True stories power behind running anthology
Winnetka resident compiles top stories in sport
January 10, 2011 | 01:38 AM
When you've been running for 40-plus years you not only create a few stories of your own but hear those of many other runners along the way.
Such is the case for Winnetka resident Rich Elliott, a longtime distance runner, coach and now, for the second time, author.
Elliott's latest work, "Runners on Running: The Best Nonfiction of Distance Running," is an anthology of more than 30 stories from some of the most acclaimed writers in running. Released in mid-November, Elliott said the book has been well received and he's looking forward to hearing feedback.
Winnetka and Northfield residents will have a chance to hear from Elliott and have a copy of his book signed when he visits The Book Stall on Thursday, Jan. 13. Elliott will present his collection of nonfiction at 6:30 p.m. at the shop, 811 Elm St., Winnetka.
Elliott said the decision to compile the best-of-the-best running stories came after many trips to book stores during which he never saw a collection of running stories.
"So I thought this could be a good book," Elliott said. "I've been collecting stories for a number of years.
"I've always been a reader and I've always felt my reading about runners and races has been a big inspiration in my own life. I've always encouraged athletes I coach to read for inspiration."
Elliott, who competed at Kansas University from 1968-1972 and is the 1971 Big Eight Conference three-mile champion, was named the Illinois Distance Coach of the Year in 1976 while working at Willowbrook High School. After 12 years of coaching at the high school level – and producing a pair of All-Americans – Elliott moved into educational publishing as a textbook editor. He just finished a two-year stint as head coach of the men's and women's cross country teams at Dominican University.
Many of the stories within "Runners on Running" are inspirational, Elliott said. Others are humorous or heartwarming, but all fit Elliott's main criteria of being a "really compelling read."
The selections are grouped in the themes of spirit, body, mind, mentor, race, bonds and heart. The goal, Elliott said, was to provide a selection that would appeal to both competitive racers and "those who just like to run."
Elliott's personal favorite is the story about premier Australian distance runner Ron Clarke by Sports Illustrated writer Kenny Moore.
"[Clarke] had this personal code that he wanted to make every race as hard as he could on the competition," Elliott said.
Elliott relates some of his own experiences in the anthology as well, and wrote prefaces for each story included.
Though Elliott had to give up running a few years ago because his knees had had enough, the 61-year-old has taken to cycling and said he may even return to coaching, which was the inspiration for his first book, "The Competitive Edge: Mental Preparation for Distance Running."
"There's just a really great value system that running is all about," said Elliott, whose three children all ran cross country at New Trier. "Perseverance, hard work, audacity, passion, camaraderie – I have to believe distance running sort of engenders those values."
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Meet The Author
Rich Elliott: "Runners on Running"
When: Thursday, Jan. 13, 6:30 p.m.
Where: The Book Stall, 811 Elm St., Winnetka