Fylde coast athletics salutes the legendary Ron Hill
Fylde coast athletics has joined in the many tributes to Lancastrian running great Ron Hill, who died on Sunday aged 82.
The Accrington-born European and Commonwealth gold medallist championed his sport all over the county and beyond, and was a frequent visitor to the Fylde.
In these parts his name will forever be associated with the Freckleton Half-Marathon, which he won six times.
The inaugural winner of the race in 1965, Hill’s Freckleton triumph four years later was achieved in a course record time of 64mins, 45secs which stands to this day.
Brian Porter, who organised the Freckleton spectacular for many years, told the Gazette: “Ron’s prize for that record-breaking win was a set of ladders. He had work to do on his guttering, so he rang the organisers and asked for ladders if he won. Most of Ron’s kitchen appliances came from winning races.
“He was a great friend of the Freckleton Half-Marathon and was as proud of that record as he was of any he set. He thought it should have been broken after standing for so long ... but he was chuffed it hadn’t been.
“For all his achievements he was so humble and so generous with his time. He visited all the running clubs, telling his stories and running with the members.”
A double Olympian, Hill was the second man to break the 130-minute barrier for the marathon and set world records at four shorter distances. His club was Clayton-le-Moors Harriers but Hill made himself at home at any club.
Blackpool Wyre and Fylde AC secretary Nick Hume said: “Ron Hill was an inspiration to athletes of my generation in the 1980s and 1990s, with his great athletic achievements, his innovations – diet, clothing (his company Ron Hill Sports revolutionised sportswear) and his long streak of never missing a day’s running, even if seriously injured.
“His books The Long Hard Road were read by many an aspiring distance runner and provide a great insight into that era of great British running, when runners worked full time and fitted training in and around work and family life.
Wesham Road Runners’ Alex Rowe added: “I have both of his books signed and he was very kind with his second volume – he gave me one of the few remaining copies out of his attic! He was always very approachable, very happy to talk about himself and interested in what others had to recount.
“After his international career, he always kept in touch with his grassroots. He was frequently out supporting the local races.
“Ron was a real, ‘tough of the track’, having had a full-time job as a textile chemist, run to and from work, and developed his clothing business out of his loft in the evening.”
Hill rewrote the record book again by running every single day for more than 52 years up to January 2017.
Brian Porter was privileged to enjoy one of those runs alongside Ron and recalls: “I had the pleasure of a masterclass from Ron Hill running alongside him in his last Freckleton race, which was also his last half-marathon.
“Ron’s number at Freckleton was always 65 – his record time – and we chatted all the way. I remember he asked if I was chasing a time and I said, “No, I’m just enjoying running with you.” And he said, “So why are we going so bloody fast?”
“But after 12-and-a-half miles he still had that look in his eye that said, ‘You’re not beating me’. So we were full-on through the finish and of course I lost.
“Over those 50-plus years, thousands if not 10s of thousands could say they had run with Ron Hill. And that didn’t just running in the same event but actually running alongside him, sharing stories and memories.”
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