If you and your family survive a plane crash in a remote part of Canada, it helps to be a long-distance runner with a leg up on getting to civilization as quickly as possible. But the challenges – both past and present – are many.
Thus is the framework of “Running Out,” the debut novel by Dave Essinger, associate professor of English at the University of Findlay. Published by Mint Hill Books in Charlotte, North Carolina, the book is packed with 235 pages of suspenseful narrative focusing on family dynamics, the science of running and survival itself.
“Running Out” is available on Amazon.
Essinger’s personal experiences and knowledge fueled the idea for this project, which has been about a decade in the making. At UF, he teaches creative writing and edits the literary journal Slippery Elm. Some of his other works have appeared in publications such as Gargoyle and Mud Season Review. His essay “Hallucinating in Suburbia” received notable mention in 2014 in The Best American Sports Writing, and was the winner of Sport Literate’s creative nonfiction contest. Essinger is also general editor of the AWP Intro Journals Project and is a fiction reader for Slice magazine.
Additionally, Essinger has been a runner for years, so he knows about endurance, body mechanics, nutrition and other factors that are essential for success in this sport, and that are incorporated in “Running Out.” He and his wife, Alice, run ultra marathons, which are longer than traditional marathons that stretch for 26.2 miles.
Essinger recently answered some questions about “Running Out” and writing:
Q: How did you come up with this storyline?
A: There is a great deal of nonfiction about long-distance running, but not so much well-written fiction about the sport, and as a runner myself, it’s something I know about. I began with thinking about how far someone could really go given ideal training and motivation and a uniquely extreme circumstance. And, of course, that external plot provides a framework for other themes I wanted to explore, like stubbornness and obsession, and guilt, and fatherhood.
Q: Are there any comparisons you can make to running and writing?
A: Absolutely! I could talk for an hour about that – and I literally have, when asked to give the keynote speech at a retreat this summer for Writers Who Run. In short, though, I think writing and running require very similar character traits, like a personal motivation and work ethic, a certain kind of stubbornness, patience, tenacity, and an enjoyment of the work itself apart from its final product. Writing and running are both pursuits that make us measurably better through their repeated practice, too. Haruki Murakami writes beautifully about some of this in his book, “What I Talk about When I Talk about Running.”
Q: What is it that you love so much about running?
A: My run is my favorite part of the day. It’s the time when I am unreachable and occupied with a single simple challenging task. I suppose some people meditate for that, but I need some kind of physical activity in order to disengage. Also, running, or working in general, is one of the few things in this world where you can count on measurable return based on the effort you put in, in clear proportion.
Q: What do you hope people come away with after reading your book?
A: Obviously, I hope runners will recognize their sport, and feel I’ve done it right. I hope non-runners who have no idea why someone would ever run anywhere on purpose, would have some kind of better understanding of that by the end of this book. And, of course, completely removed from the running or elite athletic aspect, I’d hope that any reader would be moved by my portrayal of the main character as a person, and a meditation on some aspects of human nature.
For more information on Essinger and his work, visit www.dave-essinger.com. He is planning to host a book reading and signing event at UF sometime this fall, and is available to give talks to groups and organizations who express interest. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling his office on campus at 419-434-4893.