Ryun was born in Wichita, Kansas. Attending Wichita East High School, he became the first high school athlete to go run a four-minute mile (1609m). In 1965, he set the male High School Mile Record of 3:55.3, which stood for 36 years. Set the world record in the mile and half in university. He participated in the 1964, 1968, and 1972 Olympic games, winning a silver medal in the 1500 meters in 1968. He was educated at the University of Kansas, and was a business owner, product consultant and motivational speaker before entering the House.