ACCRINGTON marathon legend Ron Hill celebrated his 70th birthday the only way he knew how - by running.
The former European and Commonwealth marathon champion hit the 70th birthday landmark last month.
But it was just an ordinary day for Hill as he did what he had done every day since 1964 and put on his trainers to take to the streets.
Indeed, for the last 44 years Hill has never missed a day’s training come rain, wind, shine or the odd broken bone.
The Ron Hill 70th Birthday 5K road race was at Littleborough and was his 2,260th competitive race.
And by the time he crossed the finishing line, the doctor had run 151,197 miles since starting an extensive training log back in 1956.
Every victory, every defeat, every painful step has been meticulously logged by one of Britain’s best-ever long-distance runners.
And there is no stopping him even though he has reached his seventh decade - he has even added another achievement to his list by competing in 100 races in 100 countries recently.
There have been problems though - he had hoped to run in two of the world’s most dangerous trouble spots in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Indeed, he had already lined up a trip to Afghanistan when the British Army stepped in.
"As some people know, I’ve been trying to race in as many countries as possible," he said. "I’d got up to 98 earlier this year and was trying to reach 100.
"I heard about a 12K military race in Khandahar and thought it would be good one to get in.
"But the Army thought it might be too dangerous, with the heat and altitude, for a 70-year-old. Plus I probably would have had to run in body armour.
"So, in the end I didn’t go and Iraq is also too risky at the moment."
Undeterred, Ron dug out his atlas and race calendar and discovered two less problematic places to pull on his Clayton-le Moors Harriers running vest.
As a result, he has now ticked off Panama and the Faroe Islands.
"I ran 6K in Panama and that was tough because of the humidity," he said. "I did a half-marathon in the Faroes and finished with a respectable time of 1hr 53 mins."
There have been several occasions since 1964 when his record of running at least a mile a day has come under threat.
In 1993 he broke his sternum in a car accident and this June, while on holiday in Santorini, Ron was close to finishing his daily ‘fix’ when he tripped at the foot of steep hill and smashed his humerus. It certainly wasn’t funny for Ron.
But 24 hours later, with the troublesome and painful arm in immobilised by a sling, he was back out for a slow two-miler.
Six weeks later he completed the Gravy 6 Trail Race at Padfield.
"I actually thought I might be last but I ran sub nine-minute miles which I was quite proud of," he added.
He’s also rightly proud of his unique achievements.
"Some runners can say they’ve done so many races or ran so many miles but it’s mostly from memory," he explained.
"Mine is all written down. I contacted the Guinness Book of Records a few years ago and it might be time to give them another call.
"The records now though are more bizarre than they ever used to be."
The fast and not so fast turned out to run with Ron to celebrate his 70th - especially his fellow Clayton-Le-Moors Harriers team-mates.
"I’m really touched by the interest," he admitted. "All the proceeds went to charity as well so it was a good night all round."
Race organiser Andy O’Sullivan added: "It shows the esteem in which Ron is held that so many people turn out for a 5K road race in Littleborough.
"Ron’s a legend and people still get a thrill to run with the great man, even now."