Remembering Jim Ryun’s Memorable Mile

Jim Ryun was a high school master of the mile back in his day, and later broke the world record twice.

Jim Ryun ruled the classic race distance in his day, and even broke the world record on two occasions.

Bring Back the Mile, an organization dedicated to renewing America’s interest in the race distance, remembered a memorable moment this week: the fastest mile time ever recorded at a high school state meet.

Jim Ryun, who was the first high schooler to eclipse the 4-minute mark in the mile with a time of 3:59.0 during his junior year, lowered his standard a year later at the 1965 Kansas State Meet. His intent was to slide under 4:00 again, which he did with plenty of time to spare.

“What ensued remains one of the greatest individual High School Track & Field accomplishments ever,” reads a story on

Ryun crossed the finish line in 3:58.3, marking the first time an athlete had broken the 4-minute barrier at a high school-only competition. To this day, no one has matched that feat at a state championship meet. During his high school career, Ryun ran under 4:00 five times—the most in history.

“Unfortunately and disappointingly, the Kansas State High School Activities Association (KSHSAA) does not celebrate this historic mark in their record books,” the Bring Back the Mile story reads. “With some of America’s greatest milers of all-time born and raised in Kansas, there isn’t a better state than the Sunflower State to Bring Back the Mile to honor them and Ryun’s extraordinary HS mile performance.”

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Ryun held the mile world record on two occasions, with a 3:51.3 in 1966 and a 3:51.1 in 1967. The latter stood until Filbert Bayi of Tanzania ran a 3:51.0 in 1975.

Ryun went on to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives, holding Kansas’ 2nd district seat from 1996-2007.

For More: Bring Back the Mile

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