Charlie Engle (marathoner)
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Charlie Engle (born September 20, 1962), is one of the most accomplished ultramarathon runners in the world and author of the riveting memoir Running Man. Engle has a track record of winning or placing in many of the toughest endurance foot races across the globe. He has raced in jungles, summited high ranging mountains and volcanoes, and traversed large expanses of deserts through sand storms. Among his most notable races in the United States is the Badwater Ultramarathon. This is an annual race that stretches 135 through Death Valley, California in July. This punishing race ends after a steep climb of Mt. Whitney. In the world of Ultramarathons this race, often reaching temperatures around 130 °F is frequently coined "The Toughest Foot Race in the World." Beginning in the 1990s into the early 2000s, Engle competed in the Eco-Challenge series put on by Mark Burnett (the creator of the wildly popular CBS television series, Survivor). The Eco-Challenge took Engle to Borneo, New Zealand, and Vietnam. The list of Engle's international races is long, but he is most well known for running across the Sahara Desert, from coast to coast, in 2007. Engle's historic and record setting journey was documented in the film Running the Sahara, narrated by Matt Damon. He was joined by two other runners: Ray Zahab of Canada and Kevin Lin of Taiwan. This transcontinental run through deep sand and politically unstable countries remains one of the premier accomplishments in the ultrarunning sport. The runners completed over 4,500 miles, averaging over two marathons per day, for 111 consecutive days.
Engle's motivation to run and tackle adventure to such extreme lengths stems from his battle with addiction to drugs and alcohol. Sober since July 23, 1992, he has credited a large part of his sobriety to the purposeful devotion and emotional release he experiences while running. Engle says that the sport, along with 12 step recovery meetings, yoga, and family and friends, has been a corner stone of not only his sobriety but of his quest to be a better, more-authentic and empathetic person. He has been quoted as saying, “Drugs and alcohol had been my way out. Running would be my way through.”
Early life and Education
Charlie Engle was born on September 20, 1962, to mother Rebecca Ranson and father Richard Engle. His parents were students at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) when Engle was born. His mother was aiming to be a playwright, while his father majored in English. His father played college basketball his freshman year for Dean Smith. Engle's grandfather on his mother's side was Dale Ranson, a prominent track and field coach at UNC for whom the university's cross-country course is named. In eighth grade, Engle ran his first mile in under five minutes for the first time. After living in California for a time, he moved to Southern Pines, North Carolina with his father and stepmother in 1976 and began attending Pinecrest High School. He was class president and excelled in athletics. As the lead quarterback for the football team, Engle drew attention from college recruiters and received scholarships offers.
Engle enrolled in UNC, like his parents, but soon began to have problems with alcohol and cocaine, which caused him to falter in his academics. During Engle's junior year his father, who was then living in Seattle, Washington came to pick Engle up after a concerned call from one of Engle's fraternity members. Removed from UNC, Engle started to spiral, bouncing from job to job as he battled his addiction to drugs and alcohol.
Years later in July 1992 while Engle was working in Wichita, Kansas, one of his cocaine binges ended with his car being shot at with a spray of bullets. He decided that day to turn to a life of sobriety and hasn't used drugs or alcohol since. Engle began regularly attending a local Alcoholics Anonymous meeting that day and overcame his addiction. He frequently mentions that day as helping motivate him, stating to Runner's World: "That was my lowest low. The day when I woke up."
Engle started running marathons in 1989. His first was the Big Sur marathon and he ran in several more marathons, including the Boston Marathon, before getting sober. Engle entered his first ultra-marathon by accident in Brisbane, Australia, in 1996, thinking he was entering shorter-distance event. He still managed to win the men's division and began entering endurance competitions around the world. After seeing an Eco-Challenge on the Discovery Channel, Engle registered to participate in one of the events. He described himself as a "documentary filmmaker" despite having limited experience in the hopes that the statement would be self-fulfilling. When Engle was accepted into the Borneo Eco-Challenge he was asked by CBS about having him shoot footage of the event for the series 48 Hours, which ended up using eleven minutes of footage that Engle shot. Following the Borneo challenge, Engle went on several weeks later to complete the annual Ironman Triathlon in Hawaii.
His camerawork for 48 Hours helped Engle get a job as part of the camera crew for Extreme Makeover: Home Edition and eventually he became a producer for the show. During his time with the show, Engle continued doing work in car dent repair and continued competing in endurance events. The contacts he had developed in the entertainment industry from working on Extreme Makeover helped Engle get director James Moll to film a documentary of the Sahara expedition.
In 2010 Engle was charged with allegedly overstating his income on a home loan application. He fought these charges, in a Federal court, at a week long trial where he was ultimately sentenced to 24 months in prison. He was released after serving 16 months in 2012.  Engle's case gained attention in The New York Times, in articles written by Joe Nocera. In Prison for Taking a Liar Loan March 2011, The Mortgage Fraud Fraud June 2012, and Charlie Engle Runs for His Life, Once Again. Nocera also appeared on PBS regarding Engle's case
Engle is a freelance writer for several magazines, including Runner's World. His first book, a memoir published by Scribner (an imprint of Simon & Schuester) has received high critical acclaim. It was released on September 13, 2016. The book is titled Running Man.
- 1989 Big Sur Marathon
- 1991 Napa Valley Marathon, Boston Marathon, and Big Sur Marathon
- 1992-95 Ran dozens of marathons, triathlons and 10k races [CE2]
- 1996 Men’s Winner, Nanango forest 52K, Australia; Boston Marathon
- 1998 Raid Gauloises Ecuador [CE4]
- 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
Charlie Engle has two sons, Brett, born in 1992 and Kevin, born in 1994, from his first marriage to Pam Smith. He is very close to his sons, and has remained friends with Pam.
In 2013, Engle met Stacey Astacianna Hatcher in a small town gym during a workout. Stacey is an athlete and adventurer and the two bonded quickly. Just a few months later, they were married in a grove of towering Redwood Trees in Big Sur, California. They've since travelled to several countries in Latin America and Africa together. When they are back in the US, they reside in North Carolina where they are close to family.
- Pearlman, Jeff (10 March 2008). "Charlie Engle: Endurance Junkie". Runner's World. Retrieved 25 November 2012.
- Sinclair, David (21 June 2012). "Former Pinecrest Star Released From Prison". The Pilot. Retrieved 26 November 2012.
- "Charlie Engle, Addicted to Adventure". Sigma Phi Epsilon. Retrieved 27 November 2012.
- Higginbotham, Adam (September 2011). "Nowhere to Run" (PDF). Men's Journal. Retrieved 27 November 2012.
External Links / Videos
- website: http://charlieengle.com/
- Engle on SportsCenter discussing Running the Sahara & Running Man
- Charlie Engle: Author of Running Man -- Simon & Schuster Video
- Engle's Adventure Reel: "I'm into Pain"
- Engle speaks at the DO Lectures 2012
- Beating Drug Addiction to Run Across the Sahara -- Google Zeitgeist Talk 2016
- Charlie Engle on Internet Movie Database
- Running in Place - Official blog.