There are truly some legends in the sport of running—runners who have paved the way for others to see themselves as viable and welcomed athletes in a sport regardless of race, gender identity, body size, or some other stereotype-breaking mold.
There are also icons in the sport who have shattered seemingly unbreakable time barriers, demonstrating that humans have the capacity to run faster than we ever thought possible.
A good example of this is when Roger Bannister first broke the four-minute barrier in the mile, on May 6, 1954.
Shortly after Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile barrier, other runners started seeing that a four-minute mile was not out of the realm of possibility, and more and more athletes began to follow suit with even faster times.
Another running legend to break a seemingly impossible barrier was Jim Hines, an African-American sprinter who was the first athlete to break the 10-second barrier in the 100m dash.
Jim Hines ran his first (and the world’s first!) sub-10-second 100-meter dash in at the 1968 United States Outdoor National Track and Field Championships in Sacramento, California, winning the final in a hand-timed finish of 9.9 seconds.
History-making runner Hines went on to earn the gold medal at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City.
There, he won the race in an astounding 9.95 seconds, setting an official 100m world record that stood for 15 years.In fact, Jim Hines was a double gold medal winner in the 1968 Olympic Games, earning his second gold medal with the U.S. Olympic team’s 4×100-meter relay team.
The running world lost this trailblazing legend on Saturday, June 3, 2023. Jim Hines died at the age of 76 in Hayward, California.
U.S. Olympian Jim Hines, First Sprinter to Run 100m in Under 10 Seconds, Dead at 76 https://t.co/EcvL3Xpbnk— People (@people) June 6, 2023
As of the time of this publishing, the cause of Jim Hines’ death is unknown, though his death has been confirmed by his sister, Mamie Hines Ford.
Jim Hines proved that sprinters could absolutely run faster than 10 seconds for the 100 meter sprint.
In doing so, he helped his competitors and younger sprinters coming up in the sport realize that we should not be limited by numbers and intimidated by time barriers.
With determination, confidence, and dedication to training, you can achieve amazing goals that seemingly defy the glass ceiling of human running potential.
A conversation honoring the contribution of sprinter Jim Hines to the running world would be incomplete without understanding the impact of Hines’ performances as a black man competing in track races in the United States (and internationally) during the times of the Civil Rights Movement.
For example, the 1968 Olympic Games where Jim Hines earned two gold medals is widely remembered for the civil rights protest led by Tommie Smith and John Carlos.
Tommy Smith and John Carlos were teammates representing the United States alongside Jim Hines, and were also African-American medalists at the Olympic Games in Mexico City, but in the 200-meter event.
Despite sharing similar struggles of being black in a racist and segregated country, Jim Hines did not participate in the protest and reportedly commented on the demonstration in 1991 saying that he disagreed with the notion that staging a protest was the best course of action for African-American athletes to make a statement about the injustices of racism in America.
According to the New York Times, Jim Hines recalled his feelings about the event as follows:
“Most of us felt the best way a Black athlete could make a statement was by going and doing his best. Tommie and John felt what they were doing was for all Black athletes and Black men in America. They didn’t think it out.”
This is not to say that Jim Hines was not affected by being an African-American athlete and the challenges and burdens that carried.
However, he served as a role model for other BIPOC athletes and rising stars that no matter what injustices you face, if you show up and be the best you can be, you are always going to be proving that you will rise above whatever anyone does to try and push you down.
Jim Hines’ 100-meter world record of 9.95 stood until 1983, when Calvin Smith bested it with a time of 9.93.
The current world record holder for the 100m dash is Usain Bolt. Usain Bolt ran 9.58 in 2009 at the World Athletics Championships in Berlin.
In addition to shining on the track, Jim Hines is remembered as a professional football player who joined the Miami Dolphins in 1969 as a receiver.
Once he joined the American Football League, Hines was no longer eligible to compete in subsequent Olympic Games due to the requirement at the time that an athlete must be an amateur.
Although his football career was short, Jim Hines went on to become a social worker, form a family, continue to break barriers and stereotypes, show up as his best self in every situation, and serve as a role model to everyone lucky enough to know him or know of him.
Our thoughts are with his family and loved ones, and as runners ourselves, we are wholly in awe of the career and legacy that Jim Hines has left on the sport of running.
To honor the record-breaking legend of Jim Hines, try your hand at a track workout for sprinters this week. Check out our guide to get you started here.