James Ronald ("Jim") Ryun (born April 29, 1947) is an American former track athlete and politician, who was a Republican member of the United States House of Representatives from 1996 to 2007, representing the 2nd District in Kansas. In the 2006 election, Ryun was defeated by Democratic challenger Nancy Boyda. In the Kansas Republican primary on August 5, 2008, he was defeated by Kansas State Treasurer Lynn Jenkins.
Years prior to his political career, Ryun had an athletic career that saw him become one of the greatest runners of all time, and the last American to hold the world record in the mile run. His career was highlighted by many world record times, although in his three tries he never won an Olympic gold medal.
In NCAA competition Ryun was the 1967 NCAA outdoor mile champion. He was also the NCAA indoor mile champion in 1967, 1968, and 1969, and in 1968 doubled back to win the 1968 NCAA indoor two-mile championship race (handing Gerry Lindgren his only NCAA championship loss). Ryun's 1969 win in the mile helped the Kansas Jayhawks win the NCAA indoor track championship that year. With his University of Kansas teammates he also anchored a world record in the sprint medley relay (3:15.2) and twice in the distance medley relay (9:33.8 at the Drake Relays in 1967 and then 9:33.0 at the Kansas Relays in 1969, Ryan's 3:57.6 anchor leg for the mile being his last collegiate race on his home track).
Today, over 40 years after he set them, Ryun still holds the American junior (19 and under) records at 880 yd (1:44.9), 800 m (1:44.3), 1,500 m (3:36.1), and two miles (8:25.1). In all, he broke the American record for the mile four times: once as a high school senior (3:55.3 on 27 June 1965), twice as a college freshman (3:53.7 on 4 June 1966 & 3:51.3 on 17 July 1966), and once as a college sophomore (3:51.1 on 23 June 1967).
Ryun participated in the 1964, 1968, and 1972 Summer Olympics, but the gold medal eluded him. Having completely recovered from mononucleosis in the spring of 1968, he won a silver medal in the 1500 meters that autumn in the high altitude of Mexico City, losing to Kip Keino from Kenya, whose remarkable race remained the Olympic 1,500-meter record for 16 years. (Before the race Ryun had thought that a time of 3:39 would be good enough to win in the high altitude of Mexico City. He ended up running faster than that with a 3:37.8, but Keino's 3:34.9 was too tough to beat at that altitude. Years later, in 1981, he told Tex Maule in an interview for The Runner magazine, "We had thought that 3:39 would win and I ran under that. I considered it like winning a gold medal; I had done my very best and I still believe I would have won at sea level." Ryun was attacked by some writers who believed he had let his nation down. "Some even said I had let down the whole world. I didn't get any credit for running my best and no one seemed to realize that Keino had performed brilliantly.") In the 1972 Munich, Germany games, he was tripped and fell down during a 1500-meter qualifying heat. Although the International Olympic Committee (IOC) acknowledged that a foul had occurred and tapes from a German television station clearly demonstrated that Ryun was tripped, U.S. appeals to have Ryun reinstated in the competition were denied by the IOC. (32 years later, in the 2004 Olympics, U.S. 1,500-meter runner Grant Robison was also tripped in his heat, but unlike Ryun, Robison was reinstated and allowed to advance to the semifinal.)
Ryun’s 1500-meter world record, run in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum during the US vs. British Commonwealth meet in July 1967 was one of Ryun’s greatest running performances. Track and Field News reported that “after 220 yards of dawdling, a record seemed out of the question.” However, after 440 yards, which Ryun, in third, passed in 60.9 seconds, Kip Keino took the lead and ran the next lap in 56 seconds (the fastest second lap ever run at the time). Ryun, just behind, passed the 880-yard mark in 1:57.0. At 1320 yards the two were side by side in 2:55.0. Ryun pulled away to finish in 3:33.1, a record that stood for seven years. With a last 440 yards of 53.9 and a last 880 yards of 1:51.3, Cordner Nelson of Track and Field News called it “the mightiest finishing drive ever seen,” and said of Ryun’s performance, “This was most certainly his greatest race.”
Ryun's final season as an amateur in 1972 included the third-best mile of his career (at the time, also the third fastest in history: a 3:52.8 at Toronto, Canada on July 29), a 5,000-meter career best (13:38.2 at Bakersfield, CA on May 20), and an inspiring win in the 1,500 meters at the U.S. Olympic Trials. He left amateur athletics after 1972 and for the next two years ran professionally on the International Track Association circuit. After this, he retired from track competition altogether. In 1980 he began running various road races for charity purposes, eventually achieving a 10-km best of 31:36.
|880 yards||1:44.9||October 6, 1966||Terre Haute, IN|
|1,500 meters||3:33.1||July 8, 1967||Los Angeles, CA|
|One Mile||3:51.3||July 17, 1966||Berkeley, CA|
|One Mile||3:51.1||June 23, 1967||Bakersfield, CA|
|One Mile (indoor)||3:56.4||February 19, 1971||San Diego, CA|
The 1966 James E. Sullivan Award, presented to the best amateur athlete in the U.S.
Jim Ryun’s Track & Field News World Rankings:
Ryun and his wife, Anne, whom he married in 1969, have four children and seven grandchildren. He and his sons, Ned Ryun and Drew, have co-authored three books: Heroes Among Us, The Courage to Run, and Running to Jesus: The Jim Ryun Story.
After graduating from the University of Kansas in 1970 with a degree in photojournalism, Ryun moved to Eugene, Oregon; looking for a good training situation to continue his track career. Six months later, he moved to Santa Barbara, California, where he and his family remained for nine years. He and his family moved back to Lawrence in 1981.
Raised in the Church of Christ, Ryun and his wife are members of Grace Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Lawrence. He spoke in tongues during a campaign rally in 1996, and restored the hearing of a woman who had been hearing impaired for most of her adult life, according to a report in the Wichita Eagle.
He was re-elected in 1998, 2000 and 2002, receiving more than 60 percent of the vote each cycle.
In 2004, Democrat Nancy Boyda, a former moderate Republican, ran a campaign with spending near that of Ryun's, $1,105,838 (compared to Ryun's $1,136,464).. Ryun defeated her by a margin of 55% to 42%.
In the 2006 election, Boyda was again the Democratic nominee, with Roger Tucker of the Reform Party USA also on the ballot. Initially expected to win, Ryun found his campaign faltering as internal polling by both Boyda and Republicans revealed a Democratic lead. In response, Ryun's campaign recruited both President Bush and Vice President Cheney to visit Topeka to campaign and raise campaign funds for Ryun. Ryun was defeated in a upset by Boyda, 51% to 47%.
In March 2007 Ryun confirmed that he would run for his old seat. In the Republican primary, he faced Kansas State Treasurer Lynn Jenkins, a moderate who has served two terms as State Treasurer, a partial term in the Kansas Senate and two years in the Kansas House. Ryun lost to Jenkins, 51% to 49%.
Ryun generally supported George W. Bush's legislative agenda, voting to support it 89% of the time, average for a House member who was from the same party as the sitting President. In 2003, he voted against the $373 billion end-of-session spending bill in 2003 because he considered it to be too costly and had come to Congress to support fiscal restraint.
Ryun broke with the President over two major initiatives, No Child Left Behind and Medicare reform legislation that included a prescription drug benefit. In voting against No Child Left Behind, Ryun said he believed states should have more control over their own education system. In opposing the Medicare bill, Ryun said the bill didn't provide enough reform to keep future costs from soaring.
In 2006, the National Journal rated Ryun as the nation's most conservative member of Congress. He was a member of the Republican Study Committee, a caucus of 103 fiscally and socially conservative House Republicans.
In 2005, Ryun scored 0 percent on the Republicans for Environmental Protection ("REP") scorecard. There were 12 issues that were considered by the REP to be critical environmental issues. Jim Ryun voted with what the REP would consider pro-environment on none of the issues voted upon. These issues consisted of the drilling of oil and natural gas,Congressman Richard Pombo's bill designed to weaken the Endangered Species Act of 1973, an amendment to the Energy Policy Act of 2005, by Congresswoman Lois Capps to remove section 1502, a provision that would provide liability protection for manufacturers of the gasoline additive MTBE, and the movement to increase fuel economy standards.
Ryun also scored a 0 on League of Conservation Voters's ("LCV") scorecard. Many of REP's critical issues were present on the scorecard.
In 2006, Ryun improved his REP scorecard when he voted pro-environment on 2 of 7 critical issues. This earned him a 17 percent. He voted to help reduce the impact the Army Corps of Engineers had on the environment. The issues in which he voted against the REP were ones involving oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, renewable resource programs, and the movement to end debate and accept the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act.
When Democratic blog site, TPM Muckraker raised questions as to the purchase of Ryun's townhome, his office released official documents showing that Ryun paid $80,000 more than the tax assessed value of the house, that he put another $50,000 into house repairs and that another home on the same block was sold for $409,000 on the same day he bought his home. According to property records, the other home does not have a garage or a back patio and is on a land area about half the size of Ryun's. It was assessed in 2006 as worth $528,000, compared to $764,000 for Ryun's home. In contrast, homes across the street from Ryun's were sold for over $900,000.
The runner's last lap: how Jim Ryun refused to go negative, lost a big lead, then recovered in the final week to win a U.S. house seat.
Apr 01, 1997; Flashback to 1966: LBJ is in the White House, the Baltimore Orioles are dashing to a World Series championship, and Kansan Jim...