Petestack Blog

26 June 2017

No going back

Filed under: Running — admin @ 10:09 pm

Some people will say they’ve heard it all before. But let’s look at the (sarcasm alert!) packed totality of my ultra racing career since the 2011 West Highland Way Race PB that saw me write ‘I’m done with competing in this race and comfortable with that where I wasn’t last time’…

I’ve come back for another go at this one race in 2014 and run my worst, ‘been ambushed by a surprising sense of peace’ after 2015’s pre-race injury put paid to my chances of going out on a higher note, and finally learned from 2017’s pre-acknowledged swansong that I’m never going to beat my worst again now when it turns out to be a whole lot better than I thought. 2014’s sickness-compromised first half was partially redeemed by a strong second, but my legs just didn’t want to play this Saturday despite good training telling me I was as fit and strong (if crucially nowhere near as fast) as ever. So I chose to drop sixty miles in at Bridge of Orchy rather than limp to a time hours slower than my previous worst, and have found the unravelling of my ‘don’t want to go out on my worst’ plan (the only real justification for my ‘guerrilla’ 2017 entry!) a strangely cathartic experience in telling me what I knew anyway and 100% ruling out another go. I don’t need a fifth finisher’s goblet with a time I didn’t want when I’ve already got four with Saturday finishes, so I’m happy (properly happy) with my decision to can it even though it wasn’t planned.

Have to say I’ve had some fun along the way, though! The seed of this one last go was sown towards the end of my run-a-day 2016 when I’d frequently find myself out thinking wistfully of this great shared adventure, questioning the reality of my participation through its now increasingly distant, almost dreamlike, quality and wondering whether I still had (or perhaps even had ever had) what it takes. So I thought I’d spring a surprise with that ‘guerrilla’ entry purposefully held back till (perhaps even only decided on) just seconds before the expiry of the 30 November deadline, and smiled knowing that 1. it did indeed take many by surprise and 2. it would be almost impossible to submit a later one. But, while simultaneously stressing that I was otherwise done with racing and WHW Race was literally the only event that could still tempt me back as a one-off exception, my intent was serious and I trained hard knowing that ‘the fire’ was back just this once. While I just couldn’t see a PB when even 2011’s marginal improvement on 2010’s nearly-as-fast time was to some extent a triumph of experience and guile over already-slowing late-40s form, I thought ‘the fire’ could carry me to something between my best and worst. But, having just consciously started slower than ever as an ‘investment’ expected to pay dividends later on then seen my pace becoming inexorably slower when I’d previously have been floating comfortably up the course a lot quicker, I now know I was hopelessly wrong there. What I had (in racing terms) has gone for ever and, while some are content to carry on racing slower and slower as they grow older, I’m not. And that, in a nutshell, is why I stopped and why there’s no going back this time. It’s gone, but there are still plenty of other (non-racing) things for ‘the fire’ to power.

To Angus, Jon and Noel, who answered the (‘Whoops, I seem to have entered a race…’) call to return as top-notch crew for a runner for whom ‘the fire’ ultimately proved insufficient, my heartfelt thanks where (as acknowledged since I first ran this race ten years ago) thanks are never enough. I’ve shared many adventures with all of you and hope for many more to come, but won’t be asking you to do this particular job again. It’s six years since I said I was done, three since I first backtracked, two since I said ‘you’ll never see me grace the starting line of that race again’, and now that I’m saying I was right six years ago. No regrets about the three subsequent entries, two starts and one finish when you sometimes have to bang your head off a brick wall to prove it hurts, but ‘no going back’ means what it says and I’m happy with that! :-)

[Photos by Angus… no, I don’t like my hat on squint in the last one, but think the image says something despite making me look worse than I felt! For sure I’d started to get a little cold from my first ‘static’ break since Milngavie, but the marshals and medic were encouraging me to continue and it was my decision alone to stop.]


  1. I totally get that Pete, and I like your whole attitude to it too. Good for you. Was gutted for you obviously, but you’ve clearly got over it! Pretty sure you’ll still be involved anyway

    Comment by Sandra — 26 June 2017 @ 11:18 pm

  2. I’d got over it before I’d even stopped, so no worries there! And of course I’ll still be involved, as I have been in some way every year since 2007…

    Comment by admin — 26 June 2017 @ 11:26 pm

  3. You gave it a crack pete , sorry to see you at Auchtertyre clearly not moving that well and also sorry about your DNF .. glad you are happy your decision and hope we get to see you at future races or around the traps !! Top running mate !

    Comment by Keith — 27 June 2017 @ 7:51 am

  4. No need for anyone to be sorry when I’m not, Keith! More strangely grateful for unequivocal signals about what I still can and can’t do, and happy not to have recorded a time I’d have hated (yes, I genuinely preferred the DNF!).

    Comment by admin — 27 June 2017 @ 8:28 am

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