Mile News

Jim Ryun reflects upon breaking his Mile world record 50 years ago

April 29, 2017

“Coach Timmons would reach way down in our souls, find these amazing talents and pull them out."

By Tom Keegan, Lawrence Journal-World

Somewhere, sitting on a basketball team’s bench or listed way down on a football squad’s depth chart, or standing in front of a gymnasium door searching in vain for his name on the posted final roster is a man who, had he just headed out to the track to start a life of turning left, could have become a celebrated champion.

That is as good an explanation as any as to why June 23 will mark the 50-year anniversary of the last time an American male broke the outdoor world record in the Mile.

That someone, of course, was legend Jim Ryun, who shaved two-tenths of a second off of his world record in Bakersfield, Calif., when he ran the final lap in a blistering 53.7 final lap of a 3:51.1 Mile, one year after setting the record in Berkeley, Calif. Ryun was the world record holder for nearly nine years.

Seven men from five countries have broken it since: Filbert Bayi (Tanzania), John Walker (New Zealand), Sebastian Coe, Steve Ovett and Steve Cram (United Kingdom), Noureddine Morceli (Algeria) and Hicham El Guerrouj (Morocco), who holds the record of 3:43.13, set July 7, 1999, in Rome.

Ryun was just 17 when he became the first high school runner to break the 4 minute barrier (3:59.0), 18 when he set the American record (3:55.3, a high school record that stood for 36 years until Alan Webb broke it), 19 when he set the world record (3:51.3), 20 when he bettered it and 21 when he won the silver medal in the 1500 meters at the Olympic Games in Mexico City, where Kenya's Kip Keino won the gold.

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Tags: world record (77) , legend (90) , jim ryun (93)

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Bring Back the Mile as the premier event in the sport, and increase interest in and media coverage of the Mile for both those who love the distance as well as the general public.

Bring Back the Mile to celebrate the storied distance and to recognize the people who made and make the Mile great and to promote Mile events and the next generation of U.S. Milers.

Bring Back the Mile to create a national movement for the Mile as America’s Distance,
to inspire Americans to run the Mile as part of their fitness program and to replace the 1600 meters at High School State Track & Field Meets across the country.

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