Ron Hill is 70 this week and has not missed a days running for 44 years.
There’s an interesting feature on him in this Sunday’s Observer. To me, the most striking element is the contrast between two photographs of him running. One shows him lean and in his prime, in full flow, good knee lift, fully extended rear leg and forceful arm movement – just the way I would like to imagine myself running. The other shows him aged 70, slightly chubby, shuffling along, almost heel striking – the way I actually run!
Back in the early 70s Ron Hill was one of my heroes, together with Ron Clarke and Emil Zatopek. They all had the willingness to lay it on the line, take risks with their racing and training, and hang the consequences. At that time Hill was generally regarded as having more knowledge about the physical aspects of marathon training, preparation and racing than anyone else on the planet. Despite that (like Ron Clarke) he failed to win the ultimate prize of an Olympic medals– though I doubt that failure diminished his reputation in the eyes of the many club runners, myself included, who were inspired by his efforts.
In retrospect some of his approaches to running may now seem slightly perverse, self willed and a bit too uncompromising, but he was never afraid to experiment, and even though he didn’t always succeed, he certainly advanced our understanding of marathon running.
Although it’s sad to see our heroes diminished, the image all too starkly illustrated by the two photos illustrates just that, it still doesn’t take anything away from how good he was and the number of great runners who were inspired by his efforts.
It’s very comforting to know that when I go out for my run tomorrow morning, he’ll also be out there – a man who despite having run sub 2:10 over 35 years ago, still thinks that going for a run every day is a worthwhile thing to do.
Happy birthday Ron Hill