Running in Prison – Charlie Engle – UltraMarathoner

On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair.  Warm smell of colitas rising up through the air.  Up ahead in the distance, I saw a shimmering light.  My head grew heavy and my sight grew dim.  I had to stop for the night.  Yes, that is the first verse of the Eagles’ song, Hotel California.  To a runner, those words fit perfectly.

I was catching up on some reading and going through the September edition of Men’s Journal magazine when I stumbled upon an article by Adam Higginbotham titled, “Nowhere To Run.”  It’s about Charlie Engle, who is a well know ultramarathoner and is now sitting, and running, in prison on charges of mortgage fraud.  The article goes much deeper than his mortgage fraud conviction.  It describes Charlie as a guy who has seen highs and lows.  During the times in his life when he experienced drugs, alcohol, divorce, extreme success and failure, there was one common thread – running.

I’ve run 86 marathons and to some, that’s rock star status.  But not to me.  I am humbled each and every day by the accomplishments of others, who far exceed anything in my wildest dreams.  Charlie was one of a team of three who ran 4,300 miles across the Sahara Desert and is featured in the movie, Running The Sahara.  You can also see Charlie with another Ultramarathon superstar, Marshall Ulrich (who is from my neck of the woods in Colorado) in, Running Across America.  Additionally, he authored an incredible book, Running On Empty.

Charlie Engle

This article on Charlie Engle really intrigued me because it seems he has always been faced with challenges.  Most of these, good or bad, have been brought on by himself.  For most of us, drugs and alcohol would destroy our bodies; but not Charlie.  Between binges he would run, and run well.  After he became sober, he ran 30 plus marathons and ran across the Sahara Desert.  Something that 99.9% of us could not do regardless of our fitness level.  His mind is remarkable, but he says he is not satisfied with what he has accomplished so far.  So, how remarkable will his mind be as his incarceration continues?

Charlie is in Beckley Federal Prison, a minimum security prison in West Virginia, serving a 21-month sentence.  He does have the freedom to run the quarter-mile dirt track in the prison yard, and he also runs in place in his prison cell.  He cannot escape the sounds of prison nor his fellow prisoners’ lack of motivation.  He longs for and braves the rain and snow so he can run in solitude on the track in the yard and mentally escape.

I started following Charlie Engle on Twitter and reviewed his posts both before and after prison. When his prison sentence began in February, his posts were positive and gave readers a feel for what his life was like behind bars.  Now, eight months into his sentence, his twitter posts are less frequent and somewhat dark.  Possibly a hint of depression or the realization that time, when one is immobile, stands still.  There is no doubt in my mind,  that the next 13 months could be the greatest challenge he will ever face.

In my opinion, Charlie Engle got the wrong end of the stick.  He is the little guy that an IRS agent decided to target, set up and nail.  The big fish who got us into this housing mess are free and enjoy their lavish lifestyles while the little fish lose their homes.  This, in my opinion, is a big issue in our society and probably the main reason the “Occupy” movement is growing.  Was what Charlie did wrong?  Of course it was.  But, there are several thousand other little guys that did the same thing during the housing boom and yet, the banks turned their backs.  Even Charlie’s banker who processed the liar loans and forged Charlie’s name, got off light for helping the prosecution.

Personally, I feel bad for Charlie Engle.  But digging in and reading a little about him makes me think that he has a better shot than most to overcome this challenges and go on to reach new personal and running heights.  All I’ve got to say is, watch out running world.  When Charlie Engle is free he may very well make Dean Karnazes look like a casual jogger.

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Categories: Crazy Observations, Inspirational People & Stories, Running Related, Social Media, Twitter
  • Richard Engle says:
    November 06, 2011 7:30 AM

    Nice article. Actually, and it will come out soon, Charlie did nothing wrong in obtaining those loans. What happened to him should not happen in America, or Nazi Germany, or China, or anyplace else, and outside of America, it probably wouldn’t. His is the ultimate Wall Street story. Stay tuned.

  • John De Herrera says:
    February 18, 2012 9:19 PM

    I met Charlie Engle at Magellan GPS when he was there to talk about his book and upcoming film. Magellan sponsered the Sahara Run. I was very impressed with Charlie and all his marathons. My life changed after learning what focus and determination can do. My life was full of ‘quitting early’. Now I am able to accomplish so much by what I learned from C. Engle – thank you Charlie!

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