Billy was one of the most prominent fell runners from the mid-1970s until the late 1980s, and is arguably the best long-distance fell runner in the history of the sport.
He was born in 1947 in Borrowdale in the Lake District. His father Joe Bland was a guides racer and several other members of Billy's family also became fell runners, including his brothers Stuart and David.
Bland took part in professional guides races early in his career and was reinstated as an amateur around the time of the inaugural Borrowdale Fell Race in 1974. By 1976 he had improved enough to finish eighth in the British Championships. This was followed by further progression until 1980 when he became the British Champion.
He was the current holder of the record for the fell running challenge the legendary Bob Graham Round which involves a circuit of forty-two Lake District peaks, covering around sixty-six miles, in under twenty-four hours. He accomplished this on 19 June 1982 in a record time of 13:53. This year Billy's record was beaten by Kilian Jornet 12:52
Among Bland's other outstanding records are that for the Wasdale Fell race, which he completed in 3:25:21 in 1982 (only three weeks after his Bob Graham Round record).[This time has not been approached in recent years, despite the event being one of the counting races in the national championships on several occasions. He also holds the record for the Borrowdale fell race, having run 2:34:38 in 1981.