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Original Issue


Spotting a framed copy of our Aug. 1, 1966, cover, a young
visitor to our offices turned to her father and asked, "Why is
that man hopping on one leg?" The man--who only appears to be
hopping--is Jim Ryun, the greatest miler the U.S. has ever
produced, though 30 years ago, at 19, he was very nearly still a
boy. Note the time (a world record 3:51.3), the Berkeley track
(which was cinder) and the fact that runner-up Cary Weisiger
(who ran a 3:58.0) was so far behind that he's not even in the
picture. Five months later Ryun was named SI Sportsman of the

Today, at 49, Ryun still looks every inch a classic
middle-distance runner, standing 6'3" and weighing 185, about 12
pounds more than he did on our cover. He often runs several
miles a day, recently clocking a 5:53 road mile--not bad
considering all the other running he's doing now. A Republican,
Ryun is campaigning for Congress in Kansas's second district,
aiming for the seat vacated by the incumbent, Sam Brownback, who
is running for Bob Dole's seat in the U.S. Senate. A devout
Christian and the father of four, Ryun says the decision to
enter politics was as much his family's as his own, but he
traces his political ambition to the frustration he and others
felt when the 1968 Olympics were held at high altitude in Mexico
City. "Politicians made that bad decision," says Ryun, who
finished second in the 1,500 to an altitude-trained Kip Keino of

Ryun has run a grassroots campaign, going door-to-door among the
farms and small businesses that dot the district. It may not
hurt that he is a hometown folk hero. Growing up in Kansas
during an era of frightening social change, he was a comforting
figure--clean-cut and polite, a throwback to less troubling
times. As his coach at Wichita East High discovered, the bookish
young man also possessed an astonishing capacity for hard work,
sometimes running 40 440s in a single workout, supplemented by
weightlifting and calisthenics. Before he turned 21, Ryun, while
a student at Kansas, had set world records in the 880 yards
(1:44.9), the 1,500 meters (3:33.1) and the mile (3:51.3 and
3:51.1). His national high school mile record of 3:55.3 still
stands after 31 years.

Recent campaign stops included the Kansas State-Nebraska game in
Manhattan, where Ryun canvassed tailgaters, and a Senior Olympic
track dinner in Topeka. The demands of his latest race make it
tough to remain trim. "When you're out campaigning," he notes
with a chuckle, "everybody wants to feed you."

--Merrell Noden

COLOR PHOTO: RICH CLARKSON [Cover of Sports Illustrated featuring Jim Ryun]