78-year-old running 30 miles a day from LA to D.C.; he’ll be in Lawrence halfway through his 100-day journey

photo by: The Amazing Friendship Run

Ultra-distance runner Stan Cottrell, 78, is making his third run across the United States this summer. He is scheduled to be in Lawrence Friday, June 25, 2021.

The Forrest Gump comparisons are legion but not altogether apt. For one, accomplished runner Stan Cottrell is not running across the country because he’s bereft. On the contrary, he’s downright bubbly.

For another, he’s not 38; he’s 78. He’s been running his whole life — about 270,000 miles total, he says — and he’s not likely to just one day tire of it and go home.

“Just because you reach a certain age doesn’t mean you’re old,” Cottrell told the Journal-World this week. More sternly, he added, “Don’t ever complain about your age. It’s a privilege denied to many.”

Cottrell, who will stop Friday in Lawrence, is on a 100-day run across the United States. He started in Los Angeles on May 7, his birthday, and intends to run for 100 consecutive days until he reaches Washington, D.C.

This run — he’s calling it the Amazing Friendship Run, and it’s for charity — is actually his third time crossing the U.S. The first time he did it, in 1980, he set a Guinness World Record by running 3,103.5 miles from New York to San Francisco in 48 days. If you do the math, that’s around 65 miles a day.

The current project, seemingly leisurely by comparison, involves running a mere 30 miles a day. His routine consists of logging 25 or so miles early in the morning — before the summer heat gets “microwave like” — and then wrapping up the remaining five or so miles toward evening.

While this is his third trip across the U.S., Cottrell has run across 40 other countries, he said, sometimes more than once. Some of his more memorable jaunts include running thousands of miles along the Great Wall of China and making his way from Edinburgh, Scotland, to the Rock of Gibraltar at a pace of 55 miles a day.

photo by: The Amazing Friendship Race

Stan Cottrell, in blue shirt, in his younger days as an ultra-distance runner.

Like the fictional Gump, Cottrell is from the South, down to earth and quick with a catchy saying. He also has a way of inspiring crowds to run beside him.

“The running always takes on that spirit of building friendships,” he said.

When he’s not running, he likes to pop into a cafe, church or school to talk to local folks.

“Small towns are the heart and essence of America,” he said, noting that he comes from tiny Munfordville, Ky., which is where he started running, on the family farm — partly for fun, chasing after cows and rabbits, and partly for necessity, as a way to get to school on time.

“I missed the school bus about three mornings out of every five,” he said. “And Dad would say, ‘If you don’t have your chores done in time for the bus, you better start hoofin’ it to school.'”

When he was 12 years old — the class shrimp, standing 4 feet 9 and weighing less than 80 pounds — he handily won an impromptu 100-yard dash at the county fair.

“I beat everybody,” he still says proudly of the little race 66 years ago. The victory seems more momentous to him than, say, running across Ukraine, “because that’s the first time I felt significant,” he says. It’s when he knew he had found the thing he was good at — which is a quest he tries to inspire in others, whether they are 12 or 80.

“Discover what you do well, and just do more of it,” he said.

The Amazing Friendship Run is sponsored by Friendship Sports Association Inc. and 247 Health Solution to create awareness of fitness and global causes. The public is invited to join Cottrell as he runs. Lawrence will welcome him from 10 a.m. to noon Friday at the Union Pacific Depot, 402 N. Second St. To find out more about his run and his charitable causes, visit friendshipsportsassociation.org.


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