AS far as pastimes go, Peter Trotter's dedication to running is extremely admirable, especially given all the unexpected hurdles that have been thrown in his way. Peter, who turns 68 years old this month, has faced a number of physical and mental challenges, yet has managed to overcome each of them with the support of those around him; family, friends, colleagues, and the formidable Tann Clan.
"Social groups seem to encourage participation when the going gets a little bit tough," said Peter. "Richard Tann must be the most inspirational person I have ever met and that will keep many of us going." A veteran runner now in his 80s, Tann unintentionally formed the Tann Clan in 1973, the number of people turning up pre-dawn to run alongside him sometimes reaching up to 100. Peter joined the Tann Clan in 1995 and found it was both a great stress release and helpful for his depression.
Three times a week Peter leaves home at 5.40am to meet between 30 and 40 members of the Tann Clan at Lake Wendouree and run from 6 to 7am. "Initially I ran the Tann Clan course, which varies from eight to 10 kilometres three days a week, and longer runs on Saturday for six months of the year, leading up to the Melbourne Marathon," said Peter, who previously worked as a chef in Melbourne and London before becoming a chef-lecturer at Ballarat University for 22 years.
"Since finishing work, I run four kilometres to the start of the Tann Clan course and six kilometres after it is completed. Generally, this is a run of 22 kilometres, three days a week. "I am still friendly with the group of runners who were part of Richard Tann's group when I started," he said. "It was an amazingly diverse group where career, financial or social status were meaningless. Everyone was on the same page and therefore had the same end goal: fitness and friendship."
This story is from the new edition of Ballarat Seniors magazine. Click here to read the entire magazine online.
Peter's personal quest for fitness suffered a major setback in 2005, when he suffered his first stroke three weeks after completing the Melbourne Marathon. This challenged him not only physically, but also brought depression and anxiety to the surface. With the support of family, colleagues and friends in the Tann Clan, he began running again in 2007, only to have another stroke after completing the Melbourne Half Marathon that same year. "That threw me into mental and physical turmoil again," he said. "These strokes left me with numbness in the left side of face, weakness down the left side of my body, and dizzy spells where I blacked out momentarily and could fall over."
Running continued to be Peter's saviour, and in 2015 he was able to return from occasional running to a more constant effort, after noticing some of his symptoms disappeared. Life was running better than ever, until 2017 when an uncontrolled labrador ran into him while chasing a ball. Peter's badly broken leg became the next big hiccup to his running regime, however determination got him back on track after nearly 12 months. This year he has begun to run at least 80 kilometres per week.
According to Peter, the sense of community created by the Tann Clan over the years has been very important. "When life has thrown up its challenges, there have been people, external to job and family, to share and gain different viewpoints," he said. "Hearing other people's challenges puts everyone's lives into perspective. I was accepted by the Tann Clan, whether I was an occasional or consistent participant (and) when I felt like I could run, the group concept of having a meeting point and time meant encouragement to get up and go. On my own it would not have been an incentive, especially on a cold Ballarat morning."
Embrace the camaraderie
JOINING a club for recreation, brain exercise or sport fitness, or if you're just a bit lonely, is a terrific way to stay fit, learn teamwork and to experience the joy of winning; or in equal measure, how to learn to lose graciously.
Whether you are new to the concept or an elite sports person wanting to have a go at something entirely different, it's time to get out of the armchair and join a club. Yes, you're comfortable, and the cat prefers you to sit still all day, but we humans need more than a warm lap to keep us going.
Your world will open up to a whole set of new experiences, and you will get to meet new people at the same time. So how do you even find a club where you can have a try out? Sometimes, it's as simple as knowing someone who is a member, other times it could be that the men's shed you have thought about going along to happens to be at the end of your street. Another fabulous source of all sorts of information is your local library. These days they can supply you with not only a book, but a DVD, music CD, internet service, and seemingly eggs on toast if you ask.
Many clubs, such as writers groups, spinners and weavers, and the philatelists use the library rooms for their meetings. You could even join the friends of the library club too - the staff will know how to find the sort of club you're interested in.
So there's no excuse now. You can start to make your way into the world, meet and make new friends, and brighten up your days. The cat will still be there when you get back.
- Dawn Rasmussen