Runnel grew up in Bessemer, NC and began boxing when he was 11 years old with Gastonia VFW boxing club. He won many amateur championships including the Gastonia Golden Gloves, the High Point Golden Gloves and the Prestigious Carolinas Golden Gloves. He won a bronze medal at the 1978 national Jr. Olympics. After high school he joined the army boxing team where he won a national championship in 1985. He qualified for the Goodwill Games in 1986 but did not get to compete because the US Army boycotted the Games. He was a 6-time FORSCOM champion, a 6-time All Armed Forces champion and won the All Army championship 7 times. He ended his amateur career with 300 win and only 20 loses. He went on to box professionally compiling an impressive 10-7 record. Runnel now resides in Davenport, Fl.