THE news that the Bolton Marathon is set to return in 2020 after a 32 year break has stirred the memories of those that took part in the very first race.

The race was first held in 1981 and attracted thousands of runners eager to take on what became known as a notoriously difficult course.

One such competitor was 83-year-old Norman Shard, a keen runner from Bolton, who kept a meticulous record of the build up to the marathon as well as everything from the day from his race number to the certificate he received for completing the course in 3hrs 31mins.

“I became really interested in running the Bolton Marathon after watching the one in London that took place earlier in the year,” remembered Norman. “I enjoyed my training but you have to enjoy it and show some dedication if you’re going to run a marathon. I had no idea what time I could do but I set myself a time I thought was achievable and I’d up only being a minute and a few seconds over that so I was quite pleased.”

Thousands of people lined to route to cheer on the runners and despite it being 38 years ago, Norman can still remember the special atmosphere on the course.

“It was unbelievable.” he said. “The crowds turned out all the way around especially on Plodder Lane where all the runners were starting to fade a bit. The atmosphere afterwards was brilliant too and everyone had a really good time.”

Despite his success Norman was careful not to celebrate for too long. “I came home and had a bath,” he said. “It was more about having an opportunity to raise some money and I chose the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association as my charity.”

After running his first marathon in Bolton in 1981, Norman quickly caught the bug and began travelling the world competing in some of running’s landmark courses.

“I ran 25 all together including Boston, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Malta, Benidorm,” he said. “We would treat it as a holiday and then do a race later on.”

Almost 40 years later, Norman is glad the race is staging a comeback even though his running days are behind him.

“I’m really pleased and I’m hoping to watch it somewhere,” he said. “It was so big in 1981 but there was a real boom in marathons back then.

“Unfortunately the numbers started dwindling and the enthusiasm for them doesn’t seem to be there quite as much now.”

As for tips, the veteran runner still remembers plenty of the techniques that made him such a great competitor over the years.

“Make sure you enjoy yourself and get some training in,” he added.

“Twenty-six miles is a long way to run and if you can, make sure you get a few 20 mile training runs in.

“If you can run around Bolton you can do a marathon because there are so many hills!”

To register your interest in taking part in the Bolton Marathon in 2002 go to: