Active, involved and engaged are all appropriate adjectives to describe Pete Richards.
He was born in Wales, and as a young man he felt the pull to travel across the pond and seek his fortune in Canada. The year he began his journey, 1976, was a transformative one for Richards. Telling his parents “don’t worry, I’ll be back one day,” he set out to see what the world could offer him.
Arriving in Mississauga, the enterprising young man found work immediately, and earned his keep as a piano and organ salesman, managing a music shop and as a tool and die maker. It was also the year he met his future wife Patti at a downtown disco. The couple, who married in 1978, still celebrate the day of their first meeting, Aug. 27, 1976, with “more gusto than our anniversary.”
The happy couple welcomed daughter Ashley to their family in 1980.
Just a couple of years later, opportunity came knocking and Richards landed a job at Ontario Hydro. In February 1982 he went to Deep River for six months to complete job training, and then settled in Kincardine with his family at the end of the summer. Patti, with her financial expertise, found work at a local bank, at Women’s House and spent many years at Matchett Financial Services -HollisWealth.
His career took him from Hydro to OPG and eventually Bruce Power. It was from there that he retired after a health crisis in 2009 and 2010. Richards suffered a small stroke, and found he had inherited a condition called atrial fibrillation, a condition whose symptoms include palpitations, shortness of breath and weakness.
Doctors performed successful cardiac surgery and said the outcome could have been much worse, and his active lifestyle likely “mitigated a lot of the bad effects” of his illness.
His recovery was quick, and just eight weeks later he ran a marathon.
Just ask Pete Richards where he is most comfortable, and he is certain to point to his running shoes and wide open spaces. He and Patti are both advocates for the running lifestyle and are quick to extoll its benefits.
“Being active has been a part of our makeup as husband and wife,” said Pete.
He says the payoffs of an active lifestyle are numerous. Running strengthens bones, improves dexterity and blood circulation and lowers blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
“Being at this age and still active is the best thing we can do for our bodies,” said Pete.
He said just being able to get out and enjoy the fresh air and exercise through the pandemic has been positive.
He walks, or should we say runs, the talk. Pete has run more than 37 marathons and countless half marathons. He has completed the Toronto marathon, Niagara marathon (a 50 km run), the Las Vegas marathon and has run the Boston marathon, which can only be completed by pre-qualification, four times. In 2020, he ran the Boston marathon virtually, because of the pandemic. In England, he ran the Neolithic marathon, a grueling 26.2 miles between Avebury in Wiltshire to Stonehenge.
Pete has shared his love for the sport by encouraging others to participate.
Around 2000, he and Ian Driver started the Kincardine Triathlon Club – a swim, bike and run club that is still going today. He helped Janet Bannerman put together a similar race for women, and Patti served as race director for seven years.
Four years ago, he organized a free running group that is now known as the West Shore Runners. In pre-pandemic times, the group met a couple of times each week. Open to everyone, the group first attracted 25 members and now has a membership close to 245 runners, both local and from as far away as Costa Rica and the United Kingdom. Pete says it is not a club, just “a group of likeminded, fitness-oriented people” of all abilities and experience.
In 2019, Pete was named citizen of the year at the Kincardine and District Chamber of Commerce annual community achievement awards.
In his 67th year, Pete can still be found running solo and making the most of it and says “as I am aging I am slowing down, but I plan on running to the very end.” While there aren’t the opportunities to take part in in-person events, he is determined to stay fit and when able, will be participating in marathons with Patti, once again.
Besides missing the camaraderie of his running group, Pete is also looking forward to the return of team sports for young kids. He misses coaching rugby and the enthusiasm of the youth he teaches.
An accomplished musician and enthusiast, since the lockdown he hasn’t been able to gather with students from KDSS who are part of a rock band he mentors. He continues to stay in touch through social media, and calls them “my little rock stars, I miss them a lot.”
Pete knows that it won’t be too long until he and Patti can once again travel and get out with friends, and advises that in the meantime, people get outside and exercise.
“Don’t get stuck inside,” Pete said. “Walk the dog, enjoy the fresh air or go for a run.”
Great advice for improved physical and mental health.
Tammy Lindsay Schneider, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Kincardine Independent