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NEXT ROVING RACE IN SRI LANKA (Starts on 14 Feb 2016)
The soul man

When Charlie Engle reached the point where he wanted to quit RacingThePlanet: Ecuador 2015, he knew a goal to hit his own peak effort had been reached. Even for this seasoned veteran of long-distance multi-stage events, this year’s edition of the Roving Race – with its Route of the Volcanoes – was challenging. But the lure to take part could not be resisted.

The inaugural Gobi March champion from the first 4 Deserts Series race in 2003 returned for the eighth edition of the Roving Race series, from July 26 to August 1.

The American writer, film and television producer has run dozens of marathons and multi-stage events since taking up running in 1989. He placed third in the teams event of the Gobi March 2006, has claimed podium finishes in other 4 Deserts Series races, and famously took his passion for running across the entire width of the Sahara Desert, which became the Running the Sahara documentary.

Competing in Ecuador this year had special significance for Engle – it was the return to the site of his first big adventure race experience in 1998.

“I took part in a French race called the ‘Raid Gauloises’, which was the Superbowl of adventure sports and it was my first race of this kind,” he said. “I had never done one before and my team spent 10 days lost in the mountains of Ecuador. On Day 5 we summited Cotopaxi as part of the race. I fell in love with Ecuador. We finished the race.

“My wife lived here too. We met in North Carolina but share a love of Ecuador. When I saw the RacingThePlanet email about the Roving Race I had to come. I knew I was asking for trouble.”

While Engle, 52, has lost none of his passion for racing since his 2003 win, he said his race strategy and goals had changed.

“My ‘buzz’ is different,” he said. “In 2003 I was more driven by competition. I’m still competitive but now as long as I do my best I’m happy. As long as I’ve run hard.

“Things have changed – I don’t go too hard at first anymore. The long day gives you plenty of time to catch up or fall back so use that time wisely. I’ve learnt to be patient and wait for that day. The jungle and the deserts and the mountains are the reason to be alive.”

Engle also said his physical and mental preparation had changed over the years, toning down his preparation as he’s gotten older and getting involved in more cross-training and yoga.

“The mental preparation is being alive for 52 years and learning to suffer properly - there has been plenty of adversity in my life. I want to reach a place in each race where I want to quit. Then I know I have hit max effort and hopefully I can pull myself back together.”

Engle said adventure racing was challenging but it had profound effects on competitors. First-time competitors in particular had blossomed during the most challenging moments of the contests, when the unexpected moments of multi-stage events had drawn something special out of competitors.

“Everybody who does one goes back to home life much better prepared to deal with the difficulties of daily living. You have better confidence and perspective,” he said. “The misery and dread that might be there mid-week fades away and they go back to their home lives a changed person. If you give it your all you will be changed. I'm still looking for these changes.”


By Melanie Ho


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