1970 – Ron Hill

23-Jul-1970 – Commonwealth Games – 2:09:28.8 – Reebok World 10
Date of birth: 25-Sep-1938 (died 23-May-2021 – aged 82)
Nationality: English
World Record Duration: 3 years, 6 months, 8 days

The athlete:                
For Ron Hill, 1964 marked something of a turning point. He competed in his first Olympic marathon, but in a sign of what was to come he later set the new world record for the 25 kilometre distance. He would continue setting world records at shorter distances, and at the 1968 Olympics competed in the 10,000 metres.

In 1969 he would enter the marathon at the European Championships, held on the Marathon to Athens course i.e. the modern interpretation of what
ran in ancient times as the world’s first marathon. Fuelled by his new carb-loaded pre-race diet Hill ran at a pace he was comfortable with, ignoring other competitors who tried to speed away. With one kilometre left it was Hill who was in the lead, and he won.

He would build on this performance by winning the 1970 Boston Marathon, and was the favourite coming into the 1970 Commonwealth Games. The race started quickly, with Hill reaching the halfway mark in 62:35. He felt good as the miles progressed, and by the finish line lowered his personal best for the fourth time in consecutive marathons. He had won in 2:09:28.8, securing the Gold in the process.

Due to irregularities in the course Derek Clayton ran in 1969, which you can read more about here, Hill considered himself the new world record holder. The Association of Road Racing Statisticians (ARRS), agreed in a departure from World Athletics. The ARRS are an independent group created years later by many former racing officials and supported by researchers from across the world. Hill himself attempted to query Belgian authorities about the accuracy of the course, but they refused to answer any of his questions.

Hill would continue for many years, including competing at the 1972 Olympics. He had planned to run that event barefoot, but decided against it after organisers laid new stone chippings on parts of the course. He was even one place from making the 1976 Olympics, but couldn’t quite recapture his earlier form. Hill is significant for more than just his marathon achievements. Hill started ‘streak running’, the simple concept of running at least one mile each day for as many days as possible. He had to stop due to ill health, but only after having extended his streak to 52 years and 39 days.

The shoes:                   

As for his footwear, Reebok we’re kind enough to feature the World 10 on their website. Reebok wanted to use lightweight suede normally used for making gloves. When choosing the exact colour, Reebok co-founder Joe Foster spotted one sample in bright burnt orange, called Snazzy Fox. The material was only 1 millimetre thick and quite tough.

Hill was closely involved in the design of the World 10, first approaching Foster with the idea of making track spikes without spikes and just thin rubber beneath. As Hill ran on the balls of his feet, the shoes could be designed with almost no heel cushioning. The updated version of the shoe weighed in at only 142 grams, one of the lightest shoes featured on this list.

The World 10 also features an early version of the Reebok vector overlays we know today. I’ve included several vintage advertisements that boast of the various achievements of the model, albeit showing the updated version. Reebok have not retroed the first version of the World 10, however the updated version has been rereleased in colourways ranging from similar to the original to much bolder.

Shoemaker by Joe Foster