We are lucky to be living (and running) at a time when running clothing and accessories are technically advanced. It is hard, or potentially impossible, to think back to when there was not such an abundance of choice. Back in the day when runners had no access to the likes of waterproof jackets, breathable t-shirts with mesh panels, and clothing with reflective strips to keep them safe after dark, running was a completely different experience. Fortunately, for the runners of today, one man stepped up to improve runners’ experience and create innovative running gear, helping to form the running industry standards that we currently benefit from. This man is Ron Hill.
Ron Hill, the runner's runner.
You’ve likely heard of Ron already. He started running pretty much like any runner. The first step of his running journey was at Grammar School in the 1950s. He wasn't looking for medals or personal bests, he loved the independence and freedom that running gave him. It wasn’t long before he started looking forward to the school Cross Country race, which then led to competitive cross-country races over the Pennines moors. Things got serious when Ron got a Scholarship to study Textile Chemistry at the University of Manchester and he was living with a couple of enthusiastic runners.
He has inspired the world of running by not missing a single day of running for 52 years and 39 days. He started this incredible ‘run streak’ after placing 18th in the 10,000m and 19th in the marathon at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. In 1969, he won gold medals at the European Championships, and in 1970 he recorded a PB of 2:09:28 to win the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh, which was a great reward for all the hours spent training. 1970 was a successful year for Ron Hill as he became the first Briton to win the Boston marathon!
Sadly, in June 2021 Ron Hill passed away at the age of 82. At an incredibly sad time for the sport, his legacy and what he gave to running can be remembered fondly as he inspired thousands of runners at all levels. A fitting quote from an article written by Michael Crawley, a former Run4It employee, perfectly shows Ron Hill’s attitude to life and the sport - ‘‘I never wanted to reach a stage in my life where I would look back and say “If only I’d…” I was going to do it, and what I didn’t achieve wouldn’t be through lack of trying.’.
The development of Ronhill, the brand.
As a result of running hundreds of miles a week, he realised where the weak spots were, and for him, back in the 1960s, it was the clothes. So, Ron Hill decided to make them himself. With his passion for running and experience, he was ideally placed to help runners. His vision was to provide every runner, from elite marathoners to joggers, with the right kit and the inspiration to run every day.
His story is not solely about winning races or being successful. It is about passion and how a run (or several) can have a positive impact on your life. Motivating yourself to chuck on your kit and go out the door can change you physically and mentally. Like a lot of runners, Ron Hill simply got hooked on running; it became his lifestyle and his life revolved around it.
Ron Hill’s experience of the challenges posed by the elements on his daily runs led him to innovate and transform the world of running clothing in a big way. One of the earliest innovations, the Freedom shorts, came from ripping some shorts up the side, and this led to countless runners benefiting from the greater range of movement found in the ‘split short’. His passion and enthusiasm to improve sportswear led Ron to set up Ron Hill Sports on 9th September 1970. Other innovations included mesh running vests and the hugely popular Trackster.
Ronhill’s early success was driven by three products which could be found in the kit bags of many serious runners: the Marathon Vest, the Union Jack Short and the Trackster.
When you live in the north of England and you're running everyday like Ron was, you have got to be prepared to face weather. On some days it can be a real battle against the elements and Ron was one of the first to use Gore-Tex (a synthetic waterproof fabric) in a running jacket. He was also the first to put Scotchlight™ reflective tape on running clothing. Safety was a big priority for Ron. In winter, he would be running to and from work in the dark, and he wanted to make sure he was visible.
An important development was the replacement of cotton and wool with nylon and polyester, because “cotton wears out very quickly and when it gets wet, it stays wet."
Ron Hill’s daily life and training in the north of England have shaped the brand that Ronhill is today. Thanks to the weather, the people he mixed with, and his routine, he learned to innovate in an incomparable way, with the goal of providing the right kit and inspiring people to run. He followed his needs. By obtaining a PhD in Textile Chemistry and learning from the challenges he encountered on his daily runs, Ron was uniquely placed to build a brand which has offered true value to runners throughout its existence.
It's been a long and inspirational journey since Ron started selling his own gear from the back of his van after races. Ron's runs were the starting point of the creation of the first products in the range and the Ronhill brand has expanded greatly, offering technically superior gear for men and women.
Ron Hill's legacy: Ronhill.
Decades of learnings and product development have shaped the brand that Ronhill has become. When it comes down to it, Ronhill creates running clothing and accessories which help runners to train at any time of the day, in all conditions. The Ronhill product range is split into three unique collections:
- Tech: The most technical and advanced range available from Ronhill. Using 50 years of running vision, these celebrated products use the most premium of materials to continually create innovative clothing.
Life: Branch out your wardrobe with stylish designs from this range. This performance kit is for a healthy and whole lifestyle whilst running, resting and living.
- Core: There is something for every type of runner in the core range. Simplicity is the key with these products. Comfort, performance, and value all exceed expectations with the choices available in this range.
50 years of Ronhill
The Ronhill brand will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2020. The story so far has been remarkable, and the brand is showing no signs of slowing down when it comes to product development and innovation. One man’s choice to solve runners’ problems has resulted in an untold number of benefits for countless runners. Ron Hill is a running legend and what he built will live long in the lifetime!