The man behind the brand – Ron Hill and the creation of innovative running clothing
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!
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 four unique collections:
Everyday: delivering fuss-free gear for every runner, Ronhill’s Everyday range is the perfect choice for every run. Whether you’re tackling a weekend run in the park or a 10k race, the Everyday range is suitable for beginners through to experts. From classic, durable t-shirts to water resistant jackets, this range has everything you need to get running.
Momentum: the Momentum range by Ronhill provides stylish activewear that adapts to the demands of daily life. Perfect for runners searching for versatile running gear that can be worn from the gym to the trail and everywhere in between, the Momentum range will help you take your performance to the next level whilst always looking your best.
Stride: the Stride range delivers single-minded kit for the dedicated runner. The ideal choice for runners searching for functional, durable and comfortable gear, Stride provides running clothing that goes the distance.
Infinity: designed for dedicated runners with a never-ending commitment, Ronhill’s Infinity range delivers all-weather, all-terrain running gear that you’ll reach for, mile after mile. Luxurious yet functional, the Infinity range is created to help elevate your running experience with comfortable, protective and performance-enhancing clothing that will take you from the start to finish line.
Standout pieces for Autumn/Winter 2019
It is no exaggeration to say that the Autumn/Winter 2019 product range is the best yet. Helping runners to train safely is still a huge priority for the Ronhill brand. The See Me Run campaign includes lightweight, highly reflective Afterlight products from the Momentum collection and safe, sleek, understated Nightfall products from the Infinity collection. These products have been made with the aim of giving runners the greatest chance of being seen by road traffic and pedestrians, with the Infinity Nightfall Jacket and Infinity Nightfall Tights even featuring iridescent reflective panels.
Gore-Tex is no longer used in Ronhill products, but the brand has continued to produce some of the best running jackets in the running market. The Infinity Fortify Jacket offers phenomenal protection and comfort in extreme weather. With a 30,000mm hydrostatic head rating, the Fortify jacket is waterproof and windproof, but still offers excellent breathability to help runners tackle the bad weather training miles in maximum comfort.
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 legend and deserves a great deal of thanks for what he started all those years ago!