Legends Remember THE Legend Ron Hill


image1.jpegRon Hill, circa 1964, photo courtesy of Athletics Weekly

Ron Hill was one of the most colorful athletes in our sport. Why? Well, he was this guy who ran 52 years, 28 days without a stop. He would head out on lunch break once a week, and run two sub 60 seconds 400 meters. He was part mad scientist, club runner, a super competitive bloke who left it all on the track, road or trail. And respected beer drinker.

Kenny Moore, the writer from Sports Illustrated, once noted that, after seeing Hill in his protective clothing in Munich 1972, that he might be "possessed by the scientific method."

In his books, the Long Hard Road, Ron, I swear, listed every pint he drank with the same meticulous focus that he listed all of his workouts.

I will miss this amazing man. When, in July, I get back to my farm house in Wisconsin, I will pull down the Long Hard Road (his autobiography), and read a few pages while drinking a pint in his honor.

RIP Ron.

The following are thoughts by the legends of running about Ron Hill, complied by our legend of running, Jeff Benjamin...

Legends Remember THE Legend Ron Hill

By Jeff Benjamin

Last week a Legend went across his final Finish Line.

Olympian, Commonwealth & Boston Marathon Champion Ron Hill passed away. The British legend was no doubt a pioneer for others to come.

Here's a salute from Running Legends to THE Legend who came before them.

image6.jpegMatch in 1969, Ron Hill (2), Frank Shorter (3), Kenny Moore (dark singlet next to #4), photo courtesy of Athletics Weekly

Frank Shorter

"Ron Hill was a shining symbol, always visible amongst the world's most, successful distance runners from the early 1960s on through to the early 1970s.

He was a triple threat: a mud and guts cross country runner true to his British cross country heritage, a tactician very much at home on the track with all the jostling and surging and finally, a self-coached athlete who had an instinct for his limitations, peaked and ready to run when it came time to start an international Marathon.

We met on the track in a 10,000m in 1969. He seemed to be all legs as he floated by, lapping me. I was intrigued to know more about him.

He was a meticulous planner who had total faith in both his training for each competition and the unpredictable race strategy he would choose for that particular day.

From him, I learned you can have both a primary and almost primary passion. Primary for him was running. Almost primary was science: textile chemistry. The unique balance he found blending the two allowed him to compete at the highest level for many years.

Ron simply loved to run. I truly believe that is 99% of why he was able to run daily for so many years in a row.

Rest In Peace Ron."

image3.jpegTom Fleming and Ron Hill

Bill Rodgers

"When I was with the Greater Boston Track Club sometimes I'd psyche up my teammates using Ron Hill!

I'd say something like, "Ron the Hill is over that hill and he's coming!"

I was with Tom Fleming and Rich Vitale in 1974 at the San Blas 1/2 Marathon where Tom introduced me to him. Ron was an encouraging, nice guy.

At Boston, in 1975 I was thinking of "Ron the Hill" during the race and I beat him
but in the summer Ron Hill beat me in Holland!

His commitment to continuing his daily running streak was very clear - he HAD to go out for the run!

I'd see Ron often at events like the Wheeling WV race which was very hilly and held on Memorial Day weekend.

Ron was always a gentleman - cool, calm, collective, funny and a real nice guy.

If you read his books you totally understand how hard it was being an amateur athlete with his job and putting in the training. Ron Raced more than anyone else and in 127 countries!

During that time period of amateurism, you competed as much as you could as well as being a member of his country's National teams.

I don't know if the runners today know how much we respected Ron Hill - down to earth but a feisty competitor!

I will miss him."

image4.jpegGaston Roelants (best goat tee ever), Ron Hill, some bloke, photo courtesy of Athletics Weekly

Dave Bedford

"As a 14-year-old in 1964, I joined a Club, Shaftesbury Barnet Harriers. I Got my Athletics news through "Athletics Weekly" on a Friday. The mag was full of the exploits of the British Senior runners" Jim Hogan, Jimmy Alder, Mel Batty, and Ron Hill. They were always winning some races around the Country- Hogan and Batty in London, Alder in the North East, and Ron in Manchester.

At the national' XC Champs at Parliament Hill, they were all there along With others like Bruce Tulloh, Martin Hyman and so on. UK Competition tended to be locally based except the AAA Champs at the White City and the National atAll Household names. I met Ron for the first time at an XC

I saw Ron finish 5th in the National XC at Parliament Hill in 1965. Mel Batty won. Other athletes who won the national in the 60"s were Basil Heatley, Mike Tagg, Dick Taylor, Ron doing it twice. It was probably the one race that every runner dreamed of winning.

In 1969 I ran in Antwerp with Ron at XC.
At 3000 meters in I was leading and said to Ron, "shall we speed up?"

"Leave it a bit," he said.

I finished 3rd having been out-kicked by Ron. Afterward, he said that if I had gone when we spoke in the race he would have fallen back!

But a couple of beers after the race made us good friends for life.

One of the nicest guys you would ever meet."

image5.jpegRon Hill running one of his 127 marathons!

Rod Dixon

"I really only had a limited friendship with Ron Hill, but he made an impact!

I had met Ron at the 1973 AAA Championship in Crystal Palace. I had won the English National Xcountry beating Dave Bedford in March then Dave and I ran at the AAA and he won and set the World Record at 10,000 meters and I ran the 1500m and won.

Ron Hill was so excited for us both and I remember I said that we New Zealanders considered him a Legend, mentioning names such as Jeff Julian, Barry Magee, and Jack Foster. Ron especially mentioned his respect for Dave McKenzie who won the Boston Marathon 1967 in a record time.

We certainly had a friendship and respect during the following years."

image2.jpegRon Hill with the jocular Jeff Benjamin, Boston Marathon expo, 1990...

Eamonn Coghlan

"To be honest, I didn't come across Ron hardly at all during my career.

However, that's not to say I admired him considerably from a distance!

As I grew into the sport and studied athletes, I learned that Ron was someone who worked very, very, hard to achieve his success. He put in the miles, unimaginable by most! His discipline, his longevity, his loyalty to athletics, his encouragement to all levels are hugely admired.

Before NIKE there was RON HILL. His product line is legendary and trusted among many happy runners.

Ron Hill was a Runner's Man. He led the way for many to follow.

May He Rest In Peace."

ron hill .jpgRon Hill, Commonwealth Games, 1970

Tony Staynings

"Ron Hill was a pioneer, he wasn't physically a big man but his presence was big!

Back in 2008 I moved back to Europe and I was in Birmingham when Ron Hill jumped on the same train with me going to the same place - Nick Rose's newly opened Running store where Ron was a guest presenter.

Talking with him on the ride I found him to be a humble guy who was very conservative.

Of course, I do remember seeing Ron in the racing days as well. In 1971 He was a Senior Runner and I was a Junior Runner for Britain for the 1971 World Cross Country Championships.

I remember at that event no one really approached him. He would walk by and people would whisper, "There's Ron Hill!"

They were awed and inspired by him as was I."

ron hill aw.jpgRon Hill, Commonwealth Games, 1970...

Steve Jones

"Ron Hill was a giant of a man.

I started running in 1970 (only in races), and only started to take it a little more seriously in 1974 when I joined the Royal Air Force.

While at RAF Lyneham I started to get the Athletics Weekly, almost every week there was a result of sorts for some run that Ron Hill had raced in, be it track, road or x-country. Of course, he almost always figured in the frame and was picking up prizes right-left, and center.

As a 19 years old club runner I (and I am sure hundreds of other kids like me) would dream of running in the same exotic locations and events as this legend whether it being some local 5 milers, AAA track champs, or the English clubs XC champs, if not only to ultimately finish behind him (always).

It took me another couple of years to actually RACE alongside him in 1976/1977.

I was asked by Brian James of Bournemouth if I wanted to race in Belgium in the days of the Spiridon race series (Crete's des Spa) - a 20km Road / XC race. I can't remember who exactly was on the team but the runner I had imagined racing and beating in my visualization training runs was going to be racing. I jumped at the chance there are so many things that could pull this story together but I will focus on Ron Hill.

So the race was started and a huge throng of much older and more experienced distance runners charged through the mud, shrubbery and puddles. I found myself in front of, I am sure, many illustrious foreign distance stars and one of them was Ron!

Inspired by this fact I pushed and pushed the whole race determined to keep him behind me, in the latter part of the race I realized I was in 2nd place behind another Englishman with Ron still behind me. 2km or less to the finish running down a steep hill leading into Spa I could see the Spa F1 race track taking this in and in momentarily losing concentration I tripped and fell - the tumble took the wind out of my sails as I hit the ground!

So close to the finish disaster, and who should come charging by me shouting encouragement but Dr Ron Hill. I never did catch him and miss my golden opportunity to mark one upon him.

Fast forward to 1984 after I had won the Chicago Marathon in a world record, I was invited to the Welsh Sports Council annual Dinner. Little did I know that I was to be awarded the council's gold Medal of Honor, and who was to introduce me and present me with my medal was Ron Hill, who proceeded to tell that exact story but his story was about the time he beat Steve Jones!

What a legend and what a gentleman.

Rest In Peace my friend."

An Amazing Postscript from Steve Jones:

"Last Sunday I was supporting (nutrition/hydration) one of my guys on his long run who is training for the Leadville 100!

In his bag he had a bottle of coke. I looked at it and looked at him and said, "Are you sure about drinking this during your run in the race?"

Abs he said, "Yes, why not?"

I told him that the gas will play havoc with his stomach. So I suggested why not do what one of the greatest marathon runners ever did when he ran marathons and use flat coke with an aspirin (or 2) in it.

He thought about it and asked me who this guy was, and I said his name is Ron Hill and go look him up on google or wiki him.

2 1/2 hours later later I get home and had an email saying that Ron had passed away.

I call my guy up and told him that the legend I had told him about had died earlier that morning.

And this is what he said to me:

"Wow that's incredible. Ron must have been right there on that corner with us this morning saying good bye to his old buddy Jonesy."

"I really felt that Ron was saying goodbye to me."

The Legend's Spirit Runs On!

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