Neil Featherby: RIP Ron Hill - an inspiration to runners everywhere

West Highland Way

Eric Mytton and Dom Kelley after completing 96.4 miles of The West Highland Way. - Credit: Julie Mytton

What sad news it was last Sunday to hear that Ron Hill had passed away. 

Ron Hill has not only been one of the greatest runners that this country has ever produced, but he really was such a remarkable man. 

I, like so many others, have been greatly influenced and inspired by him. I have said it so many times before that his autobiography in two parts are an absolute must for any runner to read. 

Both books really are so informative what with him having finely detailed everything with regards to his running career. From first starting out in the 1950s through to 1982.  

I must have read both books at least 100 times each, hence the badly worn covers and loose pages of my copies. I was reading extracts of part two on Sunday morning before I heard the news. 

Apart from winning numerous national and international titles and races along with four world records, he also won the European Championships marathon in 1969 and Commonwealth Games marathon in 1970 (2:09:28) after becoming the first British runner to win the Boston Marathon just three months earlier. It made him the pre-race favourite for the Munich Olympic Games marathon in 1972. Unfortunately though, it was not to be with him finishing in sixth place. 

Ron really was such an innovative man and was one of the very first endurance runners to experiment with what was known as the carbohydrate loading diet (all detailed in the books). Whilst his attention to detail was exceptional, I am pretty sure that his obsessional and continued search/experimentation for further improvement not only led to his successes, but failures (by his expectations) at times too. 

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Needless to say everyone who knows of Ron Hill will also know about the Ron Hill specialist running clothing range which he founded and of course his running streak of running every single day for 52 years and 39 days (Dec 1964 – January 2017) which was and still is the biggest influence on my own running streak which goes back to September 1, 1981. Ironically this also pretty much falls in line with when part one of his autobiography was released. 

I will never forget the time when I was part of a group of UK runners invited out to the Malta Marathon in 1989 which included Ron and his wife May where we not only all shared in what was a really nice trip, but enjoyed what was a super post-race meal the evening after the race and I was lucky enough to sit beside the great man over dinner. 

RIP Ron Hill – A leader and front runner in many ways whose name will always be synonymous with the marathon. 

Talking of long-distance endurance runs, I really must say a huge well done to young Eric Mytton who just this week completed the 96.4 rugged miles of the West Highland Way over four days (total running time 14 hours and 9 mins). Whilst the weather was pretty severe for the first couple of days, the scenery more than made up for it.  

Eric is the son of my good friends Dave and Julie with Dave suffering from Parkinson’s and Julie with MS for which Eric and his friend Dom Kelly have raised £6,000 for both causes. Dom was also down to run the entire route, but suffered a bad knee injury just a couple of weeks ago so cycled for the first three days before completing the marathon distance with Eric on the final day. Well done to both of them, a fantastic achievement.