Jim Ryun retired at age 21 after years of overtraining, poor tracks, lousy shoes, and none of the advantages we have in the modern world. Peter Snell, Herb Elliott, Kip Keino, and even Paavo Nurmi were better in relation to what we knew during their competitive careers. Face it, the runners these days are using pogo sticks to produce multiple sub-4 minute miles. Even DII races have more than one in their heats! And how many sub-1600 high school kids do we have now. I rest my case.
James Ryun, a classic middle distance runner. I cringe when posters state J Ingebrigtsen is a middle distance runner. J Ingebrigtsen is barely a middle distance runner. Fifteen-hundred meters and 1 mile are the longest middle distance events. James Ryun was talented enough to medal 800m and/or 1500m.
No, he most definitely didn’t retire at age 21, and he doesn’t get bonus points for what could be considered overtraining. It’s fairly likely that the insane training load that would ruin most people actually led to Ryun being such a phenom/world beater from age 17-21.
Jim Ryun never won Olympic gold, Jakob has. Both were the better part of 2 seconds ahead of their competition at 1500m, but Jakob’s done this in a much more developed era. Ryun was the better 800m runner but never achieved much at the distance at the international level (apart from a fast 880 time); Jakob is the better distance runner and already has 2 world championships at 5k, and the 2-mile WR.
What a facile argument. Ryun wasn't just "two seconds ahead of his competition", as you say Jakob also is, the American destroyed the previous world 1500 record by well over 2 seconds, and did the same to the previous mile record. Jakob has no world record at either distance. Ryun was also the world 880 record-holder despite not even specialising at the distance. From that perspective, as a truly great md runner, Jakob isn't yet in the same conversation as Ryun. He remains closer to Centro, with an Olympic gold but no world record over the distance and the mile, and no world championship title over that distance. And before you blinkered Jakob fans start hugging and puffing again, Jakob's attainments over the longer distances are irrelevant to the discussion of what he has achieved as a md runner.
I'm a contemporary of Ryun and got to see him run several times in his prime. Ryun was the best in the world 800-mile in his era, and an extraordinary talent. However, I have seen Ryun run and Jakob run, and I think with comparable tracks, shoes and training methods, that Jakob would beat Ryun at every distance over 800. The only other runner I would say was better than Ryun was El G, and I think his "training methods" might not have passed modern WADA testing.
After a disappointing start to the 1969 season, the twenty-two-year-old Ryun succumbed to the stresses of adolescent stardom and intensive training and racing and announced his retirement. Three years later, Ryun came out of retirement for another run at an Olympic gold medal. He was quick to regain form, qualifying for the U.S. 1500-meter team. Ryun's Olympic misfortunes continued, however, when a midrace collision sent him sprawling to the Munich track in the semifinals. The ill-fated record holder pounding the track in frustration proved to be the final scene of his amateur career.
(However Ryun's last Olympic Games was in 1968 @ Mexico City when he was only 21. As the article above explains he did come back briefly for he 1972 Olympics but fell after a collision. But if you look closer you will find that all his best times occurred before 1968. I doubt if he knew what an "easy training day" looked like!)
Jim did his best running before the age of 21, I will not apologize for my statement. You young people need to brush up on the history of your sport. If you are an American you should be ashamed of yourself.