The last few weekends have provided Irish coaches and athletes with a couple of rare opportunities to meet and learn from two icons of our sport – Kenyan athlete David Rudisha, Olympic 800m gold medallist and world record holder for the distance, and David Oliver, who won the men's 110m gold medal at the World Track and Field Championships in Moscow last month.
Yet it was disappointing to see that only a few coaches showed up for Oliver's enlightening presentation on strength and conditioning in the Dolmen Hotel in Carlow two weeks ago, an event organised by Carlow physical therapist Anthony 'Star' Geoghegan.
And I expected that the front-row seats in the hall in the NUIG in Galway last weekend would be populated by Irish coaches eager to receive even some small morsel of fresh knowledge from world-renowned Irish coach, Brother Colm O'Connell, and his star athlete.
That was not the case, but those who missed out on these two events have one more chance to hear another true legend of athletics share his vast knowledge when the great British distance runner Ron Hill visits Dublin next Thursday, September 26, a day after his 75th birthday.
Hill will deliver a free-to-the-public running forum at the 53 Degrees North sports store in Carrickmines – a half-hour presentation followed by an audience Q&A session. He will repeat the performance in Elverys Sports in Galway the next day (6pm) before he runs in the 10k event at the Elverys Galway Bay Half-Marathon promotion on the Saturday.
Hill has always been the consummate runner's runner; the closest thing you will ever get to the comic book legend Alf Tupper, the Tough of the Track. For many years Hill ran in the singlet of his famous club Bolton Harriers, and at one time held world records for 10 and 15 miles and 25k. He was also the second man ever to dip under 2:10 for the marathon when he ran 2:09.28 to take gold in the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh in 1970. Hill is also a former winner of the Boston Marathon, and in 1972 was odds-on to win Olympic gold at the distance in Munich, but delivered a nightmare performance.
In his early years in athletics, Hill ran to and from the factory where he worked as a textile chemist. Dedication could well suit him as a middle name, as he has not missed a single day of training in 48 years; that is seven days a week, 52 weeks a year. And he has every mile neatly logged into the training diaries he first started to fill nearly half-a-century ago.
Hill was always a runner well ahead of his time. He was one of the first of his era to experiment with glycogen loading as a preparation for the marathon. He was also an early advocate of minimalist running shoes, and will be forever famous for the string vests he wore in marathons.
Not even a head-on car crash could stop him from continuing with his remarkable 48-year daily running streak. The crash, in 1986, broke his sternum in two, and doctors said at the time that his heart was not functioning properly as a result of the impact. Yet Hill still went for a run on the day he was discharged from hospital.
He was the founder of the now world-famous Hilly Clothing Company which specialises in the manufacture of high-quality running apparel and running socks. He started the company in his garage, and the company now has a global reach and profile with a great reputation for quality products.
Today, Hill travels the world, and he has run events in more than 100 countries to date. He loves the opportunity to visit Ireland, and has fond memories of racing against Irish running greats such as Tom O'Riordan, Bertie Messitt and Jim McNamara.
He is one of the most wise and personable runners you are every likely to meet. His running forums come highly recommended. Distance running coaches can also learn a lot from listening to what he has to say about training and racing. Let's give a great, warm Irish running welcome to a true legend.