Photography and words by Harry Potts
Ron Hill MBE is known as a long distance runner and clothing entrepreneur. He was the second man to break 2:10 in the marathon, set world records at four other distances, but never laid claim to the marathon world record. He has competed in three Olympic Games; the 10,000m in Mexico 1968 and two marathons, in Tokyo 1964 and Munich 1972 and has a personal marathon record of 2:09:28. In 1970, Ron won the 74th Boston Marathon in a course record 2:10:30. He also won gold medals for the marathon at the European Championships in 1969 and the Commonwealth Games in 1970.
Born in Accrington in 1938, Ron moved to Manchester to study in the early 1960s. After graduating from university with a PhD in textile chemistry, he was convinced of the benefits of synthetic materials for runners. In 1970 he started a company named Ron Hill Sports, which pioneered various products including wrap-over shorts, mesh vests, waterproof running jackets and reflective strips. Hill says he founded the company “because I was running to and from work in the dark in winter and wondered what I needed to stay safe.” Company sales at one point exceeded £6 million,
Ron lays claim to the longest streak of consecutive days running, running every day for 52 years and 39 days from 1964 to 2017. He defined a “run” as completing a distance of at least one mile at any pace. His streak included workouts after a car crash in 1993 and after surgery when the next day he used a crutch to cover one mile. On the 30th January 2017 his Facebook page announced that “Due to ill health Ron has decided to take a day off”, thus ending his streak.
Ron received the MBE for services to athletics in 1971, was bestowed the Freedom of the Borough of Hyndburn in 2012 and the Freedom of the Borough of Tameside in 2019. In 2016 fellow athletes launched a campaign to try to secure Ron a Knighthood.