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The Training of Jim Ryun – ‘Quality & Quantity’ 

The first American high school athlete to run a Sub-4 mile, multiple world record holder, Olympic 1500m medallist. Jim Ryun to this day is an American superstar, rivalled by very few before and since.

He was also known for an insane training regime and work ethic. We took a look back over the training that made the man. 

Jim Ryun Sports Illustrated September 14, 1964

Sources:

  • The Jim Ryun Story, by Cordner Nelson, 1967.
  • Dr Jack Daniels. Exercise physiologist interviews.
  • Drew Ryun (son), online training journals.

DOB: 29th April 1947, Wichita, Kansas.

Personal Bests

  • 880 yards: 1:44.90
  • 1500m: 3:33.10
  • Mile: 3:51.1
  • 2-Mile: 8:25.10
  • 5000m: 13:38.20

Highlights

  • Olympic 1500m Silver, Mexico 1968.
  • Former 1500m world record holder, from 1967 to 1974.
  • Former mile world record holder, from 1966 to 1975.
  • First American high school athlete to run a mile in under four minutes.
  • The last American to hold the world record in the mile.
Jim Ryun winning, 1966 Baxter mile -Picture by Everett

High School Days

Ryun’s high school coach, Bob Timmons, was formerly a swimming coach, and he more or less trained Ryun as a swimmer. Ryun undertook massive numbers of track repetitions. His training was quality over quantity, but with regular morning runs, ensuring adequate mileage.

A Typical Week of Training as a High School Athlete

Age 17 years of age

  • Sunday
    • 10 mile run in approximately 1hr 4mins.
  • Monday
    • AM: 5 mile run.
    • PM: Track session. 2 mile (in 9:50), one mile (in 5 mins), 1200m, 800m (in 2:30), 400 (64 secs), 2 x 200m (31 secs). Short 1-2 minute recovery between reps.
  • Tuesday
    • AM: 5 mile run.
    • PM: Speed work. Reps of 200m, 300m, 110m, 150m. With decent recovery between reps.
  • Wednesday
    • AM: 5 mile run.
    • PM: 50 x 400m in 69 secs starting one every 3 minutes (on a 3 minute cycle).
  • Thursday
    • AM: 5 mile run.
    • PM: 18 x 800m reps.
  • Friday
    • AM: 5 mile run.
    • PM: Fartlek session around the track.
  • Saturday
    • Race
    • If no race then 1 long temp. For example a 16 mile run at 6:00 per mile. 

Quality Mileage – No Junk 

Ryun ran high mileage but the mileage was mostly done through a gigantic number of intervals. Ryun averaged about 90 miles per week; however, approximately 70 of those were miles done at very fast paces. For example, his sessions of 40 x 400m or 40 x 200m – they added up. His 5-mile morning runs were also not a cruise, he often covered the morning 5 miler in 28-30 minutes.

Jim Ryun

What Taper?

Ryun is also known for being so fit that he hardly eased off his training before a race. He would often do a large session such s 40 x 440 yards (in 62 secs) 2-3 days before a major race.

A Typical Week of Training as an Adult

  • Monday
    • AM: One mile easy, 10x330m with 110 walk as rest, 1 1/2 mile warm down.
    • PM: One mile easy then 4×120, 4×60, 1×880 (2:07), 440 jog, 2×660 (1:33, 1:34)) with 220 jog as rest, jog 440, 3×440 (58, 59, 59) with 220 jog as rest, jog 440, 4×330 (43s) with 110 walk as rest, jog 440, 5×220 (27s) with 220 jog as rest, jog 440, 6×165 with 165 jog as rest, one mile warm down.
    • 14 miles for the day.
  • Tuesday
    • AM: 5 mile run.
    • PM: One mile warm-up, 8×165 with 165 jog as rest, jog 440, 8×165 with 165 jog as rest, jog 440, 8×165 with 165 jog as rest, jog 440, 8×165 with 165 jog as rest, one mile warm down.
    • 9 miles for the day.
  • Wednesday
    • AM: 5 mile run.
    • PM: 14 miles very fast.
    • 19 miles for the day.
  • Thursday
    • AM: 5 mile run.
    • PM: 6×440 on a 3 minute interval, averaged 64s, jog 880, 6×440 on a 3 minute interval, averaged 63s, jog 880, 6×440 on a 3 minute interval, averaged 63s, jog 880, 6×440 on a 3 minute interval, averaged 62s, jog 880, 6×440 on a 3 minute interval, averaged 61s, last one in 54. Jogged one mile warm down.
    • 16 1/2 miles for the day.
  • Friday
    • AM: 5 mile run.
    • PM: One mile warm-up, then 6 sets of 1×660 with 110 walk as rest, 1×165 with 165 walk. One mile warm down.
    • 14 miles for the day.
  • Saturday
    • AM: 5 mile run hard (28 minutes).
    • PM: 10 miles cross country. Ran hard all the way.
    • 15 miles for the day.
  • Sunday
    • 15 miles of cross country in 1 hour and 30 minutes.

Weekly Mileage: 102

Test Workout

Dr Daniels, a well-known sports exercise physiologist, who worked with Ryun for many years outlined a popular session that Ryun often completed leading into a major competition as a sort of test session:

  • 2 x 600m going through the 400m at 3 seconds slower than his mile race pace. Recovery 600m jog between reps.
  • Then straight into 3 x 400m at mile race pace. Recovery a lap jog.
  • Then straight into 4 x 300m faster than mile race pace. Recovery 300m jog between reps.
  • Then straight into 6 x 200m at 800m race pace. 200m recovery jog between reps.

Some top Jim Ryun viewing –

Jim Ryun: The Master of the Mile – Decades TV Network

Jim Ryun’s World Record (1967)

Jim Ryun versus Peter Snell (1965)

Jim Ryun 3:51.1 Mile World Record (1967)

Jim Ryun Historic Race with Commentary (1965)

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