2017 Most Improved Roadrunner

photo by Andrew Wafstaff

Clarke Petty is our 2017 PEI Most Improved Roadrunner of the year.

An avid runner and weekend racer, this guy is a perfect example that you can teach an old(ish) dog a new trick!

Running for 17+ years, both recreationally and in road races from 5k to full marathons, Clarke Petty made two of the best decisions in his life in the last few years, and they both involved PEI. The first was relocating to PEI, and the 2nd was joining the PEI Roadrunners club.

A former resident of the Burlington Ontario area, Clarke and his wife (Robin) stumbled on their dream retirement location in central PEI several years ago, in Long River (near Burlington PEI. Situated at the base of a killer hill, they purchased an old country home and set about a plan of resurrecting the property as their retirement destination. As summer construction projects commenced, Robin became the general contractor, their dogs settled in to the neighborhood, and Clarke capitalized on the great running terrain around him. He ran those hills on a daily basis and breathed in that clean PEI air. In the winter months, he returned to Ontario to work, and run with his regular running mates. In the summer, he ran in Long River and began participating in road races with the PEI Roadrunners as a way of challenging himself and meeting new folks. His Ontario running mates noticed something was happening with Clarke’s running each fall when he returned from PEI; he was often leading their pack.

After making the big retirement decision, 2017 was the first year he and Robin lived in PEI on a full-time basis. Their retirement house was fully done, the dogs were happy, and the stars aligned. On top of that, Clarke was enjoying his PEI hill training and he often says, he “pinches himself” every time he goes for a run, looks at what is all around him, and realizes the blessing of living in PEI. In 2017, his fellow PEI runners also noticed something; Clarke was on fire! He was attacking his runs with a renewed passion, and getting more out of himself than seen before. The result of all this was big improvements in his race times in 2017.

Over the 2015 – 2017 term, with steady progression Clarke went from being a 24-26 minute 5k runner, to hitting a Personal Best at the 2017 Bunny Hop race @ 21:20.

At the 8k distance, he set a new PB at the Farmers Helping Farmers race @ 38:08.

At the 10k race distance, Clarke made great improvements. For example, in 2016 he completed the Cox & Palmer 10k in 56:37. In 2017, he finished the Torch run 10k in 49:31, and then surpassed that time at the Run for Life in a PB time of 47:31!

At the longstanding and challenging Dunk River 11.6k race, Clarke found another PB in 2017. He dropped his time from 58:18 in 2015, to 55:36 in 2017.

Not willing to sit back and rest with these improvements, he also focused on improving his longer distance performance and results. At the half marathon distance, Clarke was very busy in 2017 and, yup, it resulted in a new PB for the 21.1k distance as well. With steady improvement throughout the year, he improved his times across 5 events; the WR3 half, Bridgefest 150 half, Tamarack Ottawa Half, Fredericton Half, and the Emera Saint John NB half, all the while setting new PBs three times during the season before finally settling at 1:47:25 on the hills of the Saint John NB event.

Many runners would be happy with all that and classify 2017 as a great year, and Clarke was no different. He talked about being unsure about whether he would take on a full marathon this same year, having had so many positive experiences in a single season. Uncertainty set in and the idea of also training for the 42.2k distance was not firm in his mind. Fortunately, in the end, he succumbed to the fate of most runners and said “what the heck?”….so he trained. He ran hills, he ran flats, he ran with his dogs, he ran with groups, and he ran alone. And, he did something else in 2017. Clarke decided to try something new. He joined a gym for strength training, he participated in a yoga class, and he joined the Summerside Masters swim club to get his sea legs back. Steady progress with all of these throughout the year, not only aided him in his running but it introduced him to the sport of triathlons; He bought a wetsuit, swam a 3000 metre open water swim and completed his first 3 sprint triathlons in 2017.

The “pièce de résistance” for Clarke came at the 2017 PEI Marathon. Having run marathons in other provinces, he had actually set his PB for the 42.2k distance at the 2015 PEI Marathon with a time of 4:19:35. In 2017, he attacked the race, dropped 15 minutes and found a new PB @ 4:04:46.

A combination of factors contributed to Clarke’s running improvement and success in 2017. Receiving their permanent PEI citizenships had to be a positive event. Settling in to their dream retirement home and lifestyle was a contributor. He will also tell you that all the cross training, swimming, and hills were a big factor. Whatever the factors, in the end, Clarke put it all together in 2017. His improvements across all of these distances show what can be done, and what hard work, positive attitude, and a willingness to try new things can do for a runner.

Congratulations on a great 2017 Clarke! …and enjoy that new grandson of yours