Thursday, 11 December 2014

Out for a run - no matter what!

Ron Hill . . . 50 years of daily runs, no matter what.
I remember a few years ago going out running for 50 consecutive days, an effort I was quite pleased with at the time. But next week a man with the same initials as me - although considerably more famous - is due to complete 50 YEARS of running every single day!

Ron Hill, once Europe’s top marathoner and now aged 75, started his ‘streak’ on December 20th, 1964. He has run at least a mile every day since, come hell or high water.  The nearest he came to missing a day was when he broke his sternum in a car crash in 1993. On another occasion he was treated for a stomach problem by serial killer Dr Harold Shipman, but overcame that too and still went running!
Ron doesn’t hit the headlines as often as he once did in his prime, but 2014 has still been an interesting year to say the least. He’s had a road named after him in his home town of Accrington, had a health scare when some cancerous tissues were found in his nether regions, and over in America a ‘streaker’ has emerged who, being much younger, is being tipped to overhaul Ron’s incredible record in the not-too-distant future.

Sixty-three year old Jon Sutherland exceeded 45 years  of running every day a short while ago, which puts him at No.2 on the all-time list behind our Ron, overtaking his fellow American Mark Covert who quit his streak on exactly 45 years. During celebrations for Sutherland’s feat, there was some discussion over whether Ron Hill’s streak was actually valid – for after bunion surgery in 1993 Ron only kept it alive by covering a mile on a track, using crutches. Some reckon that going along with the help of crutches doesn’t count as running at all. Sutherland himself is not arguing though, and said he considers himself number 2 behind Ron.
As many of us have found, your speed tends to decrease rather sharply once you pass the age of 50 or so, and Hill these days is a very steady traveller compared to his golden era. But the streak has become so important to him that he often puts it ahead of his own health and well-being on occasion.

The car smash that left him with a broken sternum luckily  happened after he’d run that day, but to complete the next day’s outing he had to discharge himself from hospital, and then sneak out of the house when his wife went shopping, hobbling a very painful and dangerous single mile to keep the record intact. More recently he suffered a couple of very nasty falls in the snow because of potholes, but again limped slowly home to complete the run in question.
Hill's Ipswich victory.
Personally I’ve bumped into the 9-stone pocket rocket on a number of occasions. He came to Ipswich several times in the 1980s, staging a seminar for the town’s first marathon in 1983 and running a couple of local marathons himself in subsequent years. He won the 1985 Ipswich Marathon in 2hrs 35mins as a 46-year-old and I recall one race in which many of us local runners, myself included, went to considerable trouble to overtake the great man – simply so we could say we’d led him for at least a short distance!  

I’m a long-time Hill admirer. How can you not be impressed by the man who single-handedly invented Tracksters? I also recall the time I went down with food poisoning in Portugal and for at least 24 hours was sustained only by sipping bottled water and reading Ron’s incredibly detailed autobiography, the self-published ‘Long Hard Road’. The book is so detailed it comes in two volumes and runs to 828 pages!
Many, including certain people close to me, have been rather uncomplimentary about this quirky tome, but I found it compelling and got through every word - a task that required almost as much stamina as Ron’s streak itself.

Long may he run.