RON HILL’S 75th BIRTHDAY RACE.....On Wednesday evening, a very special road race took place in the Lancashire town of Littleborough, which lies about 12 miles northeast of Manchester. It was to mark the 75th birthday of one of the greatest runners in history – former Boston, European and Commonwealth marathon champion Ron Hill.
|L-R...Ron Hill, John Walshe, Kerry Constant and Brian Healy|
Three Cork runners made the journey for the 5km race - Brian Healy (Midleton AC), Kerry Constant from Bishopstown and John Walshe (East Cork AC). For Brian and Kerry, it was their first visit but the latter had been there before, for Ron’s 70th birthday in 2008. This connection led to Hill coming over the following March to run the Ballycotton ‘10’, where he also gave a special seminar the night before.
The race was organised by Waterford native Andy O’Sullivan, a man who has received an MBE for the many charity events he has put on over the past 30 years which have raised in the region of £400,000 for various causes. Ron Hill’s Birthday 5km saw proceeds going to the Diane Modahl Sports Foundation. Entry fee was just £6 for club runners and £8 for unattached and for this each runner received a special souvenir mug depicting the 100 countries that Hill has raced in.
Three months later he triumphed again at the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh where his 2:09:28 was then the second-fastest recorded over the marathon distance and a time that only one British runner has bettered in the past 15 years. During this period Hill was working full-time as a research chemist and logged his 120 or so miles a week by running to work and back.
Nowadays the winner at Boston receives $150,000 in prize money, plus bonuses and expenses. In his day, Hill received a medal and a laurel wreath. “My airfare wasn’t even paid,” he recalled at the time, “the money came from a fund set up by the Road Runners Club, just ordinary runners putting in their few shillings.”
It was many of those same ordinary runners who turned out at Littleborough on Wednesday night to pay their tributes. The famous club vests of Salford Harriers, East Cheshire, Royton Road Runners, Halifax and of course Ron’s own Clayton-le-Moors Harriers were much in evidence amongst the 400 or so entrants.
The Falcon Inn in the town square acted as race headquarters and here Hill mingled with the well-wishers who brought cards, gifts and words of admiration. The race was won by Ian McBride of Royton in 15:51 with Ron (wearing number 75) coming home just inside 28 minutes for the gently undulating course – results can be seen on www.race-results.co.uk
194 264 John Walshe V6011 EastCork 24:04
203 81 Kerry Constant V5522 Cork 24:23
239 101 Brian Healey V4023 Ballycotton H 25:51
294 75 Ron Hill V75 1 Clayton Le Moors Harriers 27:57
Ron Hill has another unique record that is unlikely to be ever equalled – he hasn’t missed a single day of running since December 20th, 1964, and has logged over 158,000 miles in his long career. He also played a major role in the development of running apparel through his companies Ron Hill Sports and Hilly Clothing. Always a runner ahead of his time, he was the first to experiment with glycogen loading for the marathon. He was also an early advocate of minimalist running shoes and will be remembered for the string vests he wore in marathons – the forerunner of the technical tops of today.
And there seems to be no slowing down for this remarkable man, a true running legend. On today (Thursday 26th Sept 2013), the day after his 75th birthday, he was travelling to Dublin to deliver a running forum at the 53 Degrees North sports store in Carrickmines – a half-hour presentation followed by an audience Q&A session. He will repeat the performance in Elverys Sports in Galway on Friday evening at 6pm before then running in the 10km event at the Elverys Galway Bay Half-Marathon on Saturday morning.