Rising to the Challenge: Jim Ryun and the 4-Minute Mile

Rising to the Challenge: Jim Ryun and the 4-Minute Mile

challenge

verb

chal·lenge

To invite or dare to take part in a contest

To be difficult enough to be interesting : to test skill or ability

For the majority of his life, Jim Ryun has dared to be part of something much larger than himself. In the summer of 1964, 17-year-old Ryun ran the Compton Invitational, finishing in 8th place. On any other day, this might have been disappointing, but in this particular race, Ryun’s only competition was himself. And he came out on top.

Ryun’s time? 3:59.

He had just become the first high schooler to run a sub-four-minute mile.

An achievement of this magnitude is usually cause for celebration, but Ryun had a slightly different reaction.

“I remember going to bed that night not able to sleep,” he said. “I tossed and turned a lot, because I realized that the goal we had set maybe 15 months before was now realized, and I thought as I went to sleep, ‘What would happen if I took ownership?’”

Fifteen months earlier, Ryun was sitting on a school bus with his teammates on the way back from what was only his fourth high school cross-country race. He had finished in 4:21.

“Coach Timmons always had the policy of saving a seat in front of the bus beside him so that he could call us up one by one and talk about our performance and offer some encouragement and some challenges,” Ryun explained.