Running In Place - Page 2
Between frequent incoming cell calls, texts and emails, Engle is open and talkative, cracking jokes and flashing a ready smile. Despite his accomplishments and celebrity in the running world, he is self-deprecating, magnetic. In short order, he can take to calling you "brother," eschewing handshakes in favor of hugs. While his gregarious nature rides easily on the surface, when a couple of friends show up, an uneasiness drifts into the air.
One is Jack Fierstadt, a real-estate attorney in Pasadena, California, who has come to support Engle, whom he met in a tent in a multi-day stage race in the Gobi Desert in 2006. "This case is bullshit," he tells me. "I've never seen anyone prosecuted criminally for this kind of thing."
As his ex-wife Pam Engle, housemate, Chip, and friend Elaine Daniels filter into the house, Engle enthusiastically gives Fierstadt and another visitor beta on running the tree-lined trail visible across the street.
"People are treating me like I have a terminal disease," he says, turning to me as the two bolt out the door for a run. "I am not a gentle person or known for my subtlety or shyness, so I can joke about it"—his impending sentence—"but my friends are afraid to."
Indeed, Engle tells prison jokes unabashedly, about not taking many showers, about at least not planning to have sex for the next year or so, about his "federal vacation" where he will be learning "about a whole new culture." While Engle's humor lightens the mood, he becomes serious about one thing, two actually— his sons Brett, 18, a freshman at the University of North Carlina-Greeensboro, and Kevin, 16, a sophomore at the Early College at Guilford—whom he sees daily when not traveling.
"People have to listen to me talk incessantly about my kids," says Engle. "The worst thought [about prison] would be something happening to them, from an emotional standpoint, and not being around to help them."
LAW AND DISORDER
At the time I visited, Engle's legal misfortune has been recently highlighted in a January 3rd blog post entitled "Charlie Engle's Fraud-Funded Sahara Run—Will He Get 111 Days in the Slammer?" by a prominent California trail runner Scott Dunlap, who writes runtrails.blogspot.com.
Some commenters on the post jumped on Engle's case, with scathing sentiments like: "Be mad all you want at Scott for his tone, but it is his blog and his point of view," wrote one poster, identified by the screen name of Anthony Brantley. "Regardless, Charlie is a thief, Google what occured and read the articles, the guy's a thief. Who you are or what you did does not absolve you of your bad deeds. The statement he made `everybody was doing it' is pretty telling of his character, IMHO. As far as his family and sons go, maybe he should have thought of them before he did what he did. ... The guy did these crimes to do and live the way he wanted. I don't care what his reason or cause was, it was wrong. ...For whatever reason [the investigator] checked up on Charlie and found out he was a crook."