A Special Brand of Fame
In the week following his record race young Jim Ryun discovers the joys—and hazards—of owning the most treasured mark in all of sport
By Gwilym S. Brown, Sports Illustrated
Young Jim Ryun's hectic life as the world record holder in track's most glamorous event began even while he was spinning off the 3:51.3 Mile he ran in Berkeley, Calif. a week ago last Sunday on July 17. During the race a souvenir hunter stole his warmup shoes. Some 45 minutes later, on his short journey from the Edwards Stadium track to the University of California dormitory in which he was billeted, he began to sample his first really heady dose of public adulation. Ryun covered the three blocks barefoot and at a full gallop, pursued closely by a mob of children and adults, and then bounded up the seven flights of stairs to his room when he found the elevator in use.
"Those people didn't want autographs," Ryun said later, shuddering slightly. "They were after pieces of clothing."
This was only the beginning of the week that was for the 19-year-old boy who had just finished his freshman year at the University of Kansas, who had just cut 2.3 seconds off the world Mile record, who had become the first American in 29 years to hold that title and who had predictably emerged as one of the most exciting figures in all of sport. Before the week had ended Jim Ryun had turned down a $50-a-day offer, cautiously felt his way through some 30 interviews for press, radio and television, had shaken countless hands and had autographed two $100 bills for a pair of entranced fans. He even managed to fit in a leisurely 1:46.2 victory in the 880-yard run (his world record is 1:44.9) at the Los Angeles Times International Games in the Coliseum, the substitute for the dual meet that never was between the USA and the USSR, a meet highlighted by two world records. Most important of all, Ryun was beginning to bring into focus the things that were happening to him now and the things that would happen in the months to come.
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Mile world record progressions HERE.