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'Running Brave' coming to local 5K

Billy Mills pulled off one of the greatest upsets in Olympic history

Billy Mills pulled off one of the greatest upsets in Olympic history

August 02, 2008|By ANDREW MASON

Tunisia's Mohammed Gammoudi was leading, a stride ahead of Australia's Ron Clarke, the world-record holder, as they hit the final straightaway in the 10,000-meter run at the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

A few meters behind in third place was American Billy Mills, a virtual unknown, ready to pounce.

"It was just a moment of inspiration," Mills recently said in a phone interview. "'Now, one more try, one more try. I can win, I can win, I can win.'

"Then I felt the tape break across my chest."

Mills unleashed a ferocious kick to win the race in a then-Olympic-record time of 28 minutes, 24.4 seconds -- nearly a minute faster than he'd ever before run.

It still is considered one of the greatest upsets in Olympic history, and Mills is still the only American to ever win an Olympic gold medal in the 10,000.

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Mills, a Native American, was raised on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. He was orphaned at the age of 12 and had to overcome poverty and racism, making his Olympic triumph all the more inspiring.

"That one moment in time is still touching people's lives 44 years later," said Mills, the subject of the 1984 movie "Running Brave." "That's such a neat, positive feeling.

"What I've enjoyed over the years is meeting some young person who says, 'I never knew who you were, but you've inspired me.'"

People in this area will have the chance to meet Mills soon.

Mills, 70, of Sacramento, Calif., will be in Chambersburg, Pa., to be the official starter for the first 5K Race for the Nation on Aug. 30. The night before, he's scheduled to speak for 50 minutes at the Chambersburg Area Middle School auditorium in an event that's open to the public.

The 5K Race for the Nation is being directed by Chris Pereschuk, a former standout runner at North Hagerstown High School and Hagerstown Community College. The title sponsor is Pereschuk's employer, NOVA Corporation, a Navajo Nation tribally owned business, which has a satellite office in Chambersburg.

Proceeds from the race will go to the Southwest Indian Foundation's Housing Program and the Chambersburg Steelers youth football program.

Pereschuk said that asking Billy Mills to make an appearance only made sense.

"He's asked to do a lot of things, but I thought this would be significant for him, helping to give back to the Native American community," Pereschuk said. "And it's a race, something which is near and dear to him."

He said the few thousand dollars it will cost to get Mills to Chambersburg hopefully will be money well spent.

"It's a first-year event, and I want to make it very successful," Pereschuk said. "I really want to pull off a good race, not a so-so race, but a really good one."

He said the goal this year is to have at least 250 runners, who each will have the opportunity to get Mills' autograph after the race.

There will be more than $1,000 in prize money for the top finishers and many random giveaways, including a Pittsburgh Steelers helmet autographed by Ben Roethlisberger and Major League Baseball tickets.

Mills' speech at the middle school at 8 p.m. on Aug. 29 is free of charge, but donations will be accepted.

"I'll tell my Olympic story," Mills said. "But far more important, I'll talk about what I took from the sport. What I took from the sport was the journey, not the destination. It's the journey that empowered me."

For information about the 5K Race for the Nation, call Pereschuk at 717-262-9725 (days) or 717-830-0051 (nights) or e-mail him at chris.pereschuk@nova-dine.com.

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