Ron’s Reasons to Run

The ASICS Greater Manchester Marathon has teamed up with running legend Ron Hill, who set an astonishing record in 2014 of going for a run every day for 50 years. From a very young age Ron wanted to be a runner. His inspiration was a character in a boys magazine called the Rover. His name was ‘ Alf Tupper – The tough of the Track’. Alf was very poor, lived on a disused canal barge and ran under railway arches, but overcame all obstacles to win races. 

Ron joined a club in 1953, Clayton – le – Moors Harriers and began to run cross country. In 1956, whilst still at school, he started a training log to track my progress.
In 1957, Ron won a Textile Finishing Trades Association Scholarship and a place in the Manchester University Faculty of Technology to study Textile Chemistry. Ron’s training developed and by 1961 he was racing every weekend and often mid week too. Cross country, track, fells, roads and road relays. Ron will be sharing more of his reasons to run in the lead up to the ASICS Greater Manchester Marathon. Look out for them every Friday at 7:00pm starting from December 2nd on our social media pages. These posts will be inspirational to all runners taking part in our marathon


For the weekend of August 12th 1961, the only race I could find within reasonable reach of my home was the Liverpool Marathon. The furthest I had ever raced up until then was the Alcester 15.4 miles in Warrickshire and that had left me exhausted. What would 26.2 miles feel like? I was curious and entered.
We were living in Fallowfield, Manchester at the time and took a bus, then a train to Liverpool. There were only 51 entries and less than 40 starters. All finished, it was a very hot day.
Around 10 miles I remember thinking, ‘this pace is slow.’ Gradually two of us pulled away. My companion was John Tarrant, from Salford Harriers. He was the current record holder with a time of 2:22:35, from the previous year. Around half way he slowed and I went ahead to gain a 100 metre lead. He came back at me 3 miles later. I stayed with him until 22 miles when he put in a burst of speed, which I followed. I saw he was fading and I went ahead to beat him by 2 ½ minutes in 2:24:22.
The finish was a lap of Anfield Football Stadium in front of a capacity crowd for a pre-season match. By the time I got home I could hardly stand and thoughts of future marathons receded. But 3 days later the soreness had gone away from my muscles and I went back into full training.
Curiosity to try a marathon was my reason to run.


I was still happy with my shorter distance running and had moved clubs to Bolton United Harriers. Cross country and short road races for my club and Manchester University kept my speed up. I even made the England team for the International Cross Country Championships, held in San Sebastian, Spain. I finished 4th and England won again.
Although I wasn’t doing any long runs, training twice a day edged my weekly mileage up to 90 miles. But I kept wondering about the marathon. I entered the famous Polytechnic Marathon, Windsor to Chiswick on June 16th 1962. The race was special as it was started by the Queen!
Although the day was hot, I took the lead at 6 miles, with only John Tarrant for company. At 12 miles I left him behind and continued alone to win in a PB time of 2:21:59, a 2 minute and 03 second improvement. The victory gave me selection for the British Team in the European Games in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. I was extremely happy with my performance and my accomplishment.


I felt I could improve my marathon time further and ran the Polytechnic Marathon, Windsor to Chiswick, again on June 15th 1963. It was a hot day, 73 degrees F. A group of four runners hit 15 miles, when American runner Buddy Edelen, began pushing the pace. I was the last to be dropped and felt awful, until I began taking sponges at 19 miles. This refreshed me and over the last stages I was feeling much better than in 1962, when I won the race in a PB time. I knew that I could do better and wanted to improve as much as I could.


At the European Games in Belgrade, I never really settled. Sharing a room with two other runners, I did not sleep well. On a scorching day, I ground to a half at 30K. An ambulance picked me up and took me back to the stadium. When I saw all the people I felt like I let myself down. I was thinking to myself that I should have walked back! That performance cost me a place in the British Commonwealth Games, held later that year in Perth, Australia.


My inspiration to become a runner was a character in a boys magazine called the “Rover” which I read in the very early 1950’s. The story was “The Tough Of The Track” and “ Alf Tupper was the man. He lived in a fictitious town called “Greystone” which resembled the town where I was born and lived, Accrington in Lancashire, cobbled streets and terraced houses. A picture stands out in my memory of Alf striding through over the cobbles in the pouring rain wearing only vest and shorts. Alf was tough and that is what I wanted to be. Some seven or eight years later when I had arrived at Manchester University and was running twice a day I was like Alf running in just vest and shorts, early in the morning and in the dark at night.
When it got really cold I began to get pains in my knees which were swelling.
I thought long and hard about this and came to the conclusion that the working parts of the knee joints are very close to the surface and if they get too cold they become inflexible. My solution was to get some leggings and at the same time some covering for my head, hands and upper body.
Ever since then my thoughts have been “to hell with trying to be the tough guy” and when the temperature falls to 5 degrees C. I wear two pair of normal tights or tracksters and when it reaches zero and below I will wear two pairs of leggings or a pair fleecy tights.

Don’t let the recent mild weather fool you. Winter is on its way and you do not want injury to slow or stop your preparation for The ASICS Greater Manchester Marathon. Staying warm in cold weather was one of my reasons to keep running, find your reason to run the ASICS Greater Manchester Marathon.


Now is the time of year when I look forward to sitting down to planning my racing and training for the year. Unfortunately my Marathon days are over but in the past I would plan my training, speedwork, long runs and shorter distance races leading up to the BIG ONE which for most readers will be the 2017 ASICS Greater Manchester Marathon in Trafford.
I always started off gradually building up to maximum workload and fitness to around three weeks before the big event. This allowed for some tapering before the big race, but not too much. It was a pleasure to see from my training log my fitness grow. The competitions were better than solo efforts at the weekends as I could always push myself harder in a race and I was learning race tactics at the same time. Cross country racing was also a part of that build up..


I was surprised to win my first marathon, Liverpool City back in 1961 in 2.24.22. Twenty four years, later, 1985, aged 46, I was invited to run a marathon in Ipswich. It was a 2 lap course with a half marathon included on the first lap. I ran easily seeing a fellow runner turn off at 13 miles. The vehicle carrying the timing clock proceeded ahead of me for the second lap. I did not quite know what was going on and at the next road junction asked a marshal, “How many ahead of me? “ He did not reply and the SURPRISE hit me, I was in the lead! I was caught by another runner just before 16 miles and he ran away. I thought that was it. But by 19 miles I could see I was catching him. I got him at 21 miles and forged ahead to win in 2.35.53. I was delighted with 24 year gap between my first and last victory at the marathon distance. You never know what to expect when running a marathon and the element of surprise is always going to be with you throughout your life.


At age 46 (1985) I ran 20 Marathons including these foreign countries : Korea, Turkey, Spain, USA, Holland Cyprus, Bahrain, France, Trinidad and Germany. The reason for these foreign marathons was that in 1984/5 there were not so many UK Marathons and I was aiming to become the first person to run 100 (a “ton”) marathons.
I achieved this goal just after turning 47 by running the Athens Marathon (The “Original“) on October13th, in a time of 2.43.56 in 25th position.
I have so many happy memories of that course, most of all my European Gold in 1969. A large group including wife May and my mother and dad joined me plus many runners who ran the marathon too. It was a huge celebration!
I’m sure many competitors in this year’s ASICS Greater Manchester Marathon will find “TON” an achievable and worthwhile challenge ………if they haven’t already done it.


Ron Hill: “Easter 1965 was busy. I entered 3 races. First Easter Saturday, the Salford 7 ½ mile road race from the old Salford fire Station. Having forgotten to take my road racing shoes, I taped my toes and ran barefoot. It was a bit trick avoiding the gritty patches of tarmac but otherwise I felt great and ran away from my Bolton Harrier teammate Mike Freary to win in a course record time of 35.01.
Next up was Good Friday and the Rivington Pike Fell race. My left leg was a little stiff below the calf but that did not stop me, in shoes! taking victory in a time of 17.08 from fell running specialist Fred Reeves, 17.19, and cross- country international Tim Johnston who had travelled all the way up from Portsmouth, 17.30.
The weather in the Pike race had been diabolical, cold, strong winds and rain at times. Both legs had some stiffness, especially the left but by Easter Monday, the day of the Beverley Marathon I had jogged most of this away. Frank Morris the secretary of Bolton United Harriers, my club at the time, drove me up to Beverley. The race was run in awful conditions, high winds and occasional hail sleet and snow showers. I stayed behind a group of Arthur Walsham, Terry Rook, Joe Britland, John Newsome, and Mike Nunn for 16 miles then began to pull away easily. Rook of Middlesbrough succeeded in staying within 150 yards of me for the next 5 miles but dropped nearly 4 minutes in the last 5 miles. The last bit was easy for me and I was happy with the time of 2.26.33. I noted in training log that this Easter weekend had ‘left me a little race weary.’ Daring to be Brave was my reason to run.” Get inspired to run the ASICS Greater Manchester Marathon


Ron Hill: “In 1981 I was invited to run the “ COAST OF CHINA “ Marathon. It would be my 65th marathon and I was 42.
The start was in Hong Kong and the hilly course ran through the “ New Territories” as far as the border with China and back again. Despite the early morning start the weather was very warm and humid. Early on I took the lead and thought I was flying but my splits told me differently. I was not running that quickly. At the turn round point I saw I had a good lead which was a comfort. However, by 19 miles my legs were suffering terribly and I was sure I would be caught. All I could do was fight on. On the last downhill stretch to the finish line I saw a huge butterfly above me and thought, “ If that thing hits me it will knock me down ! “ It didn’t hit me and I crossed the line in 2.34.35, my slowest marathon to that date and my margin of victory was 11 minutes and 58 seconds. My greatest ever. The race is still run I believe and I am still the course record holder. Well worth the FIGHT! Get inspired to run the ASICS Greater Manchester Marathon


Ron Hill: “I was extremely fit from cross-country, track and road racing when I ran my first marathon, “The Liverpool City” back in August 1961. I was only there because I could not find a shorter race locally. There were 36 starters and 36 finishers. I managed to win the race in 2.24.22 but to be honest I did not think there was a career there for me.
My second marathon was on June 2nd 1962.It was the famous “Polytechnic Marathon” run from Windsor to Chiswick. Bolton United harriers had entered a team and I was included. It started in the grounds of Windsor Castle and this year was started by Her Majesty The Queen. This race served up another victory for me in a time of 2 21 59, I minute and 22 seconds ahead of Franjo Mihalic of Yugoslavia who ad taken the Silver Medal behind Alain Mimoun in the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Marathon. A small improvement in time for me And Bolton had won the team race with Jack Haslam 8th, Brian Jackson 29th and Tommy Parr 31st.
My third marathon was also on the Polytechnic course and here I took second place in a time of 2.18.06, a significant improvement and only Jim Peters of British runners had ever run faster, but paling into insignificance considering the time of the winner, Buddy Edelen, an American working as a school teacher in the UK who set a NEW WORLD RECORD TIME for the marathon of 2.14 28. Well, I was improving and now had some idea of what was possible. I began to dream about the future.
Pursuing my dream was my reason to run and I hope you will chase your dream at the ASICS Greater Manchester Marathon.”


Ron Hill: “The fourth marathon I ever ran was a Beverley Marathon, March 30th 1964. I got up at 6.30, ran 2 miles, had some breakfast, caught a bus from Fallowfield into Manchester and at Exchange Station bought a single ticket to Hull for bought a single ticket to Hull for 23 shillings and 6 pence. I travelled with a friend, Arthur Walsham of Salford Harriers We then had to catch a bus to Beverley. Rain and sleet were spotting the windows of the navy blue and white corporation bus. The conditions proved to be awful. Notwithstanding I ran a powerful race to win in a time of 2.19.37. Another sub 2.20 was satisfying.
My fifth marathon on June 13th 1964 was something else. I had kept fit in the meantime even finishing 4th in the Three Peaks Race, and the Polytechnic Marathon this year had a loaded field. At stake were selections for the Olympic Games in Tokyo. I was running well but nobody would work with me. Every time I dropped to the group the pace slowed and I could hear shouts for Basil Heatley behind me. Then a disaster. I’m belting along the road just before 20 miles when a marshal shouts after me,” Wrong way. You should have turned here.” Swinging back I saw that Basil had already made the turn. I did catch him and we had ding dong battle before not far from the entrance to the track at Chiswick basil swept away to win in a New World Record time of 2.13 55 to my 2.14.12 in second place.
On reflection my new personal best showed me what I was capable of. Maybe there was a chance to dream”
Chasing my dream was my reason to run and I hope you will chase your dream at the ASICS Greater Manchester Marathon.”


Ron Hill: Finishing second in the Polytechnic Marathon June 13 1964 got me into the Tokyo Olympics. The marathon was my big chance but it was not to be. I had left behind a young son and my wife was suffering with post-natal depression. Also I did not take kindly to living in a room in an-ex USA Army barracks with four other runners. I went downhill and when it came to the Marathon on October 21st I was something of a wreck.
I was fairly well up at half way but then my shoes began to hurt and I fell further and further back. My finish time was 2.25.34, 72 seconds slower than my first ever marathon. I did little running in Tokyo after that and at home I was doing only short runs. On December 20th, I said to myself, “That’s enough of this nonsense you have to GET UP AND GO.” The next day I decided to run every day – and I kept that up for over 52 years and the day after I said, “No that’s not good enough. You will run twice a day and once on Sundays. I kept that up for 26.2 Years.
But my dream seemed to be slipping away from me. My 7th marathon was a Beverley, A win but a lowly time: 2.26 33. Get Up and Go was my reason to run. Find your reason to run the ASICS Greater Manchester Marathon.


Ron Hill: “I got off to a good start in 1966 winning the English Cross-Country Championship over 9 miles at Graves Park, Sheffield from Mike Turner, Liverpool Harriers and Athletic Club. We were both awarded the same time but I was deemed to have been the winner after a last second dash to the line.
I was also made Captain of the England Team in the International Cross –Country Championships held in Rabat, Morocco that year which England won 50 points to France’s 90 points.
This led me to my 8th marathon, my fourth Polytechnic Marathon, Windsor to Chiswick, June II,1966. It was another scorching day “ Poly “ day and a great field had tuned out. By five miles a big group had broken away: Jim Alder, Jim Hogan, Don Shelley, Jim McNamara, with me at the back. No one wanted to lead, the pace dropped and at 10 miles we were caught by another group including three Japanese, Bill Adcocks, and 21 year old Graham Taylor who had recently run a world best for 20 miles ( sub 1 Hour 40 minutes ! ) At 15 miles Alder, Hogan and Taylor broke away. I did not go with them thinking that they might crack in the heat. That worked and I finished in third place with no stiffness in my legs in a time of 2. 20. 55. Young Taylor had produced a last lap of the track in 63.4 seconds to defeat Hogan with a 2.19.04, 23 seconds ahead of Hogan. The first three of us were selected to represent Great Britain in the European Championships in Budapest, Hungary on September 24th.
I was happy with my time and looked forward to improving on it in Budapest. My PASSION was still there to achieve something great at the marathon distance. But it was not to be.
On the day I found I was running with some kind of food poisoning and had to dive off the road not long after the turn round point to empty my bowels and never saw the leaders again. 12th in Shocking! Jim Hogan took Gold for GB in, his greatest triumph ever!
Passion was my reason to run.


Ron Hill: “My 12th marathon was in Cmbran, Wales and was a trial for the Olympics Games in Mexico City. On a steamy day I had a great battle with Jim Hogan until we were both passed I ended with 2.17 11 and 4th place. Despite having run 1.36.28 in the Pembroke “20” I was passed over and given a place in the 10,000 M where in bare feet I finished 7th. My13th marathon was the fourteenth Manchester Marathon, sponsored by a company called Maxol who were able to pay for teams from all over the world plus the so called world record holder, Derek Clayton from Australia. I was in good shape and ran with the leaders and then Derek himself. At 15 miles he went to grab a drink. I did not drink in races and slowed a little to let him come back. He never did ! and I ended up winning in a PB time of 2.13.42. That got me to the European Games in Athens where on a sweltering day I won the gold medal in 2.16.48. One of the proudest moments of my life as my mother and dad and my two sons were there and the finish was in the original stadium built for the 1896 resurrected Olympics.”
Passion was my reason to run.


Ron Hill: “As a result of winning my European Marathon Championship in Athens I was invited to a famous marathon in Fukuoka, Japan, December 7th 1969. On a cold rainy day I battled with a Japanese runner for second place only to see the winner, Jerome Drayton of Canada, not that far ahead of me in the stadium. I was amazed when I learned my time, 2.11.54, a PR by a big margin. WHERE HAD THAT COME FROM ?
This led the Road Running Club of Great Britain organising a “ whip round “ to send me to the Boston Marathon, April 20th !970. No fancy hotels, the Race Director, Jock Semple, told me I was staying with a family out in Winchester, which was fine by me. I was able to do the training I wanted as they made me very welcome. I understood that my main opposition would be Jerome Drayton who had beaten me in Fukuoka.

I was given number ONE and Jerome number TWO. It was another freezing day with heavy rain and a head wind. The only vest I had brought with me was my string vest! By six miles I was heading Jerome but he caught me not long after. At 10 miles he dropped out and I went on to win the race. I was over the moon – winning Boston ! Then a journalist came over and said, You just broke the course record by over three minutes. 2.10.30. I got a nice medal.


That Boston Performance gave me much confidence for my next big challenge the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh three months later. I managed to secure a single room in the games village and trained alone, in fact covering 99 miles of training in the seven days before the Marathon. I had my glycogen loading diet off to perfection. The morning of the race I ran 2 miles to check that my shoes were perfect. The start of the race was like the start of a 1,500 m race. I kept pushing until by 10 miles I was in the lead and Derek Clayton, Jerome Drayton, Jim Alder and everyone else were. behind me. 10 miles in 47.35 and 62.35 at half way. I now faced the runners behind me, smiling and giving the thumbs up to them as I passed. At 20 miles I saw my time,1.37.30. I had a 1.36.28 to my name previously so I was not unduly worried. It was getting warm and humid and I was not looking forward to the 2 mile climb back up to the Meadowbank Stadium but I just put my head down and covered the last 10K in just over 30 minutes to take victory in 2.09.28 A Gold Medal and a new World Record.