Dave Essinger Explains how Passions Improve Life

Advice from a Novelist and Ultrarunner


Holden Andrews

“If no one has ever told you that you’re crazy for doing something, you’re probably doing it wrong” said ultra-runner Dave Essinger.

Eli Quay, Staff Writer

Bridgewater, Va. – Does your sport, art, hobby, or anything else you are committed to make your life better? If so, how? These are the questions Dave Essinger addressed at his convocation titled “Running Out: Training for Life” on Thursday, April 4.

The convocation revolved around Essinger’s novel–titled Running Out–about ultrarunning. Ultrarunning is all about long distance running and these long distances can sometimes be up to 50 or 100 miles at a time. 

The 100 mile races are Essinger’s personal favorites; he told the audience stories of how he would spend 24 to 30 hours in a forest trying to complete just one of those races.

Essinger identified two main motivations for writing a novel about ultrarunning. For one, he felt like there was previously no good literature about long distance running. Secondly, he wanted to offer an explanation for why someone would do long distance running. 

Essinger also noted he often enjoys writing with the purpose of explaining something new to those who are unaware of it–and this opportunity provided the chance to do just that.

After giving the audience a short introduction to his book, Essinger transitioned into his message about how passions make life better. He placed a lot of emphasis on the idea that these passions represent goals that hold meaning. While they may not be logical or biological goals, they have some level of importance nonetheless.

Essinger related this idea to his passion for ultrarunning. Although there is no biological need to run over 50 miles at a time, he still loves to do it as a personal challenge. 

The same can be applied to his passion for writing. Essinger stated he is aware he will never write the next hugely famous novel, but that does not stop him from pushing himself to get one published.

Essinger also had advice for the audience on how to achieve set goals. He argued in order to succeed, one must be stubborn. 

Resisting the urge to give up is a huge part of the battle. Even if the goal is not in sight, the end can still be reached by taking things one step at a time. 

In fact, Essinger encouraged the audience to approach their goals piece by piece. Focusing too much on the finish line will make the process seem much harder and longer.

To put this in perspective, Essinger talked about his experience running 100-mile races. If he thinks about having to run 50 more miles once he’s halfway through, that’s much more discouraging than taking each mile as it comes. 

He summed up his message with the quote “it never always gets worse.” Sure, things will be bad every so often, but there eventually comes a time when improvements are made and one progresses towards their goal.

Essinger currently teaches creative writing and edits the Slippery Elm literary magazine at the University of Findlay in Ohio. He received a Master’s degree in Fine Arts from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. His other activities include being a fiction reader for “Slice” magazine and working as the General Editor for the AWP Intro Journals Project.