Charlie Bell ’71 was Mercersburg Academy’s featured speaker for the fourth annual Joseph Hilliard Beauregard ’18 Memorial Generosity of Spirit School Meeting in February. Bell surprised students with his impressive journey running across the continental United States. When talking about the hundreds of strangers he met, he disclosed humorous, frightening, and somber memories.
Bell explained that he never distinguished himself in sports while at various schools. Rather, he was known as a bookish kid. After a gap year in England, he attended Princeton. Following graduation, he went to work for IBM in New York; however, in his mid-20s, Bell decided to leave his job as a big-city computer salesman and begin long-distance running. Within a year of his first short road race, Bell qualified for and completed the Boston and New York marathons.
With dreams growing bigger and, literally, longer, Bell’s marathon glory led him to the thought of running an unsupported lap around the perimeter of the United States. He followed the seasons for 10,000 miles. One morning in August 1979, he started a journey from his parents’ house in Mercersburg, PA, to follow the seasons for 10,000 miles.
Bell captured the culture of the spirit school meeting when he shared moments of insight and wonder, surprise, and joy during his solo journey through the United States. He related various memories of the trip and explained its connection to the spirit of Beauregard.
Bell has been a featured presenter at the Connecticut Storytelling Festival and the International Platform Association’s annual showcase. He also received praise for his storytelling in The New York Times, and published short articles about his trip in Sports Illustrated and Reader’s Digest.
After the school meeting, Bell allowed extra time for both teachers and students to ask questions about his incredible journey. Bell shared more aspects of his experience and the ethics behind it, including some advice to future teachers, coaches, and solo travelers for a Mercersburg podcast.
- Alumni Life