Norm Bright

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Norman "Norm" Bright (January 29, 1910 - August 29, 1996) was an American long distance runner, mountaineer, and teacher. Bright once held the American record in the two-mile run.[1]


Bright was the son of a school principal and a teacher.[2] Born in Mossyrock, Washington, he was one of eleven children.[2] 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".[2] 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.[2]

During World War II, Bright served in the United States Army.[2] 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.[3] In 1945, Bright married Franca Fiorentino whom he had met in New York.[2] The couple had one daughter, and later divorced.[2] Bright moved to Seattle in 1966 and worked for the Seattle School District as a psychologist.[2]

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.[2][4][5] He was the winner of the 1937 Bay to Breakers, setting the course record as the first man to run under 40 minutes.[2][6][7] 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.[8] Thirty-three years later in 1970, he won the event.[9] The Norman Bright Award is given for "Extraordinary Effort in the Dipsea".[10]

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.[2] He needed a "guide," to keep him on course.[11] Rules have been developed to ensure blind athletes do not gain an advantage when led in a race.[12]

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.[13][14] He was the first 65 year old under 5 minutes in the 1500 metres.[15] He also won the steeplechase at the same meet.

In 1976 he ran the Bay to Breakers with the guide (39 years after his victory in the event)[2] Later that year he set the M65 American record in the 10,000 metres that still stands.[16]

Bright was also a mountaineer reported to have climbed every major peak in the United States.[2]

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 was a member of San Francisco's Olympic Club.[6]

In 2000 he was elected into the USATF Masters Hall of Fame.[17]

Bright died in Seattle due to complications from pneumonia and cancer.[6]


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m 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. 
  3. ^ Georgie Bright Kunkel (August 21, 2008). "West Seattle Herald: My brother was a long-distance runner". Retrieved January 20, 2011. 
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ a b c Zane, Maitland (September 19, 1996). "Leonard Wallach - B2B director - dies". The San Francisco Chronicle. 
  7. ^ 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. 
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ Bjorhus, Jennifer; Norton, Dee (September 6, 1996). "Norm Bright, Blind Marathon Runner, Dies Of Cancer At 86". The Seattle Times. 
  12. ^ Rule 5.7.4
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^ 1500 metres
  16. ^
  17. ^
  • Olson, Leonard T., Masters Track and Field: A History, McFarland & Co., North Carolina, 2001. ISBN 0-7864-0889-8 [1]
  • Two Mile Record, 1935, 9m13.2s [2][3]
  • Wood, Michael & Coombs, Colby, Alaska: A Climbing Guide, The Mountaineers Books, 2001. ISBN 0-89886-724-X [4]

External links[edit]