Ron Hill was one of the most colourful athletes in our sport. Ron endeavoured every day to spread a positive message about the impact of sport, not just for individuals, but for the community as a whole. Dr Ron Hill MBE helped push the boundaries in marathon running and was one of our much-adored Sports Tours International Ambassadors, spreading the word on how fanatical about sport we really are, not to mention promoting many of our upcoming running events. Forever and a day, Ron remains an icon and inspiration for runners the world over.
‘Dr Ron’ completed a staggering 115 marathons (with 112 of them coming in under 2hrs 50). He clocked the second fastest marathon in history at 2:09:28, in a performance that won him gold at the Edinburgh Commonwealth Games.
In 1969 Hill won the European Championships over marathon distance, on an iconic course between Marathon and Athens. Later, in 1970, Hill became the first Brit to win at the iconic Boston Marathon. Despite terrible, cold and wet conditions, with fierce headwinds, he was able to claim victory in an incredible 2:10:30, taking, in the process, more than 3 minutes off the official course record. Hill said of his achievements in Boston,
“I had no idea of my pace, because I didn’t understand the odd splits that Boston used in those days. So, I was shocked when I heard the finish time, and absolutely elated—the first Briton to win Boston.”
Hill is perhaps most well known as the original run ‘streaker’. Starting in December 1964 and lasting an astonishing 52 years and 39 days, Ron embarked on what is to this day, the longest ever run streak. Even after a car accident, in 1993, in which Hill broke his sternum, did not stop him. By the age of 70, Hill had accomplished the ambition of racing in over 100 countries. Including running events in Panama and the Faroe Islands.
Later, Ron completed a PhD in textile chemistry at the University of Manchester. He went on to become a pioneer in technical sports fabrics and running clothing, including wrap-over shorts, mesh vests, waterproof running jackets and reflective strips. He was the founder of Ron Hill Sports, and later Hilly Clothing, who also specialise in technical running apparel.
Ron’s lifelong commitment to the running community of the north west never wavered. Founded in 1981, Hill founded the legendary Tour of Tameside. He was a community ambassador for Sports Tours International, and later The Running Bee Foundation, the charitable organisation supported by Sports Tours. He could often be seen at Foundation events, and always had time to meet and chat to fans and support anyone who shared his love of running.
Kevin Harmer, Head of Foundation Operations at The Running Bee Foundation, said of Hill,
I remember Ron fondly reminiscing about ‘how races used to be’ and when winning abroad he often would receive a wreath and a pot of stew – rather than a big cheque. Even the time he lost his running shoes before the start of a race – he simply taped up his feet, ran, and won! Kevin added: At our UK events, when I was walking Ron and his wife to the start line, the amount of people who you could hear whispering “that’s Ron Hill!” was amazing.
Our friend, and endless source of inspiration, Ron is dearly missed by everyone at Sports Tours International.