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Jim Ryun — August, 2016
Jim Ryun is an iconic middle distance runner who was the first prep runner to run a sub-4:00 mile which he did in 1964 in 3:59.0. His 1965 time of 3:55.3 stood as a high school record for 36 years. A three-time Olympian in 1964, 1968 and 1972, Jim won the Silver Medal in the 1968 Olympic 1,500 meters in Mexico City. Jim set World Records in 1966 of 1:44.9 for 880 yards (1:44.3 for 800m en route) and the mile (3:51.1). In 1967 he set World Records of 880 yards indoors (1:48.3), mile (3:51.1) and 1,500 meters (3:33.1). He tied Tom O’Hara’s indoor mile WR of 3:56.4 in 1971. Four times he broke the American Record mile. Ryun still holds American junior (19 and under) records at 880 yards (1:44.9), 1,500 meters (3:36.1), and two miles (8:25.1). The five-time NCAA champion from the University of Kansas won the indoor mile three times (1967, 1968 and 1969), indoor two-mile (1968) and outdoor mile (1967). At Wichita East High School Jim was three-time Kansas State mile champion. He was 1966 Sports Illustrated ‘Sportsman of the Year’, 1966 Sullivan Award honoree, 1966 ABC's Wide World of Sports Athlete of the Year, and Track and Field News 1966 and 1967 Athlete of the Year. Ryun was inducted into the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame (1977), U.S. Association of Track and Field HOF (1980), National High School HOF (1983), National Distance Running HOF (2003) and Wichita East HOF (2004 Inaugural Class). He earned a Bachelor’s degree in photojournalism at the University of Kansas. Jim served five terms as U.S. Representative from Kansas from 1996 to 2006. Each summer he hosts the Jim Ryun Running Camps which can be found at Jim and his wife, Anne, of 47 years have four children and seven grandchildren. They reside in Washington, D.C. Jim was so gracious to spend an hour and ten minutes on the phone for this interview in the late summer of 2016.
GCR:It has been over five decades since you were the first high school runner to run a sub-4:00 mile. Could you describe what it meant then to achieve a breakthrough goal and, even more importantly, what it has meant as it has stood the test of time and only six more U.S. preps have dipped under this mark?
JRLet me begin with the last part of that question – I’m surprised it has stood as long as it has and there haven’t been more high schoolers who have run under four minutes. It’s one of those surprising things because I ran under four minutes for the first time in 1964 and then Tim Danielson and Marty Liquori followed in the next few years, but then there was then this huge gap. I don’t think any of the three of us would have sat down and thought we had done something that was going to last such a long period of time without someone coming along and running under four minutes. Let me go back to when I was a young guy growing up in Wichita, Kansas and couldn’t make an athletic team. I was cut from the church baseball team. I tried basketball by invitation of the junior high basketball coach and about halfway through practice he wanted to have a meeting in his office. I went in and he asked if I noticed there was a difference in the way I play and the other boys play. I said, ‘Sure, my game is in the process of getting better and maturing.’’ He said, ‘Maybe when you enter high school you may have developed a basketball game, but just hang your singlet on the door and I’ll see you in gym class.’ At that point I was struggling to find something I could do in sports and I went out for the junior high school track and field team. I successfully stayed out for three years but I never really made the team. I would go to bed every night and say a simple prayer, ‘Dear God, I really want my life to amount to something and it would be nice if it was in sports because if you look now it really isn’t going well.’ I think that everyone who has ever done anything in life or in sports has that kind of ‘Hail Mary moment.’
GCR:So when you went to high school how quickly did your sports experience change from disappointment to success?
JRHaving set that stage for you, when I went to high school I went out for the cross country team, not knowing exactly what cross country was. The longest distance I had run at that point was a quarter of a mile in junior high. So, you can imagine the shock when I ran a mile and some wind sprints and found out that was just the warm up. But I made my first cross country team, earned a letter jacket and hoped to get a girlfriend. I was hooked on running. Along came my sophomore year of track and field in high school and I lost my first mile race. Fast forward to racing against the defending state champion at one mile in the fourth race that year and that is where the story really begins with Coach Timmons, my wonderful inspirational high school coaches who was very visionary. For me it was one of those moments that go back to a very simple bus ride that took place and after the race in Kansas City we had about a three hour bus ride back to Wichita. We all got a chance to visit with Coach on the bus ride, so I wasn’t the exception but the rule and this is what he said to me. ‘How fast do you think you can run?’ I had run 4:21 in my fourth high school race. He said, ‘I think you can run faster. I think you can run under the school record.’ This was after only four races and the school record was 4:08 which was also the National Record. I thought, ‘How is this possible?’ I was gauging my answer based on the fact that my head hurt, my legs hurt, my lungs hurt and I couldn’t fathom going faster because of all of those physical limitations at that point. Then he said, ‘I think you can be the first high school boy to run under four minutes.’ Again, this was after four races at a mile. I’m really grateful that my parents taught me to be respectful, so I nodded my head and went to the back of the bus puzzled and wondering how that could happen.
GCR:Coach Timmons ended up being correct with his sub-four minute prediction, but how surprising was it to you that it actually did happen?
JRFast forward about 16 or 18 months and I did run under four minutes as a junior in high school. I was surprised, but not too much at that point in time because we had done so much work getting ready for it. It was Coach Timmons’ goal up until then and I share this at my Jim Ryun Running Camp that it is important to take ownership of your goals. When I ran under four minutes for the first time I began taking ownership, not only that night, but of the future. In fact, I couldn’t sleep. I thought about what would happen if I did a few other things I knew I could do at practice that may assist me in running faster. That’s the whole part of ownership and that’s why running under four minutes for the first time opened a door that I never could have imagined and how it would chang my life. I attribute it back to that simple prayer in junior high, ‘Hey God, if you’ve got a plan I’d appreciate if you’d show up because it really isn’t going well.’ From that point on it was an amazing transformation in my life and Coach Timmons was a gift from God for me who helped shape and mold my running for me the rest of my life.
GCR:It is amazing to how what you did inspired others. In a documentary, Marty Liquori said, ‘Jim told us all we didn’t have to wait, that we could be good or even great at a young age. In my recent interview with Rod Dixon a couple of months ago, he said he had a poster of you on his bedroom wall and that, ‘To us kids, Jim Ryun redefined the four minute mile. We couldn’t believe a high school kid could run a four minute mile, so that was pretty cool.’ How does it feel to know you had this effect on some great runners such as Marty and Rod and that it continues even with the younger generation through videos and your running camps and motivational talks?
JRI’m very honored by all of that, but I have to go back to the original visionary and that is Coach Bob Timmons. He was the one who dreamed that dream and begin setting in motion the process for it to become reality. The workouts became more difficult and the biggest thing was to instill in me the ability to think it could happen. It is one of those things to do the physical work and my mile time began to fall, to tumble as I was running faster in practice. But it was the mental preparation that he was able to accomplish in that short period of time so I could even believe that it would happen. I’m very honored that these other guys hold me in such high respect, but I pass on that honor to who God gave me in Coach Timmons. He expected a lot of each of us but he gave so much to make that happen. He is the visionary in all of this.
GCR:After less than three years as a competitive runner, you were suddenly racing top U.S. runners and made the 1964 U.S. Olympic team as a 17 year old. What was the feeling when you made the team at the Olympic Trials and how was it as a teenager to be amongst outstanding teammates such as Dyrol Burleson, Tom O’Hara, Bob Schul, Billy Mills, Morgan Groth, Gerry Lindgren and Bill Dellinger, to name a few?
JRIt was very overwhelming. That Olympic Trials race almost didn’t develop the way it ended up. We had trained all summer up in Lawrence, Kansas with Coach Timmons and we did a lot of things to try to get ready for the Trials. And yet there were no races from the first Olympic Trials until the second Olympic Trials and there was a gap of about five or six weeks in between. We went into that competition and there is sort of a funny story as we were driving to the L.A. Coliseum. Coach Timmons and I were both very nervous. We didn’t know L.A. that well and we noticed a flashing red light in the rear view mirror and it was a policeman. We had been speeding. Coach Timmons had been speeding and was unaware of it. We got out of the car and he explained that we were on the way to the Trials and were very sorry. The officer said basically that was all fine, here’s your ticket and I’ll see you later. That set the stage for that day. The race developed in such a way that I was hoping to get into the top three, but it was something that was kind of out of my realm of expectance. I had been fourth during all of the races in June and July, so to be third I thought was kind of out of my capabilities. With about 100 yards to go, and I talk about this at the Jim Ryun Running camps, my thoughts were that I had worked hard all summer, we trained for this moment, but it didn’t look like it was going to happen so I would be going back to Wichita East High School and getting ready to run cross country with my classmates and then would be getting ready for the track season.
GCR:You did have a great kick to pass Archie san Romani and Jim Grelle, so something must have changed in your mind and your belief in that last home stretch.
JRA thought occurred to me that it is important when you sprint that you start to relax. I thought at that moment that I was just going to try a bit of relaxing and see if I could find another gear and sprint. To my utter surprise that was an answer to prayer and, as I stared relaxing, I found myself running faster and faster. At the finish line I leaned and by the grace of God I beat Jim Grelle. That became one of the principles that we teach our campers – when you finish a race, remind yourself that you are a sprinter. If you watch the sprinters, they are very relaxed in their facial muscles and their arm muscles. That was a learning lesson for me when that all happened. After the Trials in Los Angeles I didn’t go home. We stayed and got our necessary shots for all of the various possible illnesses in Asia. Then we went to Tokyo and it was quite an experience walking on the streets of Tokyo at the Olympic Games.
GCR:You mentioned how the Olympics was somewhat overwhelming, but in the two years after your first Olympics, there was a noticeable shift from you running with the top milers in 1964 to racing them by 1965 and 1966 and not letting any of their records or Olympic medals stop you from believing you could beat them whether it was off of a slow pace or fast pace. Was it experience, stepped up training, confidence or all three that made you one of the ‘men to beat’ every time you stepped on the track?
JRIt was kind of all of those things. One of the things that Coach Timmons had taught me as a young runner, and it became true as the years went along, was not to let my expectations be limited by just running against someone and to start setting some expectations of running faster times.
GCR:You went after the mile World Record at Berkeley in 1966 and were led through two laps in 57.9 and 1:55.5, before you took over the lead. After a somewhat slow third lap in 59.8, how tough was it to run that solo 56.0 for a 3:51.3 World Record and what were your emotions upon setting the World Record?
JRThe first World Record I was able to set in 1966 had a double meaning because I was the first American since Glenn Cunningham, another Kansan, to hold the World Record at one mile. Secondly, when the race was over and I was walking around the infield I went over to where my warm up gear was stored only to find it had been stolen. I jogged across the field after about three hours of answering questions and signing autographs and this attractive girl came up with her brother and sister and asked for an autograph. I was tired and said, ‘How about later?’ Fortunately later was a blind date with my wife, Anne, and we’ve been married ever since then so it was a good experience meeting her and marrying her. But in that race something happened that goes back to what Coach Timmons what teaching and training me and a lot of other athletes and that is don’t just race the person, but race the clock. That race should have more names on that World Record and they are Tom Von Ruden, Rich Roman and Wade Bell because they all helped to set the pace. In those days, if you ran as a pacesetter, so to speak, you had to finish the race or it didn’t count as a record. It was way over their heads of those three guys at the pace they were running, but they finished so it was counted as a World Record. At the end of three quarters I was right around 2:55, which at that point was very fast and very good. I thought to myself, and this was a tribute to Coach Timmons, ‘Every big recent race I had run at that point I had run at 55 seconds for the last quarter, so we might not only have a new World Record, but we might have a 3:50 mile.’ He had taught and trained me to think beyond your thoughts or moments or what you were thinking at that point. That thinking all lasted about another 200 yards and then it began to settle in that this pace was hard. I was so glad to see the finish line. That last lap was 56 seconds so that was a tribute to Coach Timmons.
GCR:The next year when you ran your final World Record mile of 3:51.1, the race wasn’t as even-paced, but a last lap sprint. After laps of 59, 60 and 58.5, you closed in an amazing 53.7. Did you think you had a chance for the World Record when you hit the bell lap in 2:57 and change, and how fast were you feeling that last lap and during the final home stretch?
JRIt’s kind of funny because that race had a preliminary heat the night before and sometimes that is overlooked. I think we ran about 4:07 in the prelim and the last three quarters was 3:01 point something. I wasn’t rested on that next night. Because I was in one of the inside lanes, my strategy was to go to the front quickly and then to let someone come around and take the pace. Nobody wanted to do that so the pace was very even, something I had planned on. About halfway through the race I started feeling really great. It was one of those rare moments, and you call it the zone, whatever or however someone may think of it, but I felt very comfortable and very relaxed. My first thought was, ‘I feel really great. I wonder how the guys behind me are doing?’ So if you see the race on tape you will see me occasionally take a quick glance backwards. I could not hear them. I have a hearing loss and wasn’t wearing hearing aids then as I do now. I could see they were drifting back a bit and so my thought was I should probably accelerate some because, if they were feeling like I was, I might have extended myself too much too early in the race. We got to the last lap and I began a gradual pick up of the pace. I don’t know how to say this any other way, but there are days when you can’t do anything wrong and that was one of those days. I was floating. I was comfortable. Again, it was my answer to prayer. I was only a little disappointed that I didn’t run a little harder on the last lap. It could have been under 3:50. It was one of those moments when everything was going very well, but you are never sure of that. One of the things that I am often asked at our running camps is what it is like to be out in front of everyone that far. Every runner may find themselves in that situation at some time. So I’m asked if I felt really confident and strong. My thoughts in that race were that I was out in front and there was no guarantee I would even finish, but you just do the best you can and in this case it was a 3:51.1 mile.
GCR:Two weeks later in the 1,500 meters at the U.S. vs British Commonwealth meet in Los Angeles, after a slow first lap, Kip Keino pushed a 56 second lap and led at three laps in 2:55 before you blasted a 53.9 last lap to win by 25 yards in a World Record of 3:33.1 which stood for many years. Were you just totally ‘in the zone’ that you were in a couple of weeks earlier, maybe at the peak of your career in retrospect and was it going to be almost impossible for anyone to beat you no matter the pacing or tactics?
JRI had been training under Dr. Jack Daniels with some of the other athletes who would compete in the 1968 Olympics. Conrad Nightingale was one and we were at altitude at Alamosa, Colorado training. We had been training very hard and one of my goals, which I didn’t realize until the Olympics in Mexico City, was to run a three quarter mile in under three minutes at 7,200 feet of altitude. We just couldn’t get it done. We tried everything. Before that race in Los Angeles we came out of altitude and I was absolutely exhausted. We had been training very hard and came down two days before the race and I slept 16 hours a day as I was so tired. When the race started I was sluggish because I had been sleeping so much and I didn’t have any great anticipation of how fast it was going to be other than this was going to be the race where I would be against Keino and I would be following him and trying to out sprint him at the finish. As it developed it went very slow in the middle and then got faster and faster. I don’t remember the times for each lap but the last lap was a fast 53 or 54 seconds. It’s one of those moments that you hope for and you pray for, but when it happens you are often surprised, as I was, that it was that easy.
GCR:Speaking of altitude let’s fast forward to a year later. When it was time for the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, you were the top runner in the world at 1,500 meters and the mile. The altitude of Mexico City prevented you from running your fastest, though you ran a great Silver Medal effort behind the altitude-born and trained Kip Keino. We will never know what would have happened at sea level, but do you wish there had been that opportunity?
JRI would have loved to have had that race at sea level and I think the results could have been dramatically different because for those who read this who haven’t been at 7,200 feet of altitude, there isn’t much air up there. So a person who has lived there all of their life such as Kip Keino has a tremendous advantage. If the race had been at sea level, I think that Bodo Tummier and I would have been in the mix along with Kip and I wouldn’t predict the results because Bodo, from West Germany, was the kind of runner who could sprint at the end and was a real threat in the last 100 yards if you were at sea level. So, it could have been entirely different, but that was not the case. In fact, one of the hard things about that was when I look at my career and my top ten races; it was one of my top races, just because of the altitude. A back story to this is how now I tell my running campers to never, ever concede. We had run preliminaries and semifinals and, back in those days, there weren’t really any rest days in there. So we get down to the final and I was so exhausted. I did not adjust well to altitude. Dr. Daniels talks about that how I was one of the few who didn’t adjust to altitude. Before the race I went up to Coach Ted Hayden and said, ‘Coach, I’m not sure I can even go to the starting line. I feel terrible. My lungs – everything. I just feel awful.’ So Coach said to me, ‘Why don’t you just go to the starting line, let the gun go off and just run your race/?’ So instead of conceding before the race, I went to the starting line, the gun went off and I was ready to race. I knew that I could not go out at the pace that Ben Jipcho went out. I knew that altitude would have a terrible effect on me at 56 seconds as well as everyone else, which it did in the last 300 meters. I think I was fifth with a quarter mile to go and because it was fairly even-paced for me I began gaining on the other sea level athletes and with maybe a hundred yards to go or whatever it was I think I moved into second and I was thrilled to have a Silver Medal.
GCR:It’s interesting that you brought up having to run rounds as the best milers have a combination of speed and endurance that allows them to race off of varied paces, employ different tactics and race to win under many circumstances. With your 800 speed of 1:44.3 and, a lot of people forget, endurance of 8:25 for two miles and 13:38 for 5,000 meters, was the mile/1,500 meters just in your sweet spot and what do you think was more important – speed or endurance – especially since you ran rounds in major competitions?
JRI think the distance was right for me and that was one of the issues that Coach Timmons had to deal with initially. Because of the foundation he laid, it gave me the ability to understand what could happen to me. I was successful my sophomore year of cross country in high school which was a distance of two miles. We went into the first track season in 1963 and I was disappointed because Kansas only had a mile race and I was a two-miler then. I had finished sixth in the State cross country meet and now all of a sudden I thought this was going to be challenging because I was more of a two-miler. It became an adjustment then and, as time went along, proved to be a good one. I was suited to running four laps on the track.
GCR:We mentioned Marty Liquori earlier and I have a thought regarding your racing against him since sports rivalries are so interesting. Just as Ali-Frazier peaked interest in boxing in the 1970s and Borg-McEnroe or Connors-McEnroe invigorated tennis in the early 1980s, how exciting was it to you personally and important for general public interest in track and field to have the Liquori-Ryun battles in the mile in the late 1960s and early 1970s?
JRI think it was very important and that is one of the reasons when Anne and I were living in Eugene, Oregon to go back to Philadelphia to run the 1971 ‘Dream Mile.’ I wasn’t at my best then because I was having a lot of trouble with my allergies. In fact, that was my last race for the season. I went back to Eugene and once the rain stopped there is a tremendous amount of pollen and we eventually moved. But I sensed that race with Marty would be good for our sport, I thought I would be okay and it ended up being one of those memorable moments as it was captured by television and they had fifty or sixty thousand people at the old stadium in Philadelphia. It was tremendous for the sport, tremendous for the buildup and a great opportunity to push mile running out into the general public.
GCR:When we go forward to the next year in 1972 you were in fine form for a run at an Olympic Gold Medal and, I remember watching on TV, when you got tripped in your Olympic heat, didn’t advance and your Olympic racing was abruptly over. Back then they didn’t advance people who were tripped like they do now. How tough was it after you had come back from a layoff, trained hard to give it another shot and then to have it end in such an unforeseen manner?
JRIt was really very difficult. Anne and I have reflected on that a number of times. Let’s go back to the back side of that story. Just before the 1,500 meter race day there was the Black September terror group that snuck into the Olympic Village and killed a number of Jewish athletes. So tensions were very high. Anne and I were actually out of the Village with her parents having dinner. I called back to the Village to one of my roommates, George Young the steeplechaser, and said,’ What should we do?’ He said, ‘Stay out because there is a tremendous amount of tension and nobody knows who is a good guy and who is a bad guy.’ We did and then when the Olympics resumed there was a ceremony to honor those who were killed, and then the 1,500 meters started. To be honest, that race should not have been run that way because I had run up in Toronto earlier in the summer a 3:52 mile and they put that in as a 1,500 meter time. That is why Kip Keino and I were in the same heat. Our managers on the team didn’t want to bother the German officials to reset the heats. So here we are, Keino and myself, in a crowded field with about 500 meters to go. I saw an opening on my right and started to go through to move around toward the front. As I did the guy in front of me decided to just about stop but the guy behind me didn’t and the three of us fell. It was a very hard fall especially since I wasn’t prepared for that.
GCR:What happened after the race and especially with the petition process to reinstate and advance you to the next round of competition?
JRI finished the race and somehow Anne, out of 80,000 spectators had gotten through all of the security and met me as we left the competition track to go to the warm up track where there is a tunnel. To this day we don’t know how it happened because there were nervous military guys who didn’t know if she was a good girl or a bad girl, and she was a good girl. We saw each other and one of the first things we did because we had just become Christians is we stopped and we prayed and said, ‘Dear God, this isn’t what we expected. Come and help us.’ As soon as we prayed that prayer the officials were there along with the coaches from the U.S. team and they all gathered around and were saying I would be reinstated and how they were sure of that. Then they all left. We were standing there and wondering what to do next. We left for the warm up track and were walking by the ABC television booth and were looking for someone to help us. I remembered an acquaintance I had made with a very fine Monday Night Football broadcaster, Howard Cosell, who was an attorney. I walked in and said, ‘Howard, can you help me write a petition for reinstatement?’ He said, ‘Jimmy, sit down and we’ll write a petition and you’ll be right back in those Games tomorrow.’ He got out a piece of paper and a pencil and wrote out a petition for reinstatement and I wish I had that still, but we had to give it to the IOC. They took that reinstatement petition and basically said, ‘Why don’t you come back in four years and try again.’
GCR:I haven’t heard this much detail of the process and so the outcome must have been devastating?
JRQuite honestly, despite being a young Christian, what I wanted to do was to punch the guy in the nose. I knew what it had taken to get there to the Olympics. Anne and I had sacrificed and now here we are now with one guy making this decision. We had even found that night from a German camera network the fact that I had been bumped by the guy behind me that tangled up my legs. I think the hardest part about that was the coaches and managers from the 1972 team, and I won’t name them, absolutely abandoned us. We had no help whatsoever from them. If it hadn’t been for Howard Cosell and then my coach during the night when he saw that camera angle that went around to the officials and woke some of then up so we could at least present the petition, nothing would have been done. Fast forward to this year’s Rio Olympics and one of the managers of the team, a guy named Tim Weaver from Kansas, helped our women’s four by 100 meters squad when the baton was dropped in the relay. I needed a manager like that in 1972. He knew exactly what to do. He got the extra runoff for them; they got into the finals and won. I needed a Tim Weaver in 1972 and we might have had different finish because it was at sea level in Munich.
GCR:Let’s take a look back at some of the other very important races from your career. As we noted, only seven high school runners have broken the four-minute mile. When you first did so it was done with college and post-collegiate runners. When you raced 3:58.3 at the Kansas state meet the next year as a senior it is still to this day the only prep sub-4:00 in high school only competition. How significant was that race?
JRYou are correct in that it is still the only sub-four minute mile race in high school competition and I am surprised by that because we have had some very fine high school runners run under four minutes. I think it represents the challenge it is to have to handle the pace yourself or to have only a little bit of help to make it happen. Again, that’s one that is at the top of the pedestal as far as my achievements. I remember the day well. I had run 4:02 in high school competition a couple of weeks before. Coach Edmiston, who was my coach that year, was helping me to get ready. We had done the workouts and felt we were physically ready and mentally ready. The day of the race, which was May 15, 1965, was a very hot day for the State meet in Wichita, Kansas. Coach Edmiston knew I was a little nervous. Just before a race started he would come up to me with something funny to distract me. He came up to me just before the race and in the sky there were a couple of white, puffy clouds. He said, ‘Do you see that cloud up there Jim?’ I said, ‘Yes,’ but was wondering what this was all about. He said, ‘That little cloud has more oxygen today so you have more oxygen today. You should have a great race. You’re going to run under four minutes so go out there and do it.’ It was kind of one of those dumb jokes that distracted me, but that was the nature of Coach Edmiston. He was a wonderful coach who recognized that everything had been prepared mentally and physically and spiritually, but there was that moment of trying to take away a little of the tension and he did that just before the start. I had a teammate, Mike Patterson, who hung with me for the first 880 yards and then it was a race of trying to stay relaxed and on pace. I remember that the last lap was a very long last 440. With 100 yards to go I thought I had a chance and when I crossed the finish line I noticed on my right one of the officials about three feet off of the ground jumping. I thought it had happened and then, of course, I saw the watch at 3:58.3 and was thrilled and honored that it happened.
GCR:Another series of races which were very compelling was in 1965 when you had some great races against the three-time Olympic Gold Medalist, Peter Snell and Jim Grelle. At Compton Snell kicked early and held off Jim Grelle and you, though you set a PR of 3:56.8. Then in San Diego, you moved earlier, Grelle hung tough until fading on the home stretch. And then you held off a fast-closing Peter Snell as you won in 3:55.3 to his 3:55.4. How exciting was it to mix it up with these great runners and to set the American Record?
JRIt was very exciting and again I use it as a teachable moment at my Jim Ryun Running Camps so let me explain. You don’t always feel good when have to make a move in a race. But you know intellectually that it has to be done. And so with about a lap to go, Josef Odlozil from Czechoslovakia, who had been the Silver Medalist in the 1964 Olympics, had gone out front and then was slowing down with a lap to go. I was on the inside lane while Grelle and Snell were on the outside of me and we were all closing in on Odlozil. My thought was that I didn’t want to go in front and that it was going to cause a lot of pain, but I recognized that if I didn’t go around him I would be boxed in and I would lose my stride. So that split second decision went back to my training that my coach had given me to do what I needed to do and not to pay attention to how I feel. I went around Odlozil, didn’t have to break my stride and gained a little bit of ground. Grelle came up on me. He was a marvelous competitor. Jim Grelle to me is one of the all-time great sports milers. He and his wife, Jean and my wife and I get along to this day and they are wonderful friends. I held off his sprint and then along came Peter Snell. I am hanging on and hoping I can maintain form. In those days one thing that was helpful for us was that the start and finish was in the middle of the track. When I came off the curve I knew the finish line wasn’t that far away. I was hoping I could hold form and get there and, by the grace of God, I did. It was a new American Record and I was able to hold off Peter Snell and Jim Grelle. But it came down to that moment when I had to make a decision not based on how I felt, but that it was the moment intellectually that would make the race. So I had to move when it was important and not when I felt like it.
GCR:Even though you are known primarily for your mile and 1,500 meter racing prowess, you set your first World Record at 880 yards at the 1966 US Championships in 1:44.9. Most top half mile and 800 meter races are run with a two second positive split, so how tough was it to run negative splits of 53.3, 51.6? Also, were you fully recovered from your 1:51 heat two hours earlier or was it a good warm up?
JRThat was in Terre Haute, Indiana and we did run that preliminary just a few hours before the final. It was one of those unusual times when I was really worn out as I had a little bit of a sore throat. I tried to go back and go to sleep across the street in the Indiana State dorm where we were staying. I tried to rest and it didn’t work. I knew at that time that I didn’t have the experience as a half-miler, but I wanted to score the points for our team. My intention was to stay off the pace and it happened that way. I don’t remember who led but after the first 500 yards on the back stretch I decided to make a decisive move and to my surprise it was a very easy opening up of a very large distance. I was able to maintain that pace which surprised me. I finished that last 440 as you said in 51 seconds so they were negative splits. Coach Timmons was in the stands and was timing me. He told me someone asked him the time and he said he didn’t know because he had looked at his watch and thought, ‘This is a World Record. This isn’t Jim’s race. Wat is happening here?’ It was a surprise to everyone, I included, and it was the beginning of another era of middle distance running for this country and for me.
GCR:You mentioned earlier about how you liked running the two-mile in high school and many people forget that, but I was reminded of it when I interviewed Gerry Lindgren a few years ago. He won 11 of his 12 NCAA Championship races in cross country, indoor track and outdoor track. When I chatted with Gerry he related how in his only defeat that ‘Kansas was contending for the team title so Coach Timmons put Jim Ryun in the two mile to get some more points for the team.’ Gerry said, ‘I ran the first mile as hard as he could, but near the end ‘he took off in his sprint and there was nothing I could do to challenge his awesome sprint. I was just left behind.’ What do you recall of racing Gerry that day and of that victory as he was very complimentary about you?
JRGerry is a tremendous competitor and our racing went back to the San Francisco Examiner indoor meet at the Cow Palace in San Francisco when we were in high school. It was a great meet where they invited all of the best high school two-milers and I was one of them. We raced then, he was ahead of me and won. He ran a fabulous race and had a great season so we had racing history going back that far. What he is referring to was in 1968 in Cobo Hall in Detroit during the indoor championships. That year I was running the double of the mile and two-mile instead of the mile and half mile. I was surprised how easy it was for me the first mile of that two-mile race. In those days we ran on an eleven laps to the mile board track so it was twenty-two laps for two miles. I followed Gerry and when I took off he followed me in. We finished very close together. I think the winning time was 8:38 or 8:39, which wasn’t a bad two-mile in those days. Gerry is a great competitor. What I remember about that race was that it was fast and that my feet blistered up very, very severely. One of the trainers, named Ryan, took me aside after the race and basically peeled off the bottom of my feet as they were so blistered. Then he put some mole skin on so I could run the next day in the finals of the mile since I was doubling and the mole skin saved my racing. But back to the race with Gerry, I did blister up, but I was able to win over a great competitor.
GCR:Of all the dozens of other races in which you competed, are there any which stand out for really tough competition, a strong kick or unexpected win or something else that strikes home?
JRI’m going to go back to my very first mile race, because to me that was a starting point that was totally unexpected. Let me set the stage on that. Again, I was a two-miler in cross country, but the longest distance they held in track in Kansas was the mile. We ran a time trial about two weeks before the first meet. I was third on our three man team as I ran a 4:52 mile in the time trial. By the way, the previous fall I had run a 5:38, so it wasn’t like I was lighting up the scoreboard with the fast times. So I was third on the team going into that first meet, the South High Invitational. Coach Timmons always had ‘Timmie Talk’ and so he had us set a goal. I don’t remember my exact goal except that I was going to try and stay with the leaders. One of the guys at the beginning of the race was a senior and as a sophomore I had really no experience as a miler. I went up and asked him, ‘How do you run this race?’ He said, ‘Kid, it’s really simple. Just stay up with the leaders and at the end outkick them.’ Being a naïve sophomore I thought that was a nice idea. There were eight teams with three runners – so twenty-four guys in the starting line. It was very, very crowded. But as the race developed it turned out that there were two of us left out in front with about 200 yards to go. I hadn’t paid any attention to the lap splits of the race. I remembered that one buddy of mine had said, ‘When you get down to the last 200 yards just start sprinting.’ So I started to sprint, but the other guy did the same thing. At the finish line he won. I didn’t have the experience and ran through standing almost straight up. He leaned at the finish line and won. After the finish I was in what I call the ‘runner’s pose’ where you are agonizing about how you feel and excited that you finished. One of my buddies came up and said, ‘Do you know how fast your time was?’ I didn’t know and he said, ‘4:32.’ So that was a twenty second improvement. Then one of the other guys ran up and said, ’Do you have any idea who you lost to?’ I said, ‘I don’t know. The guy over there in the red jersey.’ My friend said,’ He is the defending state champion in the mile.’ His name was Charley Harper, who ended up becoming a good friend. So I never lost another mile race in high school. My point in mentioning that race is you dream big, you follow others’ advice and you never know how it’s going to turn out. That race was a Godsend for me because that opened the door for becoming a miler. I never lost another high school mile race and I often wonder what would have happened if one of my buddies hadn’t told me to just start sprinting at the end. I don’t know what possessed me to think I could stay with the guy who was the defending state champion at one mile. To me that is one of those races that wasn’t necessarily fast compared to what was yet to come, but really set the scene for the years to come.
GCR:Underneath all of this great racing was great training so let’s talk about a few elements of training. First, since people are always interested in top runners’ weekly mileage, what was your training weekly mileage in high school, college and beyond when you were in base building and competitive phases?
JRIn high school my first year in cross country I was probably running forty or fifty miles a week. That was a fairly high amount for us then because we were only running once a day and six days a week. After we got through the first year of cross country and track and I had run a 4:07 mile in the summer of 1963, Coach Timmons said we were going to start something new in the fall. I looked at him with a puzzled look. He said, ‘we are going to start training twice a day.’ I said, ‘Coach, I’m just getting used to once a day.’ He said, ‘The best runners in the world are training twice a day, so we’re going to start training twice a day.’ So in the fall of 1963 my morning workouts weren’t much more than a run of four or five miles, but they were morning workouts. That year the weekly mileage went up to about 75 a week in the fall. By the time I got to the spring of 1964 we were running pretty high mileage of maybe 80 or 90 miles a week. Part of that was based upon the fact that over the winter, and I sometimes wonder the sanity of it all, Coach Timmons had me running twenty mile runs on Sunday. I remember my father taking me out in his old 1950 Plymouth and dropping me off about 20 miles out from our home and I would usually try to run back with the wind. This was in January and February. I remember my dad saying, ‘Are you going to be able to do this okay?’ And I’d say, ‘I sure hope so. I’ll see you at home.’ That would add up to a lot of miles very quickly. By the time I was a senior in high school I was running about a hundred miles a week. When I got into college it got a little bit higher up to as much as 110 miles a week. We were over training, but we didn’t know that at the time. There wasn’t the exercise science knowledge that we have now. I say to our campers now that mileage isn’t the best measure of how fast you will be or how good your training is. Rather, it is what you put into it – the quality. And again, but the grace of God I didn’t break down because we were doing high mileage and pretty good quality also.
GCR:Speaking of quality, what were some of your favorite workouts or the ones that you think really helped you either in high school, college and beyond, whether they were tempo workouts, race pace workouts or speed work?
JRI’ll tell you about one workout that I was discussing with my son at camp this past summer that is one you forget about until you are going through that rolodex in your mind and it kind of brings it out. During the summer of 1972 we were pretty much training on our own in the summer heat of Kansas. I was just training with Coach Timmons who would come out for the workouts. One day he said, ‘Jim, we’re going to run two half mile repeats today. I want you to run the first one in 1:50 and then see if you can run faster than that on the second one. Take a half mile jog in between. Let me know how it turns out. Use the watch and you are on your own.’ What I realize now is that he was getting me ready mentally as well as physically. I think the first one was 1:50.1 and the second was 1:49.5. It was one of the hardest things I had ever done. But it was the preparation, both mentally and physically, that was necessary to get ready for the Munich Olympics and World Class competition.
GCR:I recall when I was a young runner reading in ‘The Jim Ryun Story’ about how Coach Timmons would record 110 yards splits when you were doing mile races so you could review your pacing. How important was it to both run even pacing and to instinctively know at what pace you were running even without a stop watch?
JRIt was important and he did that, not just for me, but for everyone else as well. You could tell in your physical running when you had slowed down and we had a number of managers who had recorded our times. So we could see that we had slowed down and then we had to work on not letting down. He would also use that as a lesson as well in terms of training. So, if in a two-mile cross country race your weakness was after a mile and a quarter, then we would do mile and a half repeats to try to build up our strength to keep the pace even. So he was very visionary in that sense and had a lot of good planning. The intent there was to make sure we ran an even pace. We talk about this in my camps that a mile is not a mile – it is 16 well run 110 yard repeats. That is the kind of strategy that we use. You master each 110 yards until you are the master of all sixteen.
GCR:How much did you make use of uphill and downhill training to possibly get a little extra speed?
JRWe did a little of that in high school. I mostly did it on my own on a golf course. In those days you could actually run on golf courses. There was one outside of Wichita called Echo Hills Golf Course. It was unique in that not many people played on it in the winter. It had sand greens and that impacted people not wanting to come out to play. There was a portion that was fairly flat and then there was a gradual downhill. We devised a workout where I would run a quarter mile or half mile up on top of the flat area and then we would work on running down the slope faster which was a way of picking up leg speed. We did that during the winter of 1963 more than any other time. I seldom did downhill running. At the University of Kansas at end of the old Memorial Stadium which is not where the track is anymore, he could open the gate and there was a hill called Campanile Hill to run up. We would often do a quarter mile repeat or a half mile repeat on the track and then you would finish up with the 188 yards up to the top of the hill which was very steep. We would work on maintaining our pace, staying relaxed and running up the hill trying to maintain form as well. It was very, very challenging but the intent was to make us strong and it did help a great deal.
GCR:How important is running on soft surfaces, whether it is dirt roads or golf courses, to reduce and minimize susceptibility to injuries and could you tell us a bit about the kinds of shoes you wore when you were first staring out as a runner?
JRWhen I first started running my first pair of running shoes was Converse running shoes. They were basically a strip of rubber with a canvas top and no support. About halfway through the season the smell was enormous and my arches started to hurt because there was no support. Eventually, there were much better shoes for us. After the Converse shoes, I wore shoes with leather uppers. They gave me a great deal of blistering so I would buy two pairs at a time to break them in and not suffer with continuous blisters. I ran mostly on hard surfaces and I’m grateful that I had good shoes most of the way along the way that protected me and so I am still running some now. It is important to run on softer surfaces, but one of the things I suffer with on softer surfaces because of my loss of hearing is an imbalance problem. If there is a small incline or hole I had to be careful that I didn’t fall, so I stayed away from the grassy areas a lot of time because I had had my falls. But softer surfaces and the shoes we have now are both helpful.
GCR:As we noted, you were a U.S. team member for three Olympics. Did you attend the opening or closing ceremonies and enjoy watching other track and field events, other sports and touring Tokyo, Mexico City, Munich and surrounding areas? What are some of your Olympic highlights other than the racing which is always at the forefront of the Olympic experience?
JRThe 1964 Tokyo Olympics was probably the highlight for me getting to enjoy the Olympics because it was so new. It’s like going to Disneyland for the first time. I couldn’t believe all of the things that were happening. I was surprised and honored at the same time. I was kind of overwhelmed by all that was taking place. I was blessed to be there. I got to see a lot. One of the highlights for me in Tokyo was towards the end of the Olympic Games. They were selling Olympic coins and there were three of them – Gold, Silver and Bronze – with the Olympic symbol on them. You could buy them as an athlete at the bank and it was the last day to purchase them. I got on the metro from the Olympic Village and went downtown. It took about an hour to get there. I walked in the bank and asked if I could purchase them. I had one of my IDs, either my passport or Olympic ID. The teller at the window told me that I had to have both forms of ID and I only had one of them and the bank was closing. I thought I had missed my opportunity and thanked her. She told me to wait a moment, hesitated and went to talk to someone in the back of the bank. She came back out and said, ‘Go back to the Olympic Village and get your other form of ID, come around to the back of the bank and we will greet you there to sell you the coins.’
GCR:You must have been wondering as a teenager if this made sense and they were serious?
JRI thought that I was naïve and from another country and who would hold the bank open for me, but I took the risk and went back to my room, got my other ID, rode the metro back and went back to the bank. I knocked on the door and nobody came. I was thinking that here I was a high school boy and was sucker-punched or whatever you want to call it. Then I knocked a second time and the door was opened. The young teller, a young Japanese gal, ushered me in and sat me down with the bank President who sold me the coins. The point there is that the Japanese were very good hosts and they wanted the world to know they were more than what we knew from World War II, that they were a friendly peace-loving people. One other memory from that Olympic Games is when the Olympics were over a lot of us hadn’t really seen much of the country. The Japanese government found this out and they arranged for any of the Olympic athletes who were still there to have the opportunity to go and see part of Tokyo and other places where they could drive us around. They had about fifty buses in the Olympic Village to take us on a grand tour. They had announced the route and so as we were driving along there were all of these school children waving to welcome us. On the bus the U.S. members wanted to give them something so we were popping buttons off of our jackets for them or giving them Olympic pins. It was a very heartwarming experience to see the welcome they had given us.
GCR:We’ve talked about Tokyo, and those were some great memories, but how about anything in particular that stands out from your next two Olympic Games?
JRMexico City in 1968 was an entirely different one because by then I was the favorite to win the Olympic Gold Medal and the tensions were very high. I participated in the Opening Ceremonies and Closing Ceremonies, but I didn’t do much else because of everything that was going on. The 1972 Munich Games were interesting because the IOC had decided to honor an athlete from each of the continents and to have each of us carry in a torch for the Opening Ceremonies. I was one of them and Kip Keino was one from Africa. We all gathered and ran in to where the Olympic torch was going to be lit for the larger celebration. That was a very special memory to be honored as a representative from North America and to be able to participate in that ceremony. But, by and large, as an athlete in the Olympic Games you are very focused on what you are doing. It’s not a ‘kum-ba-yah, glad to see you from another country’ feeling as you are there to compete for your country, to do well and you need to stay focused. So my experience was that I didn’t see a lot because I was getting ready for the competition.
GCR:After the 1972 Munich Olympics, you ran for a few years in the professional International Track Association. What are your thoughts on running in the I.T.A. and do you wish you had the opportunities that runners have today for a professional running career?
JRWe were trying to open that door then. Anne and I had become Christians on May 18, 1972 and I had been a true amateur to that point. That is, I hadn’t taken money under the table. After the Munich Olympics, I knew it was my last Olympics and I was done. Along came professional track and I thought that here was a way to open the door for professionalism in running. With a number of other athletes, such as Bob Schul, we joined the professional track circuit and tried to make the sport professional at that time. But we had a great big push back from Ollan Cassell and the A.A.U. They banned us for life and I understand that because we were turning professional. But as time went along it turned out that the amateurs were making far more money than we were as professionals. That was kind of the conundrum that we were faced with. We were trying to do what was right and others were getting paid far more money and were saying they were amateurs. The I.T.A. lasted for three years. We were hopeful it would continue and it didn’t happen. Now I’m grateful that runners have the opportunity and that guys and gals can make a living from running. It is a very challenging sport where they can be richly rewarded which is what is happening today.
GCR:The United States is seeing a resurgence in middle distance and distance running and, in particular in the last two Olympics in the 1,500 meters, where we have seen Leo Manzano win the Silver Medal in London in 2012 and Matt Centrowitz win the first U.S. Gold Medal in 108 years in Rio this year. Why do you think middle distance success is increasing?
JRIt’s interesting with Matt Centrowitz because I have his contact info. Just before the final Anne and I were getting ready to watch and we thought we should send him a quick encouraging text message. We put it together and said we were praying for him and gave him this verse from 2 Corinthians, Chapter 2, Verse 14, ‘Thanks be to God who through Jesus Christ always leads us to victory.’ We heard back from Matt after the race and he told us he got the message when he was in the preparation room. He said he looked at it and thought it was pretty cool and that it was a moment of inspiration. Actually he mentioned that on Instagram a little later. We were thrilled for him. I couldn’t believe the race went as well as it did for him. It was one of those races you dream about that is so slow that it is going to play into your hands. It was a pedestrian pace and he had a sprint at the finish and a shot at winning the Olympic Gold Medal and he did.
GCR:Another interesting movement in the U.S. been attention brought to the mile in part from the ‘Bring Back the Mile’ effort over the past four or five years. Do you think reinstating the mile in high school, collegiate and other meets in the U.S. would grow the interest of not just competitors and track and field fans, but of the general public?
JRMy opinion has always been that when we went to the metric system with track and field distances that we lost a good portion of the public because they relate to things that they can understand. By that I mean that you can walk a mile or drive a car so many miles per hour and that the speed limit is a number of miles per hour. So we have a better opportunity to relate to that distance as most people don’t know what 1,600 meters is and they don’t know what 1,500 meters is. It’s one of those unfortunate things where we lost a certain part of the public. We need to be far more fan-friendly and that’s why I’m so pleased with ‘Bring Back the Mile’ and what they have been able to do. It’s one of those efforts where we realize they are investing in the future and the public and it helps people to identify with it all.
GCR:You have mentioned your running camps a few times and I know that for many years you have held summer running camps for youth. Do you still feel invigorated to be helping mold these young runners and, in many ways, do you get as much out of these camps as they do?
JRWe have a grand time. We’ve been doing them for over forty years. It’s one of those things where we enjoy working with the kids. It’s our opportunity to invest in them and so we get inspired knowing that we can give something to them. They can go to our website and see what we do. We have tremendously talented runners like Jenny Simpson, Ryan Hall and Sara Hall come to work with the kids. It is really a gift to be able to give and share with them some of the ideas I shared with you earlier like having to think of what is going on while running and responding as necessary.
GCR:Despite possibly not having it on your radar, in the mid-1990s you were approached to run for Congress, were elected and served several terms. What were the main challenges, accomplishments and surprising elements of your political adventure and was your fame as a runner an asset in this new arena?
JRWhat set the scene for that will go back to 1965 through 1967 when I was competing on the U.S. team against the Soviet Union. I remember leaving the communist countries and coming back to our country and thinking, ‘Gosh, we have a great country. Maybe sometime in the future I can participate in this to make it better, more conservative and honor those who serve us in the military.’ That opportunity came along in 1996. The seat for the Second District of Kansas opened up. My wife and I and our children all prayed about it and we decided to jump into the race. We won the first time around which was a big miracle. Usually people coming from a small business background with no political experience find it very challenging to win. We had ten wonderful years helping Kansans and doing what we could to help them understand what really happens here as far as the U.S. government’s role in our lives and also to make sure their interests were represented in Washington.
GCR:It’s been quite a while since your competitive heyday, but what is your current health and fitness program and how are you doing as you head toward the so-called ‘Golden Years?’
JRI am still very active. I do a lot of stationary biking. I run sometimes, but mostly on a treadmill because I live in Washington, D.C. and don’t think it’s that safe to run out on the streets. Runners can, but I know a lot of drivers don’t honor those red lights. I’ve been in a couple of places where the cars just blow through there so I’d rather have the security of knowing the old treadmill is a friend. So, I stay very active and think back to how important activity is as you feel good, your health is better and I’m honored to still be able to run some.
GCR:Is there any advice you would give to children and adults who wish to succeed in running or other sports?
JRI would offer this - and I say this in our running camps – I believe that God has a plan for your life. When kids come to camp they want to be runners and we encourage that. But they may also have an aptitude to be engineers or doctors. I suggest to them that they pray about it. It’s like that Bible verse I sent to Matt Centrowitz from II Corinthians, 2:14 ‘Thanks be to God who through Jesus Christ always leads us to victory.’ There is victory in finding and knowing where your talents are. Runners who are at the camps may like running, but they might have tremendous aptitude for becoming a doctor who will find an end to Alzheimer’s disease or an end to cancer. So, we challenge them in that sense and I would say that to young people that they should search out what their gifts are. I am grateful for the failures in my life because if I hadn’t failed at the church baseball team, the junior high basketball team and the junior high track and field team, I would never have become a middle distance runner. Sometimes we misunderstand what failure is all about. I often say that failure is a temporary detour to success. Find out where your talents are. God has a plan for your life and you need to find out what your talents are and what his plan is. I would say to young people – don’t be afraid of failure, learn from it and move forward. There is something there that is a very special gift from God.
GCR:When you are speaking to groups and you take a minute to sum up the ‘Jim Ryun philosophy of life is there anything else which you wish to add?’
JRIt kind of goes along with that thinking of don’t be afraid to dream big. I know that Coach Timmons influenced me and all of the high school and college athletes he worked with to put it out there. The question then might be, ‘What happens if I fail?’ It is no big deal. Everybody fails. It is better to run the risk and find out what talents God has given you as opposed to wondering the rest of your life if you should have tried something. That is a little bit of the message I give. So, dream big and don’t be afraid of failure.
 Inside Stuff
Hobbies/InterestsWhen I was a young boy growing up I was a very good bowler. In fact, one of the questions I had to resolve and decisions I had to make as a sophomore running cross country was that I was feeling awful from never running more than a quarter mile and here the first day we ran over five miles. I was averaging about 170 bowling which was pretty good as a sophomore so the decision was should I give up bowling and try this new adventure of running?
NicknamesNot really. I can’t think of any
Favorite movies‘Chariots of Fire.’ I am inspired by Eric Liddell’s story. He was very sacrificial and was a great role model. He was one of those men who, by how he lived and what he said, was a tremendous example for his generation and all generations. Another movie that is more recent that we like is ‘Risen.’ It tells the story of Christ through the eyes of a centurion who experienced the crucifixion and goes through how it changed his life. I tend to look for these types of movies for direction and inspiration
Favorite TV showsOne that became an inspiration was a TV show when I was a little boy. I had a tremendous imagination and when I was growing up I was the odd kid in school. I didn’t say the right things, didn’t do the right things, was kind of odd and was what you would call today the grade school nerd. Both of my parents worked, so I would go home and black and white television was new. Both of my parents were gone and my older brother wasn’t there. I would turn on the television and my favorite program was the old black and white series of Superman. It was fascinating to me because he always said the right thing, captured the bank robbers, and rescued the pretty girls and who wouldn’t want to be like Superman? One day when the show was over and I was at my highest moment of inspiration I went into the kitchen with the aspiration of creating a drink that would give me the same super powers as Superman. So I got out the tallest glass I could find and began putting everything I could find in the refrigerator – Coke, milk, pickle juice and Tabasco sauce in it. Then I went to the spice cupboard and put all of the spices in. I went out on the back porch to do my flying experiment. I took a drink and nothing happened. I thought I’d better finish the drink. My biggest regret was that I’d gotten such a tall glass. Somehow I drank it all down, and then I looked to make sure the neighbors weren’t watching and put my hands up over my head just confident that I would start flying. Well, I didn’t. That was the TV show that gave me inspiration and it is something I talk about often when I speak to groups
Favorite musicOne of my favorite artists passed away a while ago and that is Keith Green, who had music in the 1980s that is still relevant today. He was very challenging in his message, but it is a message that resonates today as well
Favorite booksThe Bible is my favorite book. There are tremendous stories in the Old Testament and New Testament with wisdom and direction. I appreciate all of the stories as they are old stories, but time-tested
First carA 1964 Plymouth was my first car. It was a five–speed. I purchased it with my paper route money. I had a paper route starting in the seventh grade all of the way through high school. It was a wonderful car
First JobNewspaper boy. I had a paper route starting in the seventh grade all of the way through high school
FamilyMy wife is Anne. We have four children. Our oldest daughter is Heather. Our youngest daughter is Catharine and we have twin sons in between, Ned and Drew. We have seven grandchildren
PetsI had a dog named Bubbles. She was a little black mutt. We were great friends and it was a wonderful pet
Favorite mealI’m still a steak and potatoes guy
Favorite beveragesWater
First running memoryRunning up to College Hill Park. It was about a mile away. Since I had never run more than a quarter mile it was a memory, but not a good one
Running heroesOne would be Jim Grelle. He set the standard for me as far as character when he lost out on going to the 1964 Olympics when he lost to me on that lean at the finish. That didn’t stop us from becoming friends and he and his wife, Jean, and my wife, Anne and I are great friends to this day. He set the standard and I’m grateful for that
Greatest running momentThat first high school mile track race which set the stage for everything
Worst running momentI’ve never really thought about that so I don’t really have one of those. I’m sure there are some in there if I thought about it for long enough
Childhood dreamsTo have and accomplish something in my life. That is why that prayer in junior high became so important – ‘Dear God, if you have a plan, I’d appreciate if you show up.’ I’d think of what I’d done, which wasn’t anything. I’d say, ‘Please show up in sports’ and then I’d fall asleep. I think I said that prayer every night when I was in junior high
Funny memoriesThere is a political story. When I was running for office the first time in 1996 it was an Olympic year. We had just finished going door-to-door. When you run for office, there are usually meetings and then you dress more casually when you go door-to-door. We had a meeting, changed clothes to visit door-to-door, got some food and went home that night and were sitting around. I said to Anne, ‘That was an amazing day. Things went really well.’ Then I looked down and realized that when I changed clothes I had left one long black sock on and put one short sock on. Nobody at any doors when I was talking to them made note of it. Here I was running for political office and trying to convince them I should be their Congressman and I had on one sock almost up to my knee and the other sock just above my ankle. It was a moment of humility
Favorite places to travelThere are so many wonderful places in the United States. One favorite is Colorado Springs where I went every summer. San Diego is also a favorite spot