Words by Sam Haddad
“In my rear view mirror, I spotted the men getting into their car – the very one I had just stripped of its bumper. It was still hanging on from one side, and their car was essentially trying to run it over again and again, like a speed bump that wouldn’t quit. Their car lurched forward, spraying sparks. I cackled the way one can only cackle at the end of a four-day crack binge and sped down the road.”
This was Charlie Engle almost at rock bottom. But not quite, his lowest ebb, after a decade-long addiction to alcohol and cocaine, would come a few months later following the birth of his son Brett. He’d emerge from a six-day celebratory bender with the mother of all self-loathing comedowns to find bullet holes in his car and vague memories of being shot at by his dealer.
“After a six-day celebratory bender he found bullet holes in his car and had vague memories of being shot at by his dealer.”
He knew he had to stop. And he did but in the most extreme way, switching his heavy drug consumption for ultra marathon running, which culminated in a 4,500 mile run across the Sahara desert. His feat was made into the film Running the Sahara, which was produced by Matt Damon. But his growing fame then led to him being investigated and later imprisoned for mortgage fraud. A charge he contests to this day.
In prison he ran endless laps around the tiny yard to stay sane inspiring the other inmates to take up exercise and earning himself the nickname Running Man, which is now the title of his autobiography. I caught up with Engle on Skype to ask about his amazing story and rollercoaster of a life.