Olympian and former congressman Jim Ryun — the first high schooler to break the 4-minute mile — is coming to Lancaster County next month for a series of appearances.
Ryun, who won a silver medal in the 1,500 meters at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, will give a public talk at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 15, in the auditorium at Elizabethtown Area High School.
And from 7:30-8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 16, Ryun will sign his book “The Courage to Run: Inspiration for Winning the Race of Your Life” at The Inside Track at Lancaster Shopping Center.
To help cover the cost of his visit and raise money for the Elizabethtown cross country team, a Jim Ryun Prediction Mile will be held at the high school track at 7 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 13.
Registration is $20 and limited to 100 entrants (to sign up, go to appliedracemgmt.com/events). The deadline is Oct. 21.
When people register for the mile, they will predict their time down to one-tenth of a second.
The top five runners who are closest to the predicted time without going over will receive an autographed book by Ryun.
The Kansas native, who represented his home state in the U.S. House from 1997-2007, became the first high school athlete to run the mile in less than 4 minutes as a 17-year-old in June 1964.
Ryun also held numerous world records, and still holds some American junior (19 and under) records many decades later.
Elizabethtown cross country coach Mark Gallagher said he met Ryun at a book signing at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials this past summer, and that’s how the idea for the visit came about.
“I thinking of something to inspire the kids” on his team, Gallagher said.
Ryun, he said, “is a great role model and a great person.”
When he coached at Lancaster Mennonite, Gallagher said he arranged for Billy Mills, the 10,000m gold medalist in the 1964 Summer Olympics, to talk here, and “he was fantastic.”
Ryun, interviewed by phone, said he speaks before a range of audiences, from churches and businesses to school kids.
He will be joined on the visit to Lancaster County by his wife, Anne.
Ryun said he uses anecdotes in an effort to engage his listeners, such as telling the story of how he failed to make his church baseball team before he tried running — almost as a last resort.
“It takes time to achieve your aspirations,” he said, with plenty of trials and struggles along the way.
At his talk in Elizabethtown, Ryun said he wants to share with the audience “some guidelines to help in any walk of life.”
People need to discover their gifts, he said, and the plan that God has for them.