Seventies Heroes: Ron Hill

The science of running, especially the science of marathon running, was still in its infancy in the 1970s.  Runners knew little about what it took to run a fast 26.2 miles.  With little support from the big athletic companies or research universities, runners were left to experiment on their own.  Some tried low mileage and speed work, others laid down mega mileage.  Some tried fasting, or vegan diets.  Others would eat a steak the morning of a race.  Today runners often use the term “experiment of one” to describe the live and learn nature of distance running, but all of us who run today have learned a lot from the experimental runners of the seventies.

Some lessons learned from the runners of the 1970s stick with us today.  Perhaps the two most important are:

1. You need to get in the mileage.

2. Short shorts are most comfortable.

Nobody epitomized getting in the miles more than Ron Hill.  Hill, a native of Lancashire England, won the Boston Marathon in 1970 in 2:10:30 and the Commonwealth Games in 2:09:28 becoming only the second man to break 2:10 in the marathon.  And he looked good doing it:

Ron Hill, running a 2:09.

At his height, Hill was running well over 100 miles per week while working full time.  Oh and did I mention he also has a Phd in chemistry?  If Hill can run that kind of mileage and still accomplish all he did outside of the sport, what is your excuse?

On top of the miles, Hill also understands that relentless consistency is key to running success.  No two weeks off on the Greece islands for him.  Since December 20, 1964, Ron Hill has run every single day.  He has run as much as over 100 miles a week during that time, and as little as twenty.  He’s run on crutches, and in all conditions imaginable.  What I wouldn’t give to see his logs from the early seventies.  He got in the miles, no matter what happened, and that is inspiring.

Now I am not saying that we all need to follow Hill’s compulsion.  I myself have gotten injured by trying to keep a running streak alive, but when it is raining and cold or the sun is blazing and it’s a 100 degrees, and you just don’t want to lace up the shoes, remember Ron Hill has laced them up in far worse conditions and gotten out there.

Check out Hill’s website for more info on the man who broke 2:10 in a mesh shirt and puts all other running streaks to shame here.


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