Whistler runner completes Barkley Fall Classic 

Local runner has mixed feelings about third attempt in Tennessee

click to enlarge PHOTO COURTESY OF PETER ARMISTEAD - FINISHING UP Peter Armistead completes the course at the Barkley Fall Classic.
  • Photo courtesy of Peter Armistead
  • FINISHING UP Peter Armistead completes the course at the Barkley Fall Classic.

Peter Armistead has put up some strong results in his three cracks at the Barkley Fall Classic in Tennessee, but has ultimately fallen short of earning the win.

The Whistler runner was hoping to use the race to qualify for the Frozen Head State Park's cornerstone race, the Barkley Marathons, but will now try to find another way in.

In his latest attempt, on Sept. 21, Armistead came in 15th out of 459 runners in the 50-kilometre race.

Though he'd finished higher at prior attempts, Armistead felt it was his best race of the three, even though he was disappointed to not stand atop the podium.

"It was an unrealistic goal. I went out there to try to win. I gave myself between a zero and five per cent chance of winning. I've been in the top 10 of that race before. The competition is solid. The race itself is not just difficult, it's absolutely unpredictable," he said. "Some of the world's best runners were over there and they came behind me.

"The course is just so messy. You could get lost easily. You could trip and slip very easily. Even on the trails, it was more like bushwhacking."

Even though he'd only given himself a marginal chance of achieving his goal, the fact he was chasing it was a boost for Armistead, who felt like he wouldn't have accomplished what he did without that carrot.

"One part of my brain knew that it was unattainable and the other part, actually, was going for it anyway," he said. "Even though it was a small chance, I did have a chance.

"I was unsuccessful on one level, but it probably spurred me on to have a better performance than I would have done without that goal. I can sit down now and truly know that I gave it absolutely 100 per cent out there."

Armistead said he recently started training with Christine Suter, who has helped him with mental toughness and focus out on course.

"I was a lot more focused on what I was actually doing. I was focused on the process: my actual running technique, how I was doing at that precise moment in time, what was going on with my body, etc.," he said. "I wasn't thinking about how other people were doing. I was racing, so I knew that there were people in front of me, but I wasn't necessarily trying to beat them at that precise millisecond in time."

Armistead added that he only focused on the race result in the final third of the contest, which he said was a boon.

"You could really let rip and I had the absolute strongest finish I could have," he said.

The mental toughness also played a role in conquering sections of the notoriously difficult course on a smoking hot day. That includes the Rat Jaw section, which is just over 800 metres in distance but at 45-degree angle, takes 90 minutes to ascend. There is no trail and racers have to make a path through large brambles with spikes.

"I've got cuts all over me. I knew that was coming, and I knew it was an hour-and-a-half, so I looked at my watch and realized, 'I've got an hour-and-a-half of being cut by thorns, by brambles. It's not the end of the world and, in fact, it's not the most pain I'm going to take that day,'" Armistead recalled. "The pain of the last couple hours of the race I knew was going to be more than that."

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