Running Out

(Book Review)
Running Out by Dave EssingerEndurance athletes consistently battle their own boundaries preparing for competition whether in race situations or with the records they keep of their own performances. What happens when that battle becomes one of life or death? What happens when an athlete needs the performance of a lifetime not to beat the clock or to get the belt buckle, but to save his family? In Dave Essinger’s debut novel, Running Out, Dan is about to find out.

About the Book

Dan is a runner. His life is wrapped up in running. Education is about running, his career is at least tangentially about running, even his marriage is shadowed by running. Running brings good and bad things to Dan’s life; things that anyone who has spent time on a track team or trained for distance races will probably recognize in the mirror of their own lives. The phrasing Dave Essinger uses to convey the joy and the angst that leads Dan on a journey to discover his runner’s path is a warm and familiar story even when the story reveals torment. Many an endurance athlete has discovered that pushing themselves to the brink of their own physical capabilities has a domino effect on their lives and on those around them. As Dan discovers his love of trail and of long distances, his marathoner spouse is wondering why he wants to pursue the dirt.  The narrative seems to be preparing readers for Dan to be tested in the most brutal way. Bit by bit, the life decisions that lead up to Dan’s greatest physical challenge are laid out until the day Dan must prove just how far he can go. With his wife and young daughter trapped in the snow-covered Alaskan wilderness after a plane crash, will years of emotional stamina and physical endurance help him rescue them?

As a runner, I found moments of self-recognition in the author’s words. At the reaction Dan’s wife Deb gives upon hearing that people actually run 100 miles- on trail – with triple and quadruple-digit elevation change, I took a screenshot and sent it to the first person I ever paced at a 100 miler and to the last person I paced. Dan asks her if she believes people do this and in my head, I see a man so excited about the prospect he is bouncing on his toes while his wife stares out from under disbelieving eyelids and responds “People…join crazy cults. Or, fast or hunger strike for like weeks. Or, set themselves on fire. People jump out of airplanes, they handle snakes.” I message friends with the subject line: you people are snake handlers.

As a scientist, I found the author’s descriptions of the biological reactions/mechanisms of endurance training both pertinent to the story and enlightening. Athletes who understand glycogen depletion, glucogenesis and the Cori cycle learn to eat what their bodies need on long runs unless they’re that strange bird that survives long runs on air and saliva. Descriptions of the biochemical science lead to a better understanding of what Dan must do to his body to seek the rescue that his family desperately needs.

This book was an easy and entertaining read. It’s a story not just about running or runners, but about the struggle of family and love and dreams. I’d recommend it to anyone who pursued a dream and those who know that the fork in the path is where dreams live.

You can purchase Running Out here as a stocking stuffer for your favorite runner or lover of fiction.

Special Offer

If you volunteered at any race in 2017–in any capacity, race director, passing out water at an aid station, marking or sweeping trail, pre-race PR, stuffing packets the night before, whatever–Dave is offering 20% off a signed copy of Running Out.

Dave Essinger is a runner, a teacher, an editor and a novelist. He lives and teaches in Ohio with his wife and partner in ultra running, Alice.

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