Running Man by Charlie Engle

Here’s a book that will make your life seem boring. This week I finished Running Man by Charlie Engle.
This book is a memoir about the life of Charlie Engle – and what a life! After a decade-long addition to crack cocaine and alcohol, Charlie hits bottom with a near-fatal six-day binge that ended in a hail of bullets. That’s how the book begins. From there, the book painfully recounts Charlie Engle’s journey from addiction to sobriety, prison, and then eventual freedom. The common thread in his journeys is running. The book takes us through the iconic races of ultrarunning including Badwater, Gobi March, and Eco-Challenge. We get a first-person look at Charlie’s run across the Sahara Desert – 4,500 mile journey that was the subject of the documentary Running the Sahara produced by Matt Damon. Although Charlie writes a memoir, this book is also a story of relationships with family, friends, and runners throughout his intense life ordeals.

Running Man is a roller coaster ride of highs and lows. It is remarkable that one person could maintain his or her sanity and persistence through these peaks and troughs. Charlie does, which is why this book is worth reading. It is interesting to see how Charlie trades one addiction (drugs and alcohol) for another (running). The book details his near maniacal obsession with running, training, and finding longer and harder events. It seems to be the level of punishment of the event that is more important than the finishing position. As you meet other runners in the book, including David Goggins, you wonder if this obsessiveness is the common characteristic among these uncommon individuals.

There are many ways to read this book. My advice is to sit back and enjoy the ride, especially because you watching not living this one! The book serves as a blueprint on overcoming difficult struggles in life. Read Charlie’s story and then see how hard your life is really. When times are dark and hard, what do you do? Would you survive through drugs, bankruptcy, injury, or prison? Charlie not only survived, he came out higher on the other side — as any roller coaster rider will note defies the laws of physics. This book tells a remarkable story. Now of course, the story is written by Charlie. Perhaps each of these pivot points was fueled with darkness and depression that we may never know. (As a reader, I would hope so. Otherwise it would appear so easy). But, is there anything wrong or unexpected about that? I think no. Charlie manages through the struggles (whether he communicates them to or not) and thrives.

In summary, Engle’s Running Man is worth the read. At a tad under 300 pages, it is light and smooth. Its common sense words are written by a common sense man – one who lives an unordinary life. Make the read and then see what obstacles in your life do not seem as difficult anymore.
See you at the Finish Line,

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