Running icon Hill overlooked for torch honour

The man said to be one of the inspirations for Seb Coe to take up athletics speaks of his disappointment at being rejected.

Posted on March 22, 2012 by
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Ron Hill (Mark Shearman)

Running legend Ron Hill has expressed his disappointment at being rejected as a torchbearer for the London Olympics despite the fact that he was one of the inspirations for Seb Coe, the chair of the organising committee, to take up running.

The 1969 European and 1970 Commonwealth marathon champion was missing from the list of 7300 announced this week to receive the honour of carrying the torch on its 70-day journey around the British Isles this summer – as revealed in this week’s Athletics Weekly. Those nominating him had already been told he had been rejected because of the high volume of applications.

Although Hill did not win an Olympic medal, he was told by Coe a few years ago that he was one of the men who inspired him to take up athletics.

The Lancashire-born man, now 73, is still equal 10th all-time on the UK marathon rankings with his 1970 time of 2:09:28, which was considered a world best by the Association of Road Race Statisticians – the only quicker time being the disputed 2:08:33 by Derek Clayton. However, he is perhaps better known for his record-breaking streak of having run at least a mile every day since December 1964.

After his career at the top, Hill, who received an MBE in 1972, has continued to be a popular figure within the sport, founding the sports brand Hilly Clothing and regularly appearing at races nationwide as either official starter or competitor.

Hill’s rejection, therefore, is controversial, given that most of the torchbearers are known only locally rather than internationally – albeit for noted community work and achievements.

“I was disappointed,” he told Athletics Weekly this week. “In my area it seemed to be about charities. These people ought to be recognised, and are, for the work they do. But this is about sport and Olympians, for heaven’s sake. I cannot see any other country in the world celebrating having the Olympics on home soil in this way. My sentiments are the same for the treatment of Olympians in the tickets saga.”

Organisers are still to reveal another 700 torchbearers and among these will be some high-profile individuals who have not yet been offered the honour, but it is unlikely Hill will be among those, given he has already received a rejection.

This story is an adaptation of one which appeared in Athletics Weekly (March 22), which also lists several well-known figures from the sport who were confirmed this week to carry the torch.

18 Responses to “Running icon Hill overlooked for torch honour”

  1. Kevin O'Neill says:

    Shame on the organisers! Ron is a legend and an inspiration and one of my athletic heroes in the 60s and 70s. Can they not reconsider?

  2. Jay Pollard says:

    Ron is an institution in UK distance running, a legend and genuine character in the sport. He inspired many of a generation, and his wonderful books Long Hard Road still grace my bookshelves and get leaved through regularly. This is a travesty!

  3. Jay Pollard says:

    Terrible news! Ron inspired a generation with his "tough of the track" image, a real man that thousands of budding athletes identified with and took inspiration and courage from. This is a shame.
    Hello Kevin!

  4. nathan mesta says:

    sad …hes a great!

  5. Dave Pritchard says:

    Yes, this is a disgrace! Ron deserves to carry that torch! He has done a lot for the sport over the years and was a key player in making it popular here in the UK. Somebody should give over a section or part of their torch run to Ron, even if he only carries it for 400 meters or so! I'd do it!

  6. Barry in San Diego says:

    The disconnect here is shocking. Mr. Hill is a legend of the sport and still recognized around the world for his achievements and contributions to sporting excellence. He should be on the short list of people to light the Olympic flame at the opening ceremony. Instead, British organizers will probably ask Bob Geldof.

    I hope British athletes competing at the games this summer will take notice of this snub as an indication of how their efforts will be recognized in future.

  7. thom suddeth says:

    A great guy and runner.It appears the Brits have adopted the charity game into their running too.

  8. Richard Cameron says:

    Outragious…Ron Hill brought a whole new generation of runners around the world into the sport!! Remember him when I was in High School running so tough at Springbank in London Ontario, Canada!! It was from there that I dedicated my athletic life to running and that in turn took me around the World!!

    Ron Hill epitomized the Olympic Movement of Higher-Faster-Stronger and has been a global influence….Com'on London OOC….get him out in front of the Home Crowd and International Scene!

  9. Dave Johnson says:

    Is there a petition anywhere?

  10. Brian Fernee says:

    Ron,like many other great British athletes have been ignored by the organizers…Seb Coe has completely forgotten about his roots as a club and international athlete…how many British internationals are selected for the Torch run and how many have tickets to watch their event..surely some of the "sponsors" would or could donate a few of their tickets.

  11. de greenwood says:

    Ron has already left a lasting legacy in his trackies and hilly socks.Everyone in Greater Manchester still refers to the Hyde shop as Ron Hills.He still graces races and has been an inspiration to many.We do sadly seem to be a nation who values P.C over achievers.I think Linford and Darren should also be torch bearers as they reach some kids in sprints which the likes of Seb will never reach.bring Ovett over from Oz as well.

  12. Veronique Marot says:

    I think it is a strange situation when many are chosen as Torch Bearers on the strength on their "local" achievements or issues and someone like Ron Hill who was such an inspiration to so many runners, me included, has been overlooked. Sadly it epitomizes our modern world with the endless "Britain Got Talent" emphasis as opposed to the actual achievements by hard working athletes!
    I read, followed and knew almost by heart whole chunks of Ron's books and they helped to take me to two British Records, the second one holding for 13 years and broken by a World Record (Paula).

  13. Dawn says:

    Ron should have been one of their first choices! Shame on the organisers indeed!

  14. Gavin felton says:

    Complete joke, Ron Hill has done so much for so many. Unfortunatley we are more concerned about a foreign sprinter promoting our games no wonder we have no sense of pride in our great nation. If everyone stopped and protested at the London marathon they would have to listen

  15. l Satterthwaite says:

    As usual it is all about gloryfiying the highly paid organisers rather than athletes

    • gipatty says:

      totally agree. All those who know me as a coach, Graham Patterson, are aware that I complained to the british olympic association and in the AW and local press regarding the unjust allocation of tickets and high prices and now this seemingly, snub of "icon" Ron Hill takes the biscuit. Like Seb Coe was inspired by Ron, I was inspired by Seb Coe but am totally disgusted and wish the Olympics was elsewhere and the money spent on grass roots athletics where we need it. Hopefully, Ron will, like us mere mortals realise, it's all about the fat cats. I do, however, applaud the use of well deserved members of public carrying the torch.

    • SandersLongdrive says:

      Come what may, Ron will ALWAYS be loved for both his achievements, tenacity, and gentle modesty.

  16. andy rogers says:

    Bringing this right up to date, I hope we will hear that at the very least Ron will have a key part to play in the Commonwealth Games. This would be so fitting for the Total Running Legend.
    Because of his longevity (in the Long Run!) Ron has probably influenced more people in British Athletics than any other of our heroes.
    A feature programme on the BBC (or ITV) would go down well, and might happen if it was proposed by Eddie Izzard, or even (more tongue in cheek) if Ms Vacuous Blonde the Wag Wife mentioned in Hell O that she uses Ron's regime to rid her of that ugly cellulite. Aah Progress!

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