Coach reveals cancer nearly sidelined love of running

Team NANCI before another training session at Bill Patterson Oval (from left) Alex Davies, Jude Thomas, Harry Wilson, Peter Reeves, Conor Mathewson, Shane Mathewson, Riley Mathewson and Paul Shard

Man was still to land on the moon when Peter Reeves stepped on the running track as a young boy in 1968

Since then his life has taken many turns on and off the oval. More recently he battled an aggressive form of prostate cancer. So far he his winning this epic battle.

Peter Reeves claimed another victory this month by winning Coach of the Year at the 2018 Ipswich Sports Awards.

Ipswich First caught up with the lifelong runner and volunteer mentor to others just before another coaching session at Bill Patterson Oval in Limestone Park.

He reflected on his first inter-school race at age 15 when he came dead last.

“I thought to myself if I trained I might be better the next year,” Mr Reeves said.

“I won the event the following year and I kept winning events until I finished school.

“I probably didn’t fulfil my potential but kept running into my 20s. I had made Queensland cross country teams and regarded myself as a state level runner.”

Mr Reeves went on to become a school teacher until retirement at age 55.

“I was also coaching during my working career and this included my own kids. One went on to represent Australia. My kids did much better than me.

“They could win Australian championships which I could never do.

“Retirement gave me time to join masters athletics and put coaching to one side.

“I found myself a much better masters athlete than I ever been as a junior or 20 year old. I am now winning an Australian Masters championship and got to number two in the world in some events in my age group and set Queensland records.

“I kept on training and wasn’t coaching anyone at all. 

“That was until Paul Shard discovered me running around Limestone Park.

“I started to coach Paul who has done really well and went on to win events like 100 mile races. 

Mr Reeves said coaching started to take on a life of its own with a lot of masters runners, some of whom won Australian championships.

“Through Paul’s involvement in Little Athletics, when the younger ones got too old some of them joined us,” he said.

“One of those was Alex Davies who also went on to win the Queensland championships within 12 months.

 “Other include Clay Dawson and Tamara Carvolth.”

Peter Reeves can be found running at Bill Patterson Oval during the afternoon and like moths to a flame runners of all ages are keen to join him and learn from the volunteer coach.

“If they are keen to learn they turn up and we run together as part of the training.”

Cancer battle didn’t stop daily routine and diary entries

What makes training and coaching more exceptional for Mr Reeves was his recent bout of prostate cancer.

“Even at this age you felt indestructible,” he said.

“I was running reasonably well and had plans for world conquest. My doctor had also been pressing me for tests since I was 60.

“After two years of urging he finally ordered me to get a PSA test and the level was through the roof.

“It was a very aggressive prostate cancer. Thankfully it hadn’t spread and it was removed quickly after that.”

Mr Reeves described himself as an obsessive compulsive type of person and revealed he kept a running diary for 50 years.

“The early pages are starting to yellow a bit and in the last 20 years I have not had a day off running,” he said.

“I thought how am I going to manage to keep up my daily routine?

“On the morning of the operation I did a run. Then I had the operation and the next day I managed to get up.

“I couldn’t actually run, but I managed to get a trolley and did a three kilometre walk around the ward.

“I thought the nurses might get a bit upset. They did initially but I was able to keep training by telling myself to keep going no matter what.

“My daily diary remained intact although the pace was slow and I also trained twice a day through the radiation treatment.”

Incredibly after three weeks Mr Reeves was free of any hospital attachments and was able to resume normal training and ran in the Queensland Championships this year.

“I was meant to take it easy for six months but it ended up being about six weeks.”

Reeves wins Coach of the Year

On November 16, 2018 Peter Reeves won Coach of the Year at the 2018 City of Ipswich Sports Awards.

“I didn’t think I had a hope. It was just surreal when my name was read out and for once I was lost for words,” he said.

“The biggest influence on my running careers was Pat Clohessy the head Australian coach for 10 years.

“He had always been a friend. Being around him seeing how he prepared champions was phenomenal.”

“But my biggest inspiration is my wife.”

Peter Reeves (right) and one of his many running mates Murray Hunter with legendary athlete and Olympic coach Pat Clohessy (centre)

While Peter Reeves runs at Limestone Park to keep fit and helps to mentor others he had thought about forming a group and what they should call themselves.

“For a bit of fun I came up with Naturally Athletically Nurtured Culturally in Ipswich or NANCI.

“This was done as a humorous response to my good mate Peter Bracken who had setup the Brisbane Endurance Road Training (BERT) group.

“All of the NANCI runners now have shirts designed by Clay Dawson which he organised without me knowing.”

He said each year a NANCI versus BERT contest was held in an atmosphere that was friendly yet strong with rivalry and when they meet for the annual run the BERT team could never win.

“It doesn’t matter what times the BERT team run, we always ‘win’.

“This is because I always find a way to manipulate the statistics,” Mr Reeves said with a broad grin. 

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