Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Billy Mills Rocks!

Last night, gold-medal Olympian Billy Mills came to the University of Illinois and gave a talk about his life, running, and philosophy of living. What a motivational guy! His life story is something else. Lots of obstacles that he turned into opportunities. The footage of him coming from behind to win the 10K gold medal at the 1964 Olympics is just amazing. It's like the other runners are walking through mud and he has wings sprinting by them to win in the last 100 meters. Probably the best finishing kick ever in a distance race. Most people claim that his victory was the greatest upset in Olympic history. I believe it. Billy was an unknown and he took down the world record holder. He is still the ONLY American to win Olympic gold in the 10,000 meter event.

Billy Mills is spokesperson for Running Strong for American Indian Youth. He is an Oglala Lakota (Sioux) who was raised on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. He earned a track scholarship to the University of Kansas and later served in the United States Marine Corps. Billy was a three-time NCAA All-American cross country runner. While his 10K gold medal made him famous, most people don't realize he also ran the marathon in that same Olympics...finishing in 2:22...good enough for 14th place. Not too bad after draining all his reserves in the 10K come-from-behind victory!

His journey from Pine Ridge to Tokyo is fascinating. If you ever get a chance to hear Billy Mills talk, don't miss it. He's a classy gentleman. You might want to find a copy of the movie "Running Brave" too. It's a reasonable representation of his life leading up to the Olympics. After seeing the movie and hearing him talk, I'm ready for my 100 mile trail race this weekend. Bring on McNaughton Park!

Here is the grainy B&W film clip of his last lap at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics...



A big thank you to the University's Native American House & American Indian Studies program for sponsoring his talk last night. I learned quite a bit about Native American culture & struggles and have a better understanding of the true meaning behind the phrase "strength through diversity." I still have a lot more to learn.

Here is another video of that same 1964 Olympic 10K race--in color--with commentary:

5 comments:

Andy said...

Thanks for sharing this Chris. Sorry I wasn't able to attend myself. I have an adopted brother and sister from Pine Ridge, and I was just there for a funeral last month. There are actually many amazing runners whom I've seen at Pine Ridge, just waiting to get out and be noticed. Mr. Mills is such a great ambassador for their cause. Billy Mills, Jim Thorpe, Ted Corbitt, and Jesse Owens are among a few who broke so many barriers in their time. I'm sure you'll do well at McNaughton.

Tom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tom said...

Christopher,

I strongly suggest you watch "We Shall Remain," a five-part Series on PBS about Native Americans. The first part will be shown on Monday, April 13. Native Americans had much to do with the documentation and filming of this series. Sounds like it will be well worth watching.

Chris said...

Andy,
Sorry to hear about the recent funeral. There are many amazing runners from Pine Ridge--and from other Native American groups. Too bad we often don't their success stories.

Chris said...

Tom,
I'll make a note to watch or record that series on PBS. Sounds excellent. I won't be running much after the 100 miler...a few nights of good PBS TV will be nice.