Whistler’s Peter Armistead stunned competitors, fans and even himself at the Whistler 50 last Saturday (Oct. 19), finishing third after just 18 months of competitive running, and cruising well past his personal limit of endurance. Prior to the race the longest the rookie runner had lasted on any course was 3.5 hours.
To awaiting hugs from friends and family, after the 50-mile/80-kilometre Valley Trail race, a grinning Armistead crossed the finish line with a time of seven hours and 34 minutes.
“That was just an awesome day!” he said. “It (third place) blew me away. I don’t think I deserved it. I was just lucky on the day. I just kept running at the same pace, looking at my watch and thinking, ‘I’ve never ran past four hours before,’ then looking at my watch again saying, ‘I’ve never been four-and-a-half hours before.’ But it all just carried on. I was completely in the unknown.”
Previously little more than a recreational jogger, Armistead competed in his first race in 2011 when his friend, local running legend Kevin Hodder, called him up the night before a race at Mosquito Lake and goaded him into to competing for the first time.
“I had never done a race. I had barely been on a trail at that point. But I found myself going out with him the next morning. I really enjoyed it, obviously.”
Training for the third-annual Whistler 50, Armistead enlisted the help of a personal trainer to see him through the ultra.
“I’ve been training hard, but I didn’t know what to expect today. I’m 41 and I get aches and pains, pulling muscles and stuff… I went into this wondering what would be the first body part to drop off,” he said with a laugh.
Up until one year ago Armistead looked at marathons as something he would never complete, nor attempt to. But four weeks ago he found himself signing up for the event, buoyed by the encouragement of other runners.
“I was only intending to do two laps then call it quits,” he said. “I just couldn’t physically run that far. But a couple of days ago I thought, ‘No, no, I’m going to run that whole thing, even if it takes me 12 hours.’”
Armistead gave credit for his success to trainer Chris Kennedy of Black Diamond Fitness. But Kennedy rejected the praise, saying Armistead’s ability to place third in his first 50-mile ultra is nothing short of inspirational.
“Peter has all the motivation that’s required. It’s just a matter of giving him the right program. He carried it out himself. It’s been quite a journey — a quick journey — to accomplish this in such a short time is just incredible.”
Beating out 30 other racers, Vancouver’s Barry Young finished first with a time of six hours 11 minutes, almost one hour and 20 minutes ahead of Armistead.
Young said the weather created ideal conditions for a fast race, surprising even him with how fast he completed the first loop. But the rolling pitch of the course made it difficult to find a rhythm. Sections he breezed through on the first lap proved more challenging each time around.
Second place finisher, North Vancouver’s Hassan Lotfi-Pour, was on his heels the entire time, finishing just under eight minutes behind.
“I knew there was a guy right behind me so I was basically running scared the whole race,” Young said. “This morning when we were running in the dark, I could turn my head a little and see his headlamp bobbing behind me. I knew he was a really strong runner, so I took a bit of a gamble early on just hoping I could hold him off. But running scared for six hours takes its toll.”
For Hassan, the close match contributed to a time four minutes faster than his first attempt last year.
“I had to chase him and he knew I was chasing him. It helped on both sides… because it was tough — so undulating, just all these rolling hills.”
In the relay race Vancouver’s Point Grey Man Toilets took the top spot with a time of 4:33:30. With one team member down due to a month-old ankle injury, Ryan Brockerville pulled double duty with the first and last eight-kilometre legs.
“The second one was definitely harder, but I was faster,” he said. “We had been looking for someone to jump in, but it never happened. Because this is my third year on the team, I decided I would own up and take the two legs.”
In second place overall was Victoria’s Handsome 2 Hungover in the Open Men’s Division with a time of 5:02:00, followed by Vancouver’s VFAC Social, also in the Open Men’s, finishing 14:51 behind.
Locally, Whistler’s Fabulous Forty + The Young One in the Recreational division finished 66th overall in 7:42:24. In the Open Women’s division The Pemberton Pavement Princesses finished 53rd overall with 7:31:07.