Norman Wilson 1956 -2021

07/06/2021 00:00, In History /

From Mick McGeoch

Norman Wilson 1956 - 2021

It is with great sadness that I write to inform you of the death of Norman Wilson. Norman died last Friday after a short illness at the age of 65.

Having raced for TVH for most of his competitive career, he transferred to Newport Harriers in 1986Many readers of a similar age will remember Norman as a member of Thames Valley Harriers and the Army.

Norman had made his marathon debut at the well-established Harlow event in October 1976, placing 17th in a promising 2:27:39. The services were a hotbed of athletic talent at the time, and following prodigious volumes of training and racing, Norman improved to 2:16:21 within a year - winning in Berlin from Mike Hurd in second. This was a major breakthrough and a huge boost for Norman's confidence.

Norman wasn't born in Wales but assumed Welsh nationality in 1981 - so his 2:13:17 at Boston doesn't appear on the Welsh all-time lists. He ran in the Welsh Marathon in August that year, now fully qualified for Wales, and after leading all the way was caught in the final mile by Mick Crowell (Bridgend) who won the title on four successive occasions 1979-82. Norman ran 2:20:36 behind Mick's 2:20:06. Norman also took silver in the Welsh 10 mile championship at Bridgend in October 1982, clocking 49:23 on the undulating course behind Kenny Davies (Newport) 49:09.

Running a marathon at age 20 wasn't particularly unusual at this time, but running an ultra at 21 was very unusual. He won his first ultra, the Woodford to Southend 37.5 miles, beating the legendary Cavin Woodward by 3 minutes. Naturally, when you're 21 you don't think about recovery - you only think about the next race. And the next race, just two weeks after Berlin was the classic which every aspiring ultra runner wanted to run - the 53 miles of the London-Brighton.

From a promising second position at 39 miles, Norman lost 22 minutes against race winner Don Ritchie over the final 14 miles, and he suffered significantly from cramp. This experience is all too familiar for ultra newcomers. Still, seventh position in 5:38 was very promising.

It is a matter of record that Norman never ran another ultra race. Indeed, the next two seasons were blighted with persistent injury. It is perhaps understandable then, that when he was able to resume training, Norman concentrated on what he did best - racing marathons.  

Norman enjoyed a spectacular marathon career, racing 21 times in all parts of the world. He won three times and bettered 2:18 on eight occasions, with a best time 2:13:17 (Boston 1981).

Even after he retired from athletic competition, Norman's passion for the sport remained, and he transferred his skills to race organisation and coaching with a great deal of success. Whilst most of this was in the world of ultra distance, Norman was also Race Director for the prestigious 12 stage road relays in Sutton Park, as well as countless other events in his local area. In September 2011 Wales hosted the Commonwealth Games 24 hours championships in Llandudno. Norman Wilson, along with Steve Brace, was very much responsible for the organisation of the event

His passion and enthusiasm for the sport will be sorely missed.