On Sunday, 78-year-old former Olympian Ron Hill did something he hadn’t done since December 21, 1964. He let a whole day pass without going on a run.
Every day for 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 2 1/2 miles; it was only in 1993, one day after he broke his sternum in a head-on car accident, that he could manage only one mile.
Hill, who is British, suffers from a heart condition. On Saturday, he could barely reach one mile.
“My heart started to hurt, and over the last 800 meters the problem got worse and worse,” he said in a statement. “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.”
Hill won the Boston Marathon in 1970 with a time of 2 hours, 10 minutes, 30 seconds, a 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, 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 honor 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.