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Why did Jim Ryun stop running?

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  • Why did Jim Ryun stop running?

    I dont know the whole history of ryun but after his silver medal in the olympics,why didnt he try to get gold 4 years later.

  • #2
    He ran in the professional ITA circuit and would have been ineligible to run in 1976 in Montreal.

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    • #3
      Ryun joined the ATA in 1973, a year after the Munich Olympics. In Munich, he was tripped in his qualifying heat by a guy named Billy Fordjour of Ghana. Ryun did not qualify for the final.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Living in the Past
        Ryun joined the ATA in 1973, a year after the Munich Olympics. In Munich, he was tripped in his qualifying heat by a guy named Billy Fordjour of Ghana. Ryun did not qualify for the final.
        :lol: :lol:

        I didn't notice/realize that the history lesson needed to go from Mexico City. I saw the question and read Munich. I just assumed that Ryun's tale from Munich was pretty well known to track and field fans.

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        • #5
          Jim Ryun ran in three Olympics: Tokyo, Mexico City, and Munich. I think his best years were after Tokyo and before Mexico City. He had a great career, but after getting mono he just wasn't the same runner.

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          • #6
            Why did Jim Ryun stop running?

            Here is a quote from the paper of Gary Smith "An exclusive club", published in Sports Illustrated, 27 June 1994. (http://vault.sportsillustrated.cnn.com/ ... /index.htm):

            "...And then, in the prelim in Munich , I was tripped, and the official [on the appeals committee] who could've reinstated me for the final refused to, and that was it. I had to retire from amateur running then to work and raise my family."

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            • #7
              One of the arguments that Ryun made for getting a pass to the finals is that he was seeded in the wrong heat (which had Keino). The Munich officials assigned heats based on reported PRs. Ryun reported his as 3:51.1, and some bonehead thought that the reported time had to be for 1500 meters, since it was too fast to be for the mile. So Ryun should have been in a different heat because of the ignorance of the Munich official, who should have known who the world record holder was.

              In any case, Ryun's performances were incredibly erratic in 1971 and 1972. So much so that when he finished 4th in the US Olympic Trials 800 meters in 1:45.2 it was considered a relief. We don't know which Ryun would have lined up for the final in Munich--the 4:10 Ryun or the 3:52.8 Ryun. Probably the latter, and my guess is that he would have finished second. After all, Pekka Vasala had run 1:44.7 that year for 800 meters.

              Ryun "peaked" in 1967 at the age of 20. I recently did a survey of the age when 22 of the greatest milers set their PRs, and the average age was 26.

              I think Ryun was a victim of bad coaching. Mainly through a lack of adequate recovery. In Timmons's defense, it is true that careers were a lot shorter back in the day when there was little money to be made. But even by that standard, I think Timmons pushed Ryun way too hard. Ryun should have been absolutely indomitable in his senior year at KU. Instead, he struggled all spring to beat inferior competition. He was clearly quite stale and needed a break but he had to keep competing all the way through the NCAA championship in Knoxville, where he was beaten by sophomore Marty Liquori. This put KU behind San Jose State for the overall title, so Timmons put Ryun in the three mile to gain some points, but he dropped out and promptly "retired." Ryun was forced to take the break from hard training that his coach refused to give him.

              One of the biggest coaching failures in track history is what happened to Ryun after he was 20 years old. The blame has to lie squarely on the coach. Already at the age of 21 there were kinks in Ryun's armor. At the 1968 Olympic Trials, Ryun was the world record holder in the 800 meters, but in the final he dropped out. That was truly tragic, since altitude would have been much less of a factor in the 800 than in the 1500. Ryun's best chance at a gold medal in the 1968 Olympics was in the 800 meters, but apparently he was too stale mentally or worn down physically to qualify for the US team.

              I have great admiration for Jim Ryun. I think he's the greatest US middle distance talent in history. Too bad his senior year in high school would turn out to be vast;ly superior to his senior year in college and that he was no better at 25 than he was at 19 and 20. His high school performances closely resemble that of Alan Webb and Steve Cram, both of which would run 3:46. Ryun should have been the first one to do it.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Living in the Past
                I think Ryun was a victim of bad coaching.
                Nah. He had the same coach before and after he got mono. Double R Bar is right. It was his getting mono that made the difference. He was never quite the same after that.

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                • #9
                  The mono was likely a result of the brutal training regimen. As I said above, the big flaw in Timmons's coaching was the lack of recovery. And by the way, saying that Ryun had the same coach before and after the mono is not entirely correct. In his senior year in high school, Ryun was coached by J.D. Edmiston.

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                  • #10
                    Interesting stuff... I have always thought that Ryun had incredible talent and that he became WR holder because he was able to survive a training regime that would have landed most teenagers in a hospital ER. Maybe he reached his personal limit after a few years. Still, as a post-collegiate runner he showed glimpses of the same physical ability.

                    Were his (extremely) eratic performances due to physical or emotional issues? He surely suffered from the mono, he was probably worried about his family responsibilities and he spent some time bouncing around from Kansas to California and back again. You gotta think that if he had the financial security that would have come along for a WR holder a generation later his career would have evolved way differently. Same was true of Tommie Smith and several other Americans.

                    Anyway, Ryun is a complex guy. Could be that he simply ran as well as he ever would have at age 20? Just because others continued to improve with age doesn't mean he would or should have.

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                    • #11
                      Ryun had a number of things working against him after college. As you pointed out, he moved a lot. First to Eugene, where he had asthma, and then to Santa Barbara. Some ascribe his erratic performances to asthma, but then why did he finish last in the Emsley Carr Mile at the Crystal Palace in London in 1971? He ran something like 4:11 and was even beaten by Dave Bedford by a couple of seconds. I think Keino won that race. Recall that this is where Ryun showed in 1967 that he could simply drop Keino early in the last lap. You can see youtube video of that race.

                      Another problem was that Ryun had a young family. Also, he apparently became an even more committed Christian as a result of his wife's influence. So Jesus was more important than his track career. So even is he had somehow been financially secure, I question how focused he would have been.

                      He might have also been dealing with the lingering effects of mono, but that doesn't explain why he would run 4:10 one week and then run sub four the next week. This pattern continued throughout 1971 and 1972, and that must have undermined his confidence.

                      It's theoretically possible that Ryun would not have improved past 20 under any system, but that is highly unlikely. The typical age at which a miler sets a career best is 26. For Ryun to have physically matured at 20 and then to have been physically too old at 25 to improve on that would be extremely unusual. It's more likely that Ryun managed to run extremely fast but nowhere near his physical potential. At the very least, his senior year at KU should have been one for the ages.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Living in the Past
                        He might have also been dealing with the lingering effects of mono, but that doesn't explain why he would run 4:10 one week and then run sub four the next week.
                        Are you sure? I'm not a doc, but I thought that the lingering effects of mono might have explained that. I don't really know. Any MD's out there want to chime in on this?

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Dutra
                          Originally posted by Living in the Past
                          Ryun joined the ATA in 1973, a year after the Munich Olympics. In Munich, he was tripped in his qualifying heat by a guy named Billy Fordjour of Ghana. Ryun did not qualify for the final.
                          :lol: :lol:

                          I didn't notice/realize that the history lesson needed to go from Mexico City. I saw the question and read Munich. I just assumed that Ryun's tale from Munich was pretty well known to track and field fans.
                          Expecting younger people to know chapter and verse of events that happened 4 decades ago is perhaps a bit much?

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                          • #14
                            Re: Why did Jim Ryun stop running?

                            Originally posted by williamwindhamjr
                            I dont know the whole history of ryun but after his silver medal in the olympics,why didnt he try to get gold 4 years later.
                            Good question. I will work on that as soon as I figure out why Pre didn't run in Montreal in 1976 . . .

                            Edit: OK, since gh is making nice to the young folks in the post above, I will say that the young folks are usually are pretty adept at using this Intertubes thing, you know with the Goggle and Wikithingy. At a minimum we should be able to expect that this particular young folk could use those tools to look up a little history on well-documented subjects such as Jim Ryun before posting easily-mocked questions like the one that got this thread started.

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                            • #15
                              I agree that it was an easy-to-mock thread starter. Nevertheless, I decided to take the high road.

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