A founder of the popular Village Bakery Half Marathon in Wrexham will be running himself for the first time ever at the age of 82, two years after overcoming prostate cancer.
In previous years Peter Norman, a three times world triathlon champion, was too busy helping to organise the race which meant he wasn’t able to take part until this year which will also mark its 25th anniversary.
The Village Bakery have supported the half marathon from the word go and the Wrexham-based family firm has just confirmed it’s going to continue with its sponsorship of the race for at least another five years.
Originally, all the competitors were rewarded at the end with one of the Village Bakery’s mouth-watering Bara Brith fruit loaves but these days the runners receive a packet of the company’s equally delicious Welsh Cakes.
The race has grown a great deal since it started with a few hundred runners and this year’s event on Sunday, February 16, will see a record entry of 3,000 people taking part, with some from as far afield as Germany and Holland.
These days the race is organised by Run Cheshire in conjunction with Wrexham Athletic Club.
Originally, the plan for 2020 was for race headquarters to be based at the sponsor’s new gluten free bakery.
But the fire at one of the company’s bakeries on Wrexham Industrial Estate last August means that every square inch of space at their three other bakeries is being used to make up for lost production capacity.
Thankfully, Wrexham County Borough Council have stepped into the breach and offered space at Redwither Tower on the industrial estate as the new nerve centre for the 2020 event
When he founded the event in 1995 Peter used his loaf when he was looking for a sponsor and secured the backing of the Village Bakery where he worked as a maintenance engineer.
As well as winning three world triathlon titles in his 70s, Peter is the current British champion fell runner in his age group.
Competing in ironman triathlons – which involve swimming two and a quarter miles, a bike ride of 112 miles topped off with a full marathon – has taken Peter around the world.
His record is all the more remarkable because he didn’t take up running until he was 50 years of age.
He said: “Since then I haven’t stopped running and I still compete regularly. I did about 15 triathlons last year and I won the British championship for over 80s in the sprint version of the triathlon in Nottingham which involved a 750 metre swim, a 12 mile bike ride and a three mile run.
“I did have prostate cancer a couple of years ago but I had treatment for that, including radiotherapy, and it’s clear now.
“I run six miles every day and I do the park run at Erddig every Saturday morning and I have quite a few races lined up this year, including the Village Bakery Half Marathon.
“I’m really looking forward to it because I’ve never been able to take part until this year.
“I am really proud of the way the event has grown and I’m really grateful to the Village Bakery for their brilliant ongoing support.”
It was a sentiment echoed by Mike Harrington from Run Cheshire.
He said: “Peter is an absolute stalwart who has put in a great shift helping to organise the Village Bakery Half Marathon.
“It’s amazing that this will be the first time for him to actually run the race which is going from strength to strength.
“The Village Bakery is a key ingredient in our success because you only have to look at the social media posts with people saying that they’re only coming for the Welsh Cakes.
“The Village Bakery has stuck with the half marathon since the beginning and this year will mark the 25th anniversary of their support, which is fantastic. I can’t think of another race in the UK that has had such a consistent sponsor.
“As soon as people cross the finish line, they start refuelling straight away and I’ve heard lots of stories saying all the Welsh Cakes gone before they’ve got back to the car because they’ve eaten the lot.
“Remarkably, even after suffering such a devastating fire they decided straight away to stick with us and to hear they are committing to another five years of support is absolutely fantastic.
“Although they have grown into a large and very successful company, they haven’t lost that local touch and their connection with the community.”
Village Bakery managing director Robin Jones said: “Peter Norman is an absolute legend and deserves to be wearing the number 1 on his running vest on the day.
“Even in the early days when I was a teenager he used to run to work and he’s still running now – a bit like Forrest Gump.
“He founded the half marathon and came to us 25 years ago and suggested it would be a good idea to give all the runners a loaf of Village Bakery bara brith, which is one of our signature products.
“We have never looked back and we are proud to have played our part in the way the event has grown not only in size but also in popularity so that it is now putting Wrexham on the map and this year again we have quite a few staff taking part
“After the crisis of getting production back up and running following the fire last August, we realised it was not going to be possible to use the offices at our gluten free bakery as race HQ as we had originally planned.
“So, we contacted Wrexham Council and thankfully they stepped up to the plate and they’re allowing us to use Redwither Tower on the industrial estate instead which is great.
“It’s now onwards and upwards and I’m delighted that we are now committed to supporting the Village Bakery Half Marathon for at least another five years.”
For more information about the Village Bakery Half Marathon go to: www.runcheshire.com