Running In Place - Page 5
Lisa Jhung, a long-time, accomplished adventure racer and trail runner from Boulder, Colorado, has raced alongside Engle many times and even teamed up with him once or twice. "Charlie is always keeping you entertained with a funny story. And while he takes racing seriously, he knows how to appreciate every moment—even the awful suffering that often comes with adventure racing," says Jhung. "He's a kind, supportive teammate, not the type to yell at you to hurry up, but the kind that asks if you need help. Plus, he's strong as a horse, and knows how to handle pain. With Charlie, it's never `poor me,' but more like, `This sucks but it's awesome at the same time.'"
CONNECTIVITY AND RUNNING THE SAHARA
Engle traces his path to the Sahara clear back to 1997 at the Presidio Adventure Racing School, where he had met Mike Lucero, his instructor. "Everything in life is connected," he says, citing an ensuing string of events. Just before Lucero was to compete in the 1998 Raid Gauloises-Ecuador, he was killed in a car accident on his way to an adventure race in Colorado. Lucero's teammates invited Engle to join their team in his place, and he finished the race. In 1999 he began working as an instructor at Presidio.
"Life doesn't happen in a vacuum. I am truly convinced that from the death of Mike Lucero sprang my life of adventure," says Engle. "In every event, I still give thanks to Mike."
A Presidio student, Josh Gelman, happened to work for CBS on the show 48 Hours, which was later to produce a film on the Eco-Challenge/Borneo. In 2000 Engle and his teammates applied for a spot in the race. On his application, Engle says he listed his professions as "documentary filmmaker, semi-pro badminton player and amateur comedian." At the time, Gelman was looking for a cameraman. He gave Engle a shot.
"I wasn't afraid to put the camera in people's faces," says Engle. "48 Hours ended up using 10 minutes of the footage, which is unheard of." He was invited to a showing of the film in New York City, where he met its other producer, Tom Forman. Two years later Forman created Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. Engle received a call from Forman, asking him to work as a cameraman and producer, even though at the same time Forman told Engle he was "completely unqualified for the job." Such was Engle's segue from his automobile "dentless paint repair" business into the incongruent world of television production.
Engle had chased hailstorms around the world for 15 years and, in 1990, started his own company Universal Hail Repair, which at one time had 100 employees. While he made less money in the television business, says Engle, "It was getting me closer to combining my passions: running, speaking, recovery and writing. When the show first started shooting, of course, we had no idea that it would be a hit. But I knew for sure that we were helping some families that really needed it and deserved a break."
Then at the 2004 Jungle Marathon, he befriended the Taiwanese racer Kevin Lin and the Canadian racer Ray Zahab. A month later, Zahab called Engle with the crazy idea of running across the Sahara Desert, and Engle bit. The two recruited Lin, and the three decided to run the 2006 Jungle Marathon as a team to test their compatibility. They clicked, and they also won.
A television connection, Tim Beggy, who was also an adventure racer, saw potential in the RTS project, for which Engle was seeking sponsorship support. He introduced Engle to James Moll, who agreed to take on the film project. Ten days later, Moll called and rhetorically asked if it would be all right if Matt Damon's company LivePlanet produced the film.
Life was good, says Engle, until he woke up at 3 one morning in a cold sweat, six months before they were to begin RTS. "Oh, my God, I have to run across the Sahara Desert," he thought. The heat was on, and, aside from the camera crew, he recruited a small support team that included a doctor, a logistics coordinator, a massage therapist and a local guide. And trained, hard.