Billy Mills was born in Pine Ridge, South Dakota. He is Oglala Lakota and grew up on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Billy did not have an easy childhood. Surrounded by poverty and orphaned at the age of 12, he started running to channel his energy into something positive. In high school, his gift for running become more apparent as he set records in numerous track events. He went on to earn a track scholarship from the University of Kansas and then served as an Officer in the United States Marine Corps.
At the 1964 Olympics, he shocked the world and came from behind to win the gold medal in the 10,000 meters race. At the time, he set a world record of 28 minutes, 24.4 seconds and is still the only American to ever win a gold medal in the 10K event. His win was an upset that has been called the second greatest moment in Olympic history.
In Lakota culture, someone who achieves great success has a ‘giveaway’ to thank the support system of family and friends who helped him achieve his goal. As part of his effort to give back to his community, Billy helped found Running Strong for American Indian Youth and became the organization’s National Spokesperson.
Today Billy travels over 300 days every year. He visits Native American communities throughout the U.S. and speaks to youth about healthy lifestyles and taking pride in their heritage.
Photo Credit: Billy Mills