Rich Elliott competed at Kansas University from 1968 to 1972, qualifying for the NCAA Division I national meets in both track and cross country. In 1971, he was the Big Eight Conference three-mile champion.
In 1976, Elliott was named Illinois Distance Coach of the Year while working at Willowbrook High School. He moved to Deerfield High School in 1977 and was an assistant coach with the state cross country championship team before becoming the program's head coach for both cross country and track. Elliott coached at the high-school level for 12 years, producing a pair of All-Americans and several all-state athletes. During this time he also wrote The Competitive Edge: Mental Preparation for Distance Running, a book that Track and Field News magazine called “the best work on the subject” and “a modern classic.”
Elliott then worked for many years in educational publishing as a textbook editor and technology producer. He returned to coaching from 2008 to 2010 to head the men's and women's cross country teams at Dominican University in River Forest, Illinois. He is now a freelance writer and editor.
Elliott lives in Winnetka, Illinois, with his wife and three children.