On Sunday, 78-year-old former Olympian Ron Hill did something he hadn’t done since December 21, 1964. He did not go for a run.
Every day for the the past 52 years — 19,032 days, to be exact — Hill laced up his shoes and ran at least one mile. In fact, during this stretch (the longest recorded running streak in history), Hill would typically run something closer two and a half miles; it was only in 1993, one day after he broke his sternum in a head-on car accident, that he could only manage one mile.
Hill, who is British, suffers from an undiagnosed heart condition. Over the weekend, tragically, his condition forced him to call his run quits after just 400 meters on Sunday.
“[M]y heart started to hurt and over the last 800 meters, the problem got worse and worse. I thought I might die but just made it to one mile in 16 minutes and 34 seconds. There was no other option but to stop. I owed that to my wife, family and friends, plus myself,” he said in a statement.
Hill won the Boston Marathon in 1970 with a time of 2:10:30, a new course record at the time. He competed in three Olympics (1964, 1968, 1972), and has run 115 marathons. As the Washington Post noted, Hill finished all but three of those marathons in under 2 hours and 50 minutes.
Streak runners, as they are called, keep track of the consecutive days in which they run a minimum one mile. It’s impossible to fully know how long certain streaks last, and the honour system is important, but Hill’s streak is by all accounts the longest ever, and one of the most impressive.
“When [the streak] reached 50 years, he told Runner’s World that the most serious threat to his mark came in 1993 when he broke his sternum in a car accident. Fortunately, he had already run that day. The next day, he managed to put in a mile. He also had bunion surgery the same year. He said his son picked him up from the hospital and took him to a track, where he ran a mile, using two canes. A week later, he abandoned the canes and continued his daily streak in a special cast.”
Now that Hill had to take a day off, the new longest active running streak belongs to a Californian named Jon Sutherland. He is 66, and hasn’t missed a day in 47 years.
Not bad, but he’s still five years behind Hill.
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