Ryun, a three-time Olympian and former
world record holder in three middle-distance events,
spoke with Associate Editor Scott Harrup. Ryun shared
his thoughts with the Evangel in 1996, the
same year he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives
to represent Kansas’ 2nd District. He continues
to serve in Congress.
You were the first high school student to break a
4-minute mile and you went on to become a world record
holder and win a silver medal in the Olympics. What
does it feel like to have those achievements behind
To break a 4-minute mile in high school is very satisfying.
You work toward that goal and you can’t believe
it’s happening to you. World records in the
mile, and half-mile and 1,500 meters all added to
the excitement of my running career. But there’s
always that sense that you’ve got to do better.
I always felt like I needed to run faster.
have that kind of success, it’s so easy for
that success to be your identity and not the Lord.
If you don’t continue to get better and faster,
who will you be if someone comes along and does the
very same thing that you have done? So, I always had
a gnawing sort of satisfaction and no inner peace.
How did accepting Jesus Christ as your Savior make
On May 18, 1972, my wife, Anne, and I prayed and invited
Jesus into our lives. There was an overwhelming sense
of peace. I have to confess that I was skeptical at
first. But about the third day after I accepted Christ,
I woke up that morning and I said, “Lord, there’s
something very special about this. How can such a
simple prayer — asking forgiveness and acknowledging
my sins and inviting You into my life — make
such a difference?”
And I felt
like He said to me, “I love you, because I love
you — not because of what you’ve accomplished.”
For me that was like walking into a new room of my
life. Someone loved me, not because I was fast, but
because He just loved me. My identity and purpose
in life were defined.
God’s plan for each one of us. It doesn’t
matter what you wear, where you live, or whether you’re
in a popular crowd. He just loves you and has a plan
for you to be involved in.
The years between the 1968 and 1972 Olympics were
difficult. What was God doing in your life?
Having won a silver medal in the 1968 Olympics in
Mexico City in the 1,500 meters, I felt that if I
won a gold medal in 1972 at the Munich Olympics, then
I could put running down and get on with the rest
of my life.
the way there were bumps in the road. I would have
a slow race, or the media would say something antagonistic.
Now I see those things happening for the purpose of
God revealing to me that He had a better plan.
meet born-again Christians who had gone through something
similar. But they had gone through their trial with
more joy than I had ever experienced. That began to
speak to me. The Christians seemed to have a better
answer — Jesus.
hard times Anne and I experienced were for the purpose
of shaking our earthly idols — in my case, running.
God was drawing us to himself.
Any other comments?
Jesus has a plan for everyone’s life. We’re
never going to feel that contentment or that sense
of fulfillment until we enter into His kingdom. To
live in the kingdom of God is to take on a new nature,
a new culture, a new language, and new attitude toward
life. As we start to live out that fulfillment in
His kingdom, we can’t ask for a better place
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