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I have never had a more hectic birthday! First thing in the morning I had radio interviews with Radio Manchester and Radio Lancashire. It felt strange not having run early as was my norm. Then we were packing for a visit to Ireland the next day speaking at 53 Deg North store in Dublin in the evening followed the next day by a journey to Galway for another talk, this time at an Elverys store, with the Galway Bay 10 K the morning after. Later I was picking up some new Vizion garments for May and I to wear in Ireland. Graham Richards, Brand Director, Ronhill and Hilly asked me to pop into a meeting room. I was suspecting nothing but was greeted by the smiling faces of all the staff, a special birthday cake and a bottle of champagne. I should have been able to stay and pass the time of day but after cutting the cake and giving sincere thanks I had to dash.

Celebrating with the Ronhill team

I had agreed to have my portrait taken in our house for the Paul Wolgang Webster Gallery, Cheadle Hulme, part of a series “ Made in the North.” Anna who works at Sweatshop, Arndale, Manchester had arranged this and Paul spent from 2:30 to 4:00 pm taking shots. They were going to the birthday race too but it left me scant time to get on my racing gear and head out, with May and son Graham, to Littleborough, near Rochdale. It was a nightmare journey probably due to a Manchester United and Liverpool Cup game that evening. On our way there we were held up ages, so instead of being some of the first people there at the Falcon Inn, it was already crowded. The race had been a sellout with 400 runners signed up.

There were loads of club runners there but I think my own club, Clayton-le-Moors Harriers outdid them all. The first one to greet me was Dennis Williams, Hercules Wimbledon AC who had travelled from London. Other mates who had travelled far were Paul Smith, Crook and District AC from Durham and Rod Berry, Gt. Langdale Running Club, from Ambleside. One special guest who had been at my 70th race was John Walshe, East Cork, of Ballycotton “10” fame.

With the Clayton crowd - Image Credit: Steve Bateson

The problem with arriving late is inadequate warm up and I had time for only one mile. A young filmmaker was there with a crew and this event would be part of his film of my life. He must have had a tricky job. Race organizer Andy O’Sullivan asked me to “start” the race grabbing the megaphone from me with the words, “Wait until I get to the corner and stop the traffic.” I did and joined the field after a couple of seconds. I didn’t push it and accompanied by Paul Smith, just worked through steadily, striding the last K downhill from Hollingworth Lake to record 27:57 and 294th out of 358. A good few runners missed the start because of traffic problems the night. I was the only M75 runner though there were a couple of M80’s. Good on ‘em. First M70 was Sid Sacks, Salford H. Thank heaven I’m out of his age group for a couple of years.

James Copson filming Time to go. Image credit: Steve Bateson
27:57 for 294th position. Image credit: Steve Bateson

I helped with the presentation of prizes. Andy auctioned a pair of my ASICS trainers, worn and autographed, and got £150 for them to go to his nominated charities  : The Christies Mobile Chemotherapy Unit and the Diane Modahl Foundation. My total post race rehydration was 1 and a half pints of bitter (Iwas driving), and after reminiscing with Diane and Harry Collins from Norwich about past running travels to Brugges and Benidorm etc, we were last out of the pub. I drove our Graham home and Neil Shuttleworth to Mottram, getting home just before 11:00 pm. Not much of a celebration and I felt more like 80 than 75 ! ! !

Awarding The Christies Mobile Chemotherapy Unit and the Diane Modahl Foundation, Image credit: Steve Bateson

By Ron Hill

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