The longest recorded running streak in history ended Saturday when England's Ron Hill completed a one-mile run. The 78-year-old former Olympian did not run Sunday for the first time in 52 years and 39 days — a streak that dates back to Dec. 21, 1964, five days before the Beatles topped the Billboard charts with the single “I Feel Fine.”
In a statement released by Streak Runners International, Hill, who suffers from an undiagnosed heart problem, said that after less than 400 meters Saturday, “my 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.”
Streak runners must run at least a mile every day, regardless of injuries, surgery or other circumstances. The records are submitted by runners on the honor system, but Mark Washburne, who keeps both the U.S. and world lists, tries to check out claims of lengthy streaks.
The end of Hill's streak gives Jon Sutherland, 66, of West Hills, Calif., the longest active streak in the world at 17,417 days, or a little more than 47½ years, according to the U.S. Running Streak Association. Three other Americans are not far behind and all are probably young enough to pass Hill's record if they continue.
I talked to Sutherland a couple of years ago when he set the American streak record at 16,438 days — 45 years and two days, or 190,715 miles of putting one foot in front of another. He said then that he had run despite 10 broken bones and two knee surgeries, plus countless late-night heavy-metal concerts he attended as a journalist and record producer. He arranged to run right before his knee surgeries and then, without consulting his doctor, on the days right after them. He had averaged 11.2 miles a day over the 45-year period.
Hill's streak is no less remarkable. When it 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.
Hill won the 1970 Boston Marathon in 2:10:30, a course record at the time. He competed in the 1964, 1968 and 1972 Olympics, placing seventh in the 10,000 meters in 1968 and sixth in the marathon in 1972, according to Runner's World. He has run 115 marathons — all but three at times under 2:50 — and has held world records in 10-mile, 15-mile and 25-kilometer road races, all of them during his streak. His final marathon was the 100th running of Boston in 1996, where he ran 3:12:46 at the age of 57, according to Washburne's statement.
Hill's streak ended the same weekend as a group of marathoners completed seven marathons in seven days on seven continents. Michael Wardian, 42, of Arlington, Va., set a world record by averaging 2:45:57 for the competition, including the opening race in Antarctica in subzero temperatures.