I really enjoyed “Running Out,” the first novel by Dave Essinger. His writing is engaging and peppered with phrases that illustrate scenes perfectly. Seemingly unimportant moments are described in a way instantly put the reader in the character’s position – small elements like the way the window on a small plane vibrates against your elbow in flight, or a description of surveying a trail to select the best footing. They may not seem important to the story, but they paint a picture that make everything come to life.
The main character, Dan, is a runner and a scientist. After a few life-changing events during his college running career, his perspective shifted. He stopped worrying about winning for the sake of winning, and he started to wonder just how far the human body could be pushed. Research into exercise science and experimenting with his own training prepared him for what went from an already-stressful weekend into a literal run against his own mortality in an attempt to save the lives of his family.
I hate to give too much away, so I won’t give you details – but essentially Dan, his wife Deb, and their young daughter Susy are in a plane crash, without any means of communication. Deb, a professional runner, has a broken ankle, ruling out the possibility of the entire family trying to make their way to safety, so it falls to Dan to initiate a miracle.
Due to his work and years of elite-level running, Dan understands completely the chemical and physical processes that the human body undergoes while running. As he runs mile after mile through the snow-covered Canadian back country, desperately searching for signs of civilization and a chance at survival, Dan knows exactly which limits to push and what will happen if they are exceeded. Essinger weaves this scientific analysis playing out in Dan’s mind into the physical experience in a way that, after reading this book, will change the way you think about what’s happening when you start to feel lactic acid build-up or fear you need to back off the pace.
Among the chapters of this struggle, the author folds in scenes from Dan’s life. You get to understand him and Deb through memories of his father, his college teammates, and his marriage; as well as scenes that don’t seem to fit in until you reach the end of the book when they drop cleanly into place. This is a book that will make you think.
Find the book online at dave-essinger.com, or ask your local library to order a copy. And after you’ve read it, check back here for a Q & A with the author … use them to start your own Running Book Club as discussion points!