction find that running fills the hole that is left when drugs and alcohol are taken away. Running is healthy physically and it also feeds the soul so there is no contest when compared to addiction. As an addict, I always felt like I wasn’t a good person and I still struggle with my self esteem even now. But when I run very long races, I can feel all of that inner turmoil being scraped away, making space for the positive feelings. Thanks to running and recovery from addiction, I know that my happiness is up to me.

_____________________________________________________________________________________

Shane:
In the early days of your running what kept you ‘hitting the pavement’ and what were the challenges? We all know people who start but give up.

Charlie:
I was deeply attracted to the feeling of belonging to something. Running races, whether it was a 5K or a marathon, made me feel like a member of the best club ever. I liked standing there at the start line with thousands of other runners. It didn’t matter whether they were CEOs or construction workers; everyone was running the same course and everyone would experience the same struggles. I felt equal to everyone else. More than anything, I just loved the energy of a race, that feeling that anything is possible. Too often people start a running program that is unrealistically ambitious. They go too fast for too many miles too soon. Running should not be a program, like some diet to lose a few pounds. Running (and fitness) is a lifestyle, something to be maintained and nurtured for the long term.

_____________________________________________________________________________________
Shane:
You have done some serious distances! Not just the typical 50k & 100k stuff. You have run some serious races and serious distances. What is your drive/desire to go do these distances? Recently you did the Icebreaker Relay across America.

Charlie:
I love the really long distances because it is never about speed. Instead, success at the super long distances is about continuous forward movement. It’s far more mental than physical. I’m a pretty good runner but it’s the other challenges, like addiction recovery, that taught me how to persevere, to just keep moving no matter what. For me, the long distances allow me dig deeper than ever, looking for new piece of knowledge about myself.

____________________________________________________________________________________

Shane:
You have been doing ultras for a while. In recent years the sport (trail running/ultra running) has exploded. What has changed in your eyes?

Charlie:
The growth in ultrarunning has truly has been incredible but not really surprising to me. Twenty years ago, if I told someone I was running a marathon, they might tell me that I was crazy. Today they would probably tell me that their grandmother just ran her 50th marathon. Running a marathon is still impressive but for many runners, they want a harder challenge. There are so many young people who are skipping the marathon altogether, opting for the longer distances right from the start. I do think it is a direct result of running becoming very mainstream, with millions of people around the world choosing to use running for fitness but also for exploration of the world around them. I think that this trend will continue, with more extreme races being added every year. I am excited because there are so many new events that I want to try.

_____________________________________________________________________________________

Shane:
Fun questions now.

Charlie:
What is your favorite post run beverage? Triple shot non fat latte with coconut milk

Favorite post run food? That’s a tossup between mexican food and maple nut pancakes. I tried combining them once. Bad idea.

Do you prefer road or trail? I prefer trails for sure, mostly because I would always rather run where cars can’t go. But I run lots of roads too, mostly for convenience.

Do you listen to music when running? When I’m on trails, I prefer listening to nature. On roads, I will listen to music or more often to a book.

Favorite place to run? San Francisco area. The trails all around are incredible but the city running has a vibe that I love too.

_____________________________________________________________________________________

Shane:
You have run with people in races, challenges, adventures etc… How important do you think it is for people to run with others?
I ask because I encourage people all the time to run with others. There are scenes from Running The Sahara and other videos of you where you are quite engaged in conversation with your companions while moving along. One of the things I admire about Charlie is how personable he is. You can see people like to run and talk with him.

Charlie:
Time really flies when I run with friends, laughing and retelling old stories. But I also love the energy of running with new friends. There is no better way to get know someone. The running allows people to open up more quickly. I have had so many runs in my life that have led to lasting friendships. There is such power in shared effort and fellowship.

____________________________________________________________________________________

Shane:
One thing from your running movies is the team dynamic and personal challenges in the overall experience. Running The Sahara shows this. I saw the scenes as illustrating what runners go through – it is really damn hard!

Hong Kong has the Oxfam Trail Walker each November, which is a 100km – 4 person team race. One thing I talk to people about when asking me about the race is to communicate well beforehand with teammates. It is not uncommon for people to lose friendships during this event when problems arise. What advice do you have for people who will be joining a team/group long run and how to get past these moments?

Charlie:
What you say is very true. I think that a team event has certain inherent challenges. It’s human nature that nobody wants to be the weak link so there can be a weird mix of ego within the team that can strain friendships even on a successful team. I think the best way to be sure this doesn’t happen is to manage expectations before the race. There should be numerous open, honest talks before the race so that everyone can express their fears and desires. Every team should talk about how they will handle things if all falls apart. It’s hard to do because nobody wants to admit that the race won’t go perfectly. But that is reality. In the Sahara, we were strong and together 95% of the time but the other 5% nearly destroyed us. But we just kept moving forward, focusing on getting to the next place, the next day. My friendships from that run are still strong today.

____________________________________________________________________________________

Shane:
You recently did a 24 hour run to celebrate 24 years being sober. How important do you think it is for people to do runs like these?

Charlie:
I can’t speak for others but for me, it’s important to honor my sobriety. I run to show my gratitude and to remind myself that I am lucky to be alive. If my run motivates others to do the same thing, then that’s wonderful. Running to honor a commitment or to remember loved ones or lost friends is a great way to celebrate. It also allows others to participate and to be part of the celebration. I highly recommend it.

_____________________________________________________________________________________

Shane:
The Badwater Ultramarathon seems to be special to you. Why?

Charlie:
I love heat and I love deserts. Badwater is such a hard race, I always think that I can do better so I keep coming back. The other thing I love is the family atmosphere at Badwater. It’s the only race that I know of that is crewed for 135 miles, allowing not just the runners to become friends, but also the crews to interact from start to finish. Chris Kostman has done an amazing job of growing that event, always bringing in fresh new runners instead of making it an “old boys club.” I will always go back for as long as I am able. In fact, I have just entered a race In China in mid November that is being co produced by Chris Kostman. More information about that event is on the Badwater website.
_____________________________________________________________________________________
Shane:
You have a book coming out. When, Where, How can people get a copy?

Charlie:
Information about the book can be found on my new website. www.charlieengle.com It tooks a lot of years to write this book. It is a true memoir so it’s my story. I don’t hold back. It’s called Running Man, but it’s not just about running. It’s about the life I have lived, the experiences I have had, the challenges faced and the hurdles overcome. I hope it is considered to be a story of redemption. Anything can be overcome if I just keep moving forward. The book is being published by Simon and Schuster in the US and in the UK. The rights have been sold in China, Russia, Poland, Australia and many others. The release date is September 13 but can be pre-ordered on Amazon.

_____________________________________________________________________________________

Shane:
Charlie, cannot thank you enough for agreeing to be interviewed. I hope people now understand why you are one the runners I enjoy following and find inspiration from.
Hope to see you in Hong Kong in the future and go one a run.

Charlie:
It would be my pleasure Shane.
_____________________________________________________________________________________

Share onShare on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestTweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someone