Wise Person Said: Stan Cottrell

Posted On: Friday, 01 March 2024

At the age of 80, Stan Cottrell has had more than his share of experiences and accolades. The renowned ultra-distance runner has been recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records numerous times. He ran through all five continents and dozens of countries, including China’s forbidden zones in 1984.
Cottrell completed 100-day coast-to-coast runs across the United States three times. He received presidential and congressional awards for his humanitarian achievements, and accolades from foreign leaders. He has served his country as a Marine. And he has written several books, has been the subject of numerous films, and has conducted hundreds of media interviews.
But Cottrell is not ready to hang up his running shoes just yet. Nor is he ready to stop giving back.
Cottrell is hitting the pavement in March to raise awareness about veterans who suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, suicide, and other mental health challenges. The run — which winds through Georgia — is the latest in a series of ultramarathons undertaken by Cottrell for more than four decades.
Cottrell, who currently lives in Tucker, Ga., grew up in eastern Kentucky. It was there that he discovered his love of long-distance running. As a 12-year-old, he won a 100-yard dash running barefoot at the county fair, walking away with a treasured blue ribbon.
Since then, Cottrell — a former CEO/executive for numerous companies — has pushed the limits of what many would consider possible. So far, his more than 283,000 miles run — a world record — have included the following: 
• 3,100 miles from Los Angeles to New York in 1980
• 2,125 miles across China, from The Great Wall to Guangzhou in 1984
• 6,000 miles in Russia in 1992
• 150 miles in Nairobi, Kenya in 2005
• 2,022 miles through Georgia, Florida, and Tennessee as part of the VET 22 Suicide Prevention Run, a fundraiser for the nonprofit VET 22, named in honor of the estimated 22 U.S. military veterans who commit suicide every day.
Cottrell, who has held roles as a serial entrepreneur, college instructor, coach, and pharmaceutical salesperson, launched the Amazing Friendship Run as part of the nonprofit group Friendship Sports Association he founded. Cottrell’s life of inspiration is captured in his books Thoughts on the Run and No Mountain Too High.
Why are you dedicating this run to veterans? 
It’s important to raise awareness about a major problem we’re experiencing in America right now. Every day, an average of 22 veterans are committing suicide. These are the people who fought for us on the battlefields in foreign countries. They’re coming home, but the nightmare of what they’ve experienced is still with them. They’re having a hard time processing it. Back when I served in the Marine Corps, our motto was “Leave no man behind.” That’s still true. We must do everything we can to support our veterans. God has poured into me to give me these abilities. I’m using them to give back, to raise awareness about the challenges facing our veterans.
After decades, how do you stay inspired to keep running long distances? 
We can never put limitations on what we’re capable of doing, no matter our age. We need to hold on to our dreams. A long time ago, I made it my mission to use my long-distance running to encourage people to discover their own gifts.
Some of your runs have had incredible challenges, including extreme weather. How do you keep going? 
One of my favorite scriptures is Philippians 4:13, which says, ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.’ When I run, I’m constantly thinking of Christ, who strengthens me, and I keep saying, ‘Hang on for just five more minutes.’” 
As a 12-year-old, did you ever imagine you would be here? 
Never in my wildest dreams did I think that running would take me all around the world … to places like Ethiopia, Scotland, Poland, Argentina, and Korea. Through running, I have had the privilege of meeting many incredible people from all walks of life, including students, farmers, and dignitaries. I am blessed.

ALA Mission

In the spirit of Service, Not Self, the mission of the American Legion Auxiliary is to support The American Legion and to honor the sacrifice of those who serve by enhancing the lives of our veterans, military, and their families, both at home and abroad. For God and Country, we advocate for veterans, educate our citizens, mentor youth, and promote patriotism, good citizenship, peace and security.