The first time Dan England met Catra Corbett, he was taken aback by the nearly 50-year-old woman sporting hot pink hair, piercings and tattoos all over her body.
The Greeley Tribune’s features editor was working on a freelance article about former addicts involved in ultramarathon running, any footrace longer than the traditional marathon length of 26.2 miles.
After taking one look at Corbett, England knew he had to make her the focus of his story.
She was a former meth addict who’d managed to kick the habit and become addicted to something much healthier: running. Since then, she’d become the first American to run 100 miles or more on more than 100 occasions.
Corbett had a major following on her various social media accounts, but outside of the running world, she wasn’t that famous.
“She’d done a few blog interviews and some smaller pieces, but that piece was the first mainstream exposure she’d received,” he said. “She was just the best example for this story. She represented someone who’d been an addict and managed to rebuild her entire life because she decided to take up running.”
The piece was a hit.
Because of its success, Corbett was soon contacted by a publishing agent, asking her to write her memoirs. This was a thrilling opportunity, but Corbett wasn’t a writer by nature.
So, she decided to contact the man who’d helped get her story out into the world.
“It was really great of her to ask me to help with the book,” England said. “She was happy with the first story, so I thought we could definitely do the book together. It was going to be different actually writing a book and making sure I was telling a compelling story, but I think we pulled it off.”
“Reborn on the Run: My Journey from Addiction to Ultramarathons” was released last month. The cover photo shows Corbett running with her dachshund, TruMan, which England took while working on his original article.
The 22 chapters cover Corbett’s two-year struggle with meth, her decision to quit after going to jail one night and leaving her friends and boyfriend to go home and move back in with her mother. After a sober friend invited Corbett to train for a 10K run, she fell in love with the sport.
It took around a year to write the book. At first, England would interview Corbett as he would any other subject.
But, something wasn’t quite clicking. The early writing stages felt too much like an article and not so much like Corbett’s actual story.
So, they decided to try another tactic.
“She wrote me an email after she went for a run and sent me a recording of her talking about her life,” he said. “She said that’s when her brain was really free and clear. So that’s what we’d do. I’d tell her what to talk to me about and she’d send me recordings from while she was running. Surprisingly, it was way more organized than what it would seem.”
The running portion only takes up half of the book, making it a fast read for sports enthusiasts and couch potatoes alike.
Now that the book has hit shelves, England just hopes that people take away an inspiring message from Corbett’s story.
“This is really a tale about someone who hated running,” he said. “The main point is that anything is possible and people shouldn’t close their minds to something just because it sounds crazy. It also shows that the outdoors can help you. You can use it as a source of strength or even a religion of sorts. Catra helped inspire me to try a 50-miler. I didn’t think I could, but after working with her, I thought I’d try it.”