(Photo courtesy of Ned Ryun)
Have you ever felt like you had to follow someone great? Maybe an older brother or sister who was a state champion and the coach expected you to be just like him. Or maybe you had to replace a star like Luke Puskedra or Josh Rohatinsky after they graduated high school. In this week's Pro-Tips we catch up with Drew and Ned Ryun, sons of Olympic silver medalist and former world record holder Jim Ryun. They talk about what it was like competing at the same university their father had made a household name for himself. While retired from competitive running. Jim, Ned and Drew now work together hosting running camps for more information visit www.ryunrunning.com.
Milesplit: Can you sum up your running career and accomplishments?
Ned: My running career and accomplishments can be summed up by great potential with not that much to show for it. I had a good high school career, and really abysmal college career. I think I only ran 5 races in uniform for KU, despite being on full tuition and books scholarship. Needless to say, my college career was incredibly frustrating. My high school track team won three state titles in a row, and before my sophomore year, the high school had never won a track title before. We were 6A in Kansas, the biggest class, and I got 3rd my junior year at state in the 800, and then my senior year, went undefeated in the mile and won the state title, while placing 3rd (again) in the 800 and leading off the 4x400 with a 49.8 split; we won, and actually won the state title in so doing. I think we had been a point and a half down going into the relay. In the end, my HS PRs were something like 4:19 point, 1:55.9 (hand timed) and 49.8 in the 400. I look back and think, Wish I'd put a few more miles in. Not a ton, but I was probably doing 25-30 miles a week my senior year.
Drew: Honestly, the running career was a roller coaster. Some flashes of great running and a lot of struggles eventually with chronic sinus infections. I remember running two 600m reps indoors one year and going 1:21 and 1:23 with (I think) 10 minutes between them and I thought, "Man, I am about to roll some fast times!" And then nothing clicked when I started racing. My first year at KU, I was ranked in the 800m in the Big 12 (indoors), but shortly thereafter really started struggling with the sinus infections that eventually led to surgery.
MS: How was running different for you being in the shadows of someone great like your father?
Drew: When I was on and running well, I would think, "Yeah, I am Jim Ryun's son!" and when I was struggling, the pressure grew, almost to the point at times where the last thing I wanted to go was continue running.
Ned: Hard to say. I didn't know anything else. I think the pressure would grow over time, but for some reason, not that big a deal in HS. I would say the most pressure came from myself. I've usually ignored what others think, and I have high expectations for myself, and if I meet my goals, or don't, that was typically how I judged success.
MS: How would you have approached it differently?
Ned: I would have been more patient. I took a few years off from running post-HS, then started up again, and was starting to have some success. But I pushed too hard. I wanted too much too soon. I think if I'd had more of a 3-4 year perspective instead of trying to cram all of that into 1-2 years, I know for sure I wouldn't have had as many injuries or sickness. That in the end was what ultimately caused me to say enough. I was tired of being sick and injured. I think my advice for younger runners would be to be patient. Word hard, have goals, but have a longer view of things. And do the little things; stretch, yoga, diet, icing, etc. I remember in the summer of 2002 I was out in CA and Drew and I spent a few nights with Ryan Hall and his family. One afternoon we went for an 8 mile run, then came back and did an hour of power yoga. Ryan was big on yoga, stretching, taking care of his body. And obviously it's paid off.
Drew: Probably not too differently, actually. It's something you grow to accept in all circumstances. I think as I have grown older it is a mantle I have been proud to wear. My dad has a great reputation, not just inside the running world, but outside it as well. A good name is a great thing to have.
(Ned Ryun running in high school c. 1991, photo courtesy of Ned Ryun)
MS: Did members of your team treat you differently? How did you deal with it?
Drew: A little, but not too much. Again, I was just one of the guys on the team. Obviously, when dad would show up at races or at practices from time to time, things changed a little. We had some great times, though. I still remember some of the pizza/Trivial Pursuit nights we had as a distance crew. My brother Ned, Charlie Gruber (who made the 2004 Olympic team at 1500m) and I made what we viewed as an unbeatable triumvirate.
Ned: I guess so, if only because it was fun that my dad was around a great deal of time. I think most of the time my team mates thought it was nice to have Jim Ryun's son on the team, but especially in high school, I think they liked the fact that Ned Ryun was either leading off or anchoring, or was a guaranteed point winner, especially my senior year.
MS: Did you feel like your coaches expected more from you? How did you deal with that aspect?
Ned: No, don't think so. I would say they expected more out of me because they knew I had talent, and I remember loafing my way thru a dual meet 800 my senior year in HS. I literally jogged 700 meters, then sprinted to win and ran 2:05. My coach was slightly put out and the next day pulled me aside and said I was better than that. I took it to heart and can honestly say I never did that again. I had a few crummy races after that, but it wasn't from lack of trying.
Drew: Somewhat. But again, I think they (and I) knew I was a good runner, but I was not Jim Ryun. That has a way of keep expectations in line.
See Jim Ryun's and other Pro Tip articles below: