MIKE Freary was one of the biggest stars in a glorious period of Bolton Harriers’ history.

Now, 50 years on from the year he became a member at Leverhulme Park, the former British 10,000m record holder is still doing his bit to keep the club on the athletics map.

This year marks his golden anniversary as a Bolton Harrier for a man who was part of a golden era for the club.

Now aged 71, he is still down at the club two or three times a week coaching the town’s top up-and-coming talent, including 16-year-old Oriel Hardman who is Britain’s number one 800m runner at under-18s and recently won her first international vest.

Freary, whose son Paul is a nationally renowned long distance runner, is also a member of the Harriers committee on which he has served, on and off, for 40 years including two two-year stints as president, and is a life member of the club.

His home in Crompton Way is adorned with scores of trophies which serve as a reminder of his outstanding achievements on the track, road and cross-country.

But it is his British records at 10,000m for which he will be best remembered in Bolton.

The first time he ran the longest track distance faster than any other British runner in history came in 1965 in East Berlin.

His time of 28 minutes 37.2 seconds put him into the record books and took him to the top of the British rankings where he remained for four years.

In September 1966, he took another chunk off his record with a time of 28.26.00 in Stockholm which stood until 1969 when the legendary David Bedford overtook it on a cinder track in Portsmouth when he broke the world record.

Freary’s talent first emerged as a member of his local Lancaster Primrose Harriers where he ran on a semi-casual basis.

“I came to Bolton in 1959 because of work,” he said. “The place I worked at in Lancaster shut down and I was looking for another job.

“I went to race at Liverpool and met some lads from Bolton. Jack Haslam, who was a mainstay of Bolton Harriers, said he could get me a job and did so at De Havilland which later became British Aerospace. I came to live in Bolton and joined Bolton Harriers in August 1959. Bolton was a real hotbed of running with the likes of Fred Norris and Jack Haslam. Going from Lancaster Primrose Harriers was like going from a small club to a Premier League club in football terms.

“I went from running when I felt like it to training twice a day — it’s what you had to do if you wanted to get in the team.

“We had a superb team at Bolton in those days and if you wanted to get in the team for a big race you had to do trials.

“We were in the Premier League of running. Our track team were all internationals and there were some like Chris Goudge and Fred Norris who were Olympians. You were fighting to get in the team.

“Discipline was also very strong. Frank Morris laid down the law in no uncertain terms. He was a great guy and a real inspiration and he didn’t take any messing about from the runners — if they wouldn’t put in the work or train properly they didn’t get in the team.

“It was very competitive and, although it was a serious business getting in the team, there was a lot of friendly banter between the runners who were all trying to get in. It all helped to bring the best out of the runners.”

Freary made a name for himself on the regional then national circuit and after a few years found himself vying with rivals from all over the country to be the best in Britain.

Although he held the British record from 1965 to 1969 he never competed at an Olympic Games.

He represented his country on a number of occasions, competing internationally 60 times during his career including cross-county, road and track races for England, and on the road and on the track for Great Britain.

“I went to the Euopean Games in 1969 in Athens where I reached the final and finished sixth,” he said.

“But the things I am best known for are my records.

“I only ran against Bedford once and that was when he did his world record and I would say he was one of the best runners I ever ran against, the others being the Aussie, Ron Clark, who I ran against in Helsinki over 5,000m.

“I used to train by running to and from work, up to 16 miles a day. Some days the weather was terrible and it was tempting to get the bus home, but I knew I had to run because it might have been a beautiful day down south and my rivals would have been training. Then when it was a nice day here and it was throwing it down in the south I’d be training and maybe they wouldn’t. It was important to train as much as them so I ran twice a day whatever the weather.”

Freary was always loyal to Bolton Harriers despite attracting the interest of other clubs.

“I had one or two offers to go to other clubs but I would never leave Bolton,” he said. “It was a good club.”

He began coaching the kids before he hung up his running shoes, and quickly built up an impressive group of runners.

“I was asked before I finished international running if I would help out with the kids,” he said.

“I was happy to and I’ve been coaching for 30-odd years. I’ve had a lot of success coaching. In my group I had a lot of good runners including Steve Cauldwell, an international 800m runner, Steve Kenyon, my son Paul, a lad called Paul Campbell who went to the European Juniors as a steeplechaser, the current chairman of the club, Scott Whittle, and Paul Moulden who went on to become a professional footballer.

“I never thought about leaving Bolton. It has been a good club. It has been good to me and by doing the coaching I’m hopefully putting something back to pay the club back for what it has done for me for a lot of years.

“It has been a tremendous sporting life.”