Tonight I was able to spend about 90 minutes listening to a great ultrarunner, Charlie Engle. He was speaking at the National Geographic Center in D.C. about an awe-inspiring event he accomplished last year. You see, in November 2006, a team of three endurance athletes led by Charlie set out from the coast of Senegal to run 4,300 miles across northern Africa’s Sahara to the Red Sea. For the next 111 days, they averaged 44 to 50 miles a day in one of the most hostile environments on Earth.
What was most interesting about listening to Charlie speak was how similar our mindsets were. At one point he said he was just a slightly better than average marathoner who happens to be very stubborn (or something to that effect). I not only feel the same way but have said so often (Yet, somehow, being proud of myself for my accomplishments draws ire from some who feel I am being arrogant. Oh well).
Furthermore, the quest Charlie and his friends set out to do often paralleled Fiddy2. He mentioned how their initial goal was not to be a media-hawk or for any grand goal. No, in their initial planning their intent was to become the first modern runners to accomplish this feat. Only later did the idea to create awareness of Africa’s water crisis, and identify areas of need for programs providing sustainable clean water to communities come to life. With Fiddy2 I originally simply wanted to run a marathon every weekend. In the planning stages I came across L’Arche and made it the focus on my year (plus).
It was quite eerie as not only could I see myself saying many of the things Charlie said, I think I actually DID say them a week ago in front of a much smaller crowd at the Better SportsMen Club. As such, I introduced myself to Charlie afterward and let him know I had followed a lot of what he had done in the past year and was really interested in working together with him in the near future. To my pleasure, he had actually head of me as well and we were able to exchange a few pleasantries before his handler hustled him out the door.
I am quite excited at this possibility and I think it would be a great relationship. Charlie and I seem to hold many of the same ideas and characteristics (I say “seem” as I just met him) and it could be a wonderful start for me in the running world.
Charlie mentioned there is currently a bidding war for his movie about the experience “Running the Sahara” and to me that is awesome. Who would have thought in a society obsessed with ball sports that a story about running would create some fervor. One can only hope this is a continued upswing in the interest of running and more directly, distance running.
So if you get a chance to see Charlie speak, please do so. He is engaging and likable on top of being a phenomenal athlete. We can have a big viewing party when his movie comes out. I will buy the popcorn!