In addition to the film screening of the 1983 movie, Running Brave, which was based on Mills’ life, the veteran long-distance runner will serve as special guest of the evening, and he will host a question and answer session. “I went to Coos Bay years ago, and it was very well-received,” he said. “I will possibly do lunch in one of the local communities, as well as a talk at the school. I am looking forward to it, since I can get to share things that are current today, with regard to relationships and bringing America together.”
Mills won the Olympic gold medal in the 1964 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo in the men’s 10,000 meter race. “As time went by, I remember my father telling me that ‘I had a broken soul, and it takes a dream to heal a broken soul.’ He mentored me until he died. He would tell me to find a passion in life and to develop skills, and then magic happens. I was an innocent little boy that thought I could create magic,” he elaborated.
His father’s quote was his driving force in helping him win the Olympic gold medal, and subsequently, rewrite track and field and American history, as the first and only American to win the 10,000 meter race in the Olympic Games.
Mills, 80, credits his wife, Pat, for being a major inspiration in his life, as well as his saving grace. “Pat was the first person who believed in me after my dad passed away when I was 12 years old,” he said.
He had nothing but the nicest remarks for Linda Prefontaine, the sister of the late track and field legend Steve Prefontaine, as well as her mother. “We have a unique relationship. When I first met her mother, it was a pretty empowering moment for me,” he said, and he praised Prefontaine’s mother for treating him with dignity. “She told me that Steve [Prefontaine] wanted to win that Olympic race in 1964,” he said. “From then on, we stayed in touch, and they invited me to their home. We have had a wonderful companionship and friendship.”
Mills was also a former U.S. Marine, and a member of the Oglala Lakota tribe. He is extremely proud of his Native American heritage, and has fought persistently to help Native Americans improve their lives.
In 1976, Mills was inducted into the prestigious USA Track and Field Hall of Fame at the same time that Steve Prefontaine was posthumously inducted as well.
In addition, Mills was inducted into the United States Olympic Hall of Fame, the National Distance Running Hall of Fame, the Kansas Athletic Hall of Fame, the South Dakota Hall of Fame, and the American Indian Athletic Hall of Fame, among other accolades.
For young and aspiring athletes, Mills encouraged them to “use sport and running as a catalyst to find other passions in life. Most likely, those passions are going to be the ones that will create the magic for the betterment of humankind.”
Digital transformation of track and field, running
On the impact of technology in the sport of running and track and field, Mills stated that he humbles himself over the fact that he has been a “drug-free athlete.” “That is very meaningful to me, that I won spiritually, physically and I won mentally. It disturbs me when I have to read about athletes taking performance-enhancing drugs,” he said.
Mills continued, “I find it hard finding a sports hero because one of my requirements for that hero is that they are performance-enhancement drugs free.”
The Olympian defined the word success as “finding a passion in my life that can help humanity.” “To find a passion that brings you fulfillment, and not necessarily making a lot of money,” he concluded.