By Melody Vallieu
MIAMI COUNTY — A Troy native has stopped running from his calling — writing books.
David Essinger, a 1993 Miami East graduate, recently published his first novel “Running Out.” The book is centered around the author’s hobby of ultrarunning.
Essinger said he has written throughout his life, and has several other manuscripts he may revisit someday.
“With ‘Running Out,’ though, not only did I know the subject material well, but I felt there’s a definite readership there. There’s been a lot written about long-distance running of late, but mainly nonfiction, and not so much fiction concerned with both getting the sport right and creating an engaging literary narrative.”
“Running Out,” revolves around a plane crash in the remote Canadian wilderness. In the book, the athlete-hero, Dan, faces the race of his life to save his wife, his daughter and himself. Dan’s past is fraught with sinuous turns and compelling complexity, but his present path is straight and clear: survival. The book follows his every stride as he runs toward rescue — or disaster.
Essinger said he ran both track and cross-country in high school, but didn’t run in college or for the following 10 years. However, the Miami University and School of the Art Institute of Chicago graduate said he and his fiance at the time — now wife of 15 years, Alice — started running together.
When the couple moved to Findlay, where he is now a professor of English at the University of Findlay, they joined a running club. They started running marathons, and later tried ultrarunning — a marathon longer than 26.2 miles.
“The ultrarunning community is a great and growing one, and the Ohio River Road Runners Club puts on many great races in the southwest Ohio area,” Essinger said.
He said Alice won more 50K races than anyone in North America in 2008, but both have had some injuries, and work and children — daughter, June, 10, and son, Levin, 7 — also have kept them busy.
Essinger said the family is now also gravitating toward a new adventure: triathlons. He said his wife have participated in some, and his daughter is competing in her first.
Essinger, the son of Nicholas and Cathryn Essinger of Troy, said he likes getting 30-50 miles of running in a week on roads or trails year-round and biking and swimming when he can.
“My favorite kind of race, when I’m in shape for it, is a 100-mile trail. Those can take 20-30 hours, and the challenge is different every time, as you can never everything that will happen in a race that long,” said Essinger, who added that his brother Quincy, a 1999 MEHS graduate, has crewed him on several.
Essinger said he looked into a few remote locations to do research for the book before settling on the James Bay Area in northern Quebec.
“Once I’d decided on that, there was only so much I could learn and write confidently based on Internet research, so I took a road trip about a thousand miles due north in the spring of 2011,” Essinger said. “There was hip-deep snow in April, and I had to dust off my high school French. It’s quiet, desolate country, thousands of miles of marsh and taiga forest, turning into tundra as you go north — not dramatically scenic, but beautiful in its way.”
He said drivers on the James Bay Road have to sign in, and from there, the North Road has the distinction of being the farthest you can get on Earth from permanent human settlement, traveling by road.
“I needed an extremely isolated location to strand my protagonist for the novel, and really challenge his abilities to escape and survive it, and this fit the bill perfectly,” he said.
Essinger said the book has been well-received. He said he has done a number of “soft launch” appearances since the book became available, including a few races, and sales are going well, with a number of additional events planned through the next few months. He said he is planning some time to travel and promote the book in spring 2018 as well.
“Running Out” is available on Amazon, or directly through the publisher’s website, all linked from www.dave-essinger.com. Currently, the book is only in print, but Essinger said he is looking into the audiobook format.
Essinger said he’s not done with his book writing journey, and actually has a plan for his next work.
“I’m a few hundred pages into the next project, which has a post-apocalyptic, sci-fi element,” he said.
Reach Melody Vallieu at mvallieu@aimmediamidwest or (937) 552-2131