Episode 23 / Billy Mills

CONTENT/TRIGGER WARNING: Mentions of Indian residential schools, assimilation,
ongoing harm, physical abuse.
We discuss Indian residential boarding schools between 19:00-23:00 minutes in this episode.

“The biggest lesson that running has taught me is to find your passion. At some point in time, the competitive running is behind you…so use running as a catalyst to seek higher ground.”

Billy Mills (Tamakoce Te’Hila) is an Oglala Lakota distance runner, 1964 Olympic Gold Medalist in the 10,000m run, and co-founder of the non-profit organization Running Strong for American Indian Youth. Mills was born in Pine Ridge, South Dakota and is the only U.S. Olympian to bring home the gold medal in the 10k. He clocked a time of 28:24.4 in that 1964 Tokyo Olympic 10k final and it was considered one of the greatest comeback moments in sports history. In this episode, we talk all about that famous race, as well as the Olympic Trials second-place finish that preceded his win in Tokyo. We discuss his pre-Olympic training plan and how his coaches/mentors shaped his running journey.

Mills attended secondary school at the Haskell Institute, now known as Haskell Indian Nations University. Prior to qualifying for the ’64 Olympics, he ran Division I Track at the University of Kansas and then served as an Officer in the United States Marine Corps. After his competitive running career came to a close, Billy dedicated his life to racial and social justice advocacy work and co-founded Running Strong for American Indian Youth, an organization that provides programming and support for Native youth. He reflects on the purpose behind his running and his work, and sheds light on his experiences as a Native student athlete at a residential school and a predominantly white university.

Photo & Race Audio courtesy of Billy Mills.

In This Episode:

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Music by Jacob Shije (Santa Clara Pueblo, NM).

This podcast was made possible through the Tracksmith Fellowship Program.

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