For those of you who are not familiar with Ron Hill (and there can’t be many), he is widely known as being one of the best runners of his generation. He won the marathon at the 1970 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh and a year earlier the gold medal in the same event at the European Championships in Athens.
This week, however, marks a different landmark for Ron. Saturday 20th December will mark 50 years of Ron more than a mile every single day. As running streaks go, it has to be the longest ever recorded – and a remarkable feat from the diminutive man from Manchester.
In those 50, years Ron has run a total of 134,502 miles. To put that into perspective, he has run just under 17 times the Earth’s diameter. His lifetime total stretches even further, and by the 31st December this year Ron will hope to have reached another landmark, 160,000 miles.
To give you an idea of Ron’s determination, after breaking his sternum in a head on car crash, he managed to run a mile a day in a plaster cast.
His 50 year run started after feeling he didn’t do himself justice in the 1964 Olympics, so before he reaches his landmark, Men’s Running caught up with him to find out what still motivates him today.
Q. Hi Ron. How long have you been running for, every day?
A. It’ll be 50 years on December 20th (2014).
Q. Wow that’s quite some feat, have you ever considered taking a day off?
A. No, I haven’t.
Q. Have you gone for a run today?
A. Yes I have, 2.5 miles, thank god. It was raining, it was cold, it was dark – which is one of the worst things.
Q. What drives you to keep going, now at the age of 76?
A. To me it’s a health thing and I do compete, but I have to accept that I’m slowing down. I try to keep fit, so I get the best out of myself when I run a 10K for instance. I always feel better when I come back from a run, even if it’s 2.5 miles.
Q. Do you have any idea how far you have run over those 50 years?
A. I have training logs that start in 1956, whilst I was still at school. I have recorded 159,929 miles. Now before I started the streak I had run 25,427 miles. So in the 50 years of the streak, it’ll be134,502 miles so far. 159,929 is the lifetime total, and as well as the 50 years on the 20th December I’ll have another anniversary at the end of the year, December 31st, which will be reaching the 160,000th mile.
Q. Incredible, does that include today’s?
A. That does include today’s, yeah. The last day off I had was December 20th 1964.
Q. What was your most defining moment to day?
A. There are four if you don’t mind me boring you.
– My first love was cross-country and in 1966 I won the national in Sheffield and I never dreamt I would do that.
– Winning the European Marathon Championship in 1969 in Athens. My wife, mother and father were all in the Panothinikos Stadium. It was the first time I had won anything major.
– In 1970 I became the first Brit to win the Boston Marathon and I broke the course record and ran 2:10:30.
– Shortly after I was in the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh, still 1970, and I ran a 2:09:28 marathon to win that. It was acclaimed as a World Record at the time.
Q. Wow, you must quite proud!
A. I was very proud, and I thought I’d go on to do greater things but it didn’t happen, selectors didn’t understand. I tried to get selection after that to the 1972 European Games in Helsinki and I said ‘surely you’re gonna pick me after the World Record’ and they said ‘well there was a guy who was second he ran 2:12:00. Percentage wise, there’s not much between you’. So I put the phone down. It’s a shame really, I had plenty of good performances in me and the selectors wouldn’t allow me to get to my peak when I wanted to.
Q. It’s been 44 years since you won gold in the marathon at the Commonwealth Games, how does it differ from modern day running?
A. The long distance runners might have it a bit harder, if you’re an amateur like I was. There’s a lot of traffic on the roads these days, in my day it was quite a bit quieter.
People seem to be trying to find other ways of getting to the top in marathons without doing the distance. There are lots of people giving advice out there, at the end of the day you’ve got to put the miles in. They don’t have to be hard, all of them. The actual volume of miles to me was important.
We’d do a race pretty much every weekend and did speed work twice a week on the way home. I was doing 120 – 140 miles a week, and the only way I could get that holding a full-time job was by running to work and back.
Q. What advice would you give to aspiring runners of any age?
A. My first piece of advice would be to keep a training log, which I did, and learn from any mistakes. If you’re interested in running marathons, try and do different things and see what works for you. The race is the hardest training environment of the week; you learn tactics as well as trying to push yourself longer.
Q. The determination you have is incredible. Is that something you’re born with, or do you think that’s something that can be honed?
A. I always wanted to get the best out of myself as a runner. Once I had been running all this time, it was a case of not wanting to let anything stand in my way.
Q. Is there a special diet you undertake?
A. I pioneered the glycogen diet from some information I had from a guy called Martin Hyman. Low carbohydrates for three or four days and then high carbohydrates for three or four, it just worked a treat for me. Anybody can do it.
Q. How long do you see yourself running everyday for?
A. Some have said that when they carry my coffin to be cremated, I’m gonna ask for them to put those last few yards into my training log. It will be every day until I can’t do it anymore, which I don’t envisage not happening for a long, long time.
Q. Ron, it’s been a pleasure how are you celebrating on the 20th?
A. Running. Heaton Park in Manchester, park run. Anyone that wants to join in and get a time must join park run, which is free to do. I’m expecting there could be about 1,000 people there.
Then I’m going to go home and open a bottle of bubbly.
• Ron remains an ambassador in the companies that carry his name today, Ronhill Sports and Hilly Socks.
You can join Ron by signing up for the parkrun here: http://www.parkrun.org.uk/heaton/