Bright was the son of a school principal and a teacher. Born in Mossyrock, Washington, he was one of eleven children. Bright's mother reportedly rubbed olive oil into his legs as an infant when she was told by a doctor that her son was not "moving and working his muscles enough". Bright attended Western Washington University where he earned a teaching degree, Stanford University where he earned a bachelor's degree, and Miami University of Ohio where he earned a master's degree in counseling.
During World War II, Bright served in the United States Army. He was initially rejected due to a slow pulse, however, he went to another enlistment center after running three miles to raise his heart rate. In 1945, Bright married Franca Fiorentino whom he had met in New York. The couple had one daughter, and later divorced. Bright moved to Seattle in 1966 and worked for the Seattle School District as a psychologist.
Bright participated in the Olympic trials in 1936, but failed to qualify, finishing fifth in the 5,000 metres after twisting an ankle collapsing in the 100 degree temperatures that had a third of the field unable to finish the race. He was the winner of the 1937 Bay to Breakers, setting the course record as the first man to run under 40 minutes. That same year, he set a course record of 47:22 at the Dipsea Race, but finished second due to the handicapped nature of the event. Thirty-three years later in 1970, he won the event. The Norman Bright Award is given for "Extraordinary Effort in the Dipsea".
In the mid 1960s, Bright was struck by a car and suffered a head injury which purportedly resulted in nerve damage and the loss of his eyesight. He needed a "guide," to keep him on course. Rules have been developed to ensure blind athletes do not gain an advantage when led in a race.
In 1975 he set the M65 World record in the 800 metres and 1500 metres while winning at the first Association of Veteran Athletes (WAVA) World Championships in Toronto, Canada. He was the first 65 year old under 5 minutes in the 1500 metres. He also won the steeplechase at the same meet.
Bright was also a mountaineer reported to have climbed every major peak in the United States.
Bright is mentioned in Laura Hillenbrand's best-selling biography about Louis Zamperini, Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. Bright appeared on the cover of Runners World in September 1974, running a steeplechase at the age of 64 and nearly blind.
Bright died in Seattle due to complications from pneumonia and cancer.
- Bjorhus, Jennifer; Dee Norton (September 6, 1996). "Norm Bright, Blind Marathon Runner, Dies Of Cancer At 86". The Seattle Times (Seattle, Washington). Retrieved January 19, 2011.
- Georgie Bright Kunkel (August 21, 2008). "West Seattle Herald: My brother was a long-distance runner". Retrieved January 20, 2011.
- Zane, Maitland (September 19, 1996). "Leonard Wallach - B2B director - dies". The San Francisco Chronicle.
- Benyo, Richard; Henderson, Joe (2002). "B: BAA to Bush, George W.". Running Encyclopedia: The Ultimate Source for Today's Runner. Champaign, Illinois: Human Kinetics. pp. 25–26. ISBN 9780736037341.
- Bjorhus, Jennifer; Norton, Dee (September 6, 1996). "Norm Bright, Blind Marathon Runner, Dies Of Cancer At 86". The Seattle Times.
- http://ipc-athletics.paralympic.org/export/sites/ipc_sports_athletics/Rules/2010_02_22_Athletics_Rules_Regs_Revised.pdf Rule 5.7.4
- 1500 metres
- Olson, Leonard T., Masters Track and Field: A History, McFarland & Co., North Carolina, 2001. ISBN 0-7864-0889-8 
- Two Mile Record, 1935, 9m13.2s 
- Wood, Michael & Coombs, Colby, Alaska: A Climbing Guide, The Mountaineers Books, 2001. ISBN 0-89886-724-X