We’re not sure what Ron Hill did on Sunday, but we do know that for the first time in 52 years, he was not running. According to the BBC, the 78-year-old Hill had run at least a mile every day since December 20, 1964, clocking in the world’s longest running streak at 52 years, 39 days.
On Saturday, Hill, a native of Accrington, England, began feeling pain in his chest during his daily run. “After 400m my heart started to hurt and by the time I got to the one mile point I thought I was going to die,” he tells the BBC. “I was in such pain and I thought ‘no, hang on, this isn't going anywhere at the moment,’ and really in respect of my wife, two sons and friends I need to stop this.”
Hill isn’t just some obsessive compulsive runner—he’s one of the sport's luminaries. In 1970, reports Lenny Bernstein at The Washington Post, Hill became the first Briton to win the Boston Marathon, setting a then-course record at 2:10:30. He also competed in the 1964, 1968 and 1972 Olympics, placing sixth in the 1972 marathon. He has also held world records for 10-mile, 15-mile and 25-kilometer road races. Over his storied career, Hill has also completed 115 marathons, the last of which he ran in 1996, his final Boston Marathon.
Outside of running, the BBC reports that Hill worked as a textile chemist. He became one of the first people to use synthetic fabrics in sports wear, and his company, Ron Hill Sports, which began in 1970, exists to this day though Hill sold it in the early 1990s. He also formed Hilly Clothing, which specializes in running socks.
According to a profile of Hill by Alison Wade at Runner’s World, the Brit has gone to extraordinary lengths to maintain his record. In 1993, for instance, he broke his sternum in a car accident. Luckily, he already had his daily run in for the day. He was lacing up his running shoes the following morning. Later that year, Hill had bunion surgery, but he didn't let that stop him, either. “My son picked me up from hospital the next morning, drove me to a track, and I did one mile using walking sticks [canes], not crutches, which go under the arm pits,” Hill tells Wade. “I was able to abandon these after seven days but still ran a mile a day in a plaster cast.”
Now that Hill’s streak is no longer active, the top spot goes to California writer John Sutherland who has been hoofing it each day since May of 1969, with 17,418 days under his belt so far.