Jim Ryun is the iconic America miler. His 3:58.3 as a high school senior, his three Olympic teams, his two WRs put him on the covers of Track & Field News, and Sports Illustrated. Jeff Benjamin reached out to some of the finest milers to follow Jim, and ask them about Jim Ryun’s place in the world of middle distance running.
Updated August 1, 2017
Jim Ryun’s 3:51.1 World Record Mile- 50 years later- Perspectives From Those Who Followed!
By Jeff Benjamin
After becoming America’s first 1500 Gold Medalist since 1908, Matt Centrowitz tweeted how just before that grand race last summer in Rio he received an email wishing him good luck from “My idol growing up…Jim Ryun!”
One can definitely see why.
50 years ago in Bakersfield, California, Jim Ryun truly did the impossible. All one can do is watch in awe at the video below, and one can see why “Ryunesque” should be a word in today’s dictionary words synonymous with “unlimited”
“I read about it many many times. Never ceases to amaze me how great Jim was during his era. An amazing running machine. In my 50 years in the sport there has been no one like him.”
“Jim Ryun has been an inspiration to me as a runner. It is incredible that his 3:51.1 mile, that he ran 50 years ago, would still be relevant in almost any race contested today.”
John Gregorek Sr
“Unbelievable. Truly a legend. Could only imagine what he would have run with the typical multiple rabbit races of today. I ran 3:51.3 in a race where I was only 6th place and on a much nicer track.”
“The way he ran that from the front, with no rabbits, and being able to close the way he did all alone–Today’s 1500 runners should never complain when the pace is a bit off. 50 years ago he showed us what’s possible.”
“To be honest, I don’t think I have ever seen footage of his race, that was amazing!! He looks like he was shot out of a cannon the last 200 meters! To run that fast, by himself, on a dirt track with no rabbits is quite the accomplishment. He was a beautiful runner to watch.”
Johnny Gregorek Jr
“I have seen Ryun’s world record. It’s an incredible race and Jim Ryun is definitely a legend of the sport who set the bar high for American milers by both being good from a young age but also relevant on the world stage.
However, I would like to think I could have used him as a rabbit of sorts during that last 400. If I sat on him and swung wide over the last 100 meters, I could have outkicked him and stole that world record!! ;)”
Mile PR- 3:46.91
“As a gift I was given a copy of the Sports Illustrated with a picture of Jim Ryun finishing his world record 3:51.1 with no one in sight the whole way down the home stretch. It amazed me every time I looked at that photo. I looked up to Jim throughout my career.”
Mile PR- 3:49.80
“I could not believe the announcers kept saying what pace he had to be to get the World Record. Going through the 800 split in 1:58.6 does not bode well in running a World Record. Even 2:57 is slow for the 3/4 mile split. It truly proves that if you believe, it can be done. Jim Ryun believed he could run a 53 last 400. All he had to do was be there with a lap to go – in striking distance. He believed this so much, that even the announcers believed it. He went out in 60 then ran 2:51 for the last 3 laps!”
“Time trial just like practice for him. Sustained speed was his wheelhouse, later perfected by a little known guy by the name of Sebastian Coe.”