The legendary Ron Hill, Britain’s first runner under the magical 2Hr 10 barrier as well as winner of the Boston Marathon, European Championships and Commonwealth Games during the halcyon days of the 1970’s.
The most contradictory statement one could make about Ron Hill is to say “the man didn’t win anything”. People like to talk about Ron Hill as a person who could have done better “IF“
Yet this very same man was the 2nd person in history to crack sub 2Hr 10, a winner of the Boston Marathon as well as winner of both the Commonwealth and the European Championships. No mean feat.
Born in Accrington, the industrial town in the East Lancashire region of the UK, Ron took a strong interest in running from childhood. His childhood hero was Alp Tupper, ‘the tough of the track’, a comic magazine hero who Hill would emulate in his career by becoming a stalwart of athletics in every sense. He joined a Lancashire athletics club in 1953 and has not looked back since.
The Accrington athlete would set 4 world records over 4 distances, never the 42K and would be a force to be reckoned with attending 3 Olympic Games Marathons, Tokyo 1964, Mexico 1968 and Munich 1972, unfortunately without success, failing to peak on the ultimate stage.
1970 was to be a watershed year for Hill who travelled to the Boston marathon winning by a large margin and shattering the course record by 3 minutes with a time of 2:10:30. Consider that Boston 2005 was won in 2:13, some 35 years later. Then in July of 1970, at the British Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh, he became the second man to break 2:10 barrier with 2:09:28. In both of these races, Hill was most impressive. In Edinburgh, he recorded the second fastest time despite starting out at suicidal pace – first 10Km in 29:24, a 2:04 marathon pace.
Hill travelled to Fukuoka International marathon as a clear favourite, but sadly could only muster a 9th place finish, however despite this he was voted Marathoner of the Year due to his sublime performances in April and July.
After winning Gold at the Athens European Marathon Champs in 1969 and the wonder performances of 1970, Hill placed 3rd in a time of 2:14:36 at the European Marathon Champs of 1971 behind Belgium legend Karel Lismont. It must be noted that earlier in 1969, Hill won the AAA marathon championships at Manchester in a time 2:13:42 and then won at Athens followed by Boston and the Commonwealth Games win in Edinburgh, four marathon runs of the highest order to establish himself as one of the Greats of the Distance but never quite making it to our Hall of Fame.
Hill was never to replicate 1970 again and at the Munich Olympic marathon in 1972 he would fade to 6th never again reaching the dizzy heights of a marathoner to be feared again on the big stage. The athlete runs to this day and notched up a record of sorts by never missing a day’s running in 30 years.