RUNNING man Pete Dewhirst is the first to admit he can be a little obsessive.

If you are prepared to go out running when you risk having stones thrown at you, or when you think you have heart problems, or under the noses of police officers in China’s Tiananmen Square (just for the buzz of it) then clearly your relationship with running is a bit more intense than most.

Now Pete, at an age when many people are happy to slow down a little, is taking on his most strenuous running challenge yet. He has entered an ultramarathon called The Race to the Stones – a journey along the Ridgeway starting in Oxfordshire and ended at the Avebury stone circle. The race is an eye-watering 100km long, all in one day – or, in old money, a staggering 62 miles.

As this distance neatly coincides with his age, Pete has called this challenge 62@62. And why is he doing it?

“I like the challenge,” he says. “I believe we all have to push and challenge ourselves just to see how far we can go.

“Running is an obsession. It’s the one thing in my life that has been a constant. I have travelled the world, been through a divorce, and the one constant thing is the running.

“I don’t want to sound like a tree-hugger, but running is almost meditative for me.

"The stresses and strains of the world disappear and I am definitely addicted to that runner’s high.”

Pete has lived in the Lawn area of Swindon for 20 years, and has taken part in plenty of physically demanding running and sports events.

In 2003, he represented Britain at the World Championships in the duathlon, which involved a 10km run, then a 40km cycle ride, then a 5km run. He has run a dozen marathons, including the first London Marathon in 1981, and completed Iron Man events – two and a half miles swimming, 112 miles on a bike and 26 miles running, all in a day. But he has never run even half this far before.

What makes this even more of a challenge, is that Pete had a major operation on his heel a year ago - and then a serious heart scare. While many of us might take this as an excuse to ease off, Pete is doing the opposite.

“I will do it!” he declares. “I know I will do it. And not only will I do it, I want to do reasonably well. I estimate it will take 13 to 14 hours, but I want to do it a bit quicker than that.

“I guess I am proving something to myself and to others. It is a huge challenge – but I like to set myself challenges and to achieve it. And I have to admit, I get pleasure from being fitter and tougher than many people half my age.”

Pete was born in Derby, and started running when he joined the RAF in 1971. He wanted to move on from the place he had grown up in, to escape and see the world. He spent 15 years in the air force as a radio engineer.

Later, he lived in Tetbury and worked for AT&T in Malmesbury, a job which took him around the world. He lived and worked in Holland, the United States, Saudi Arabia, China, Malaysia and Brunei.

Pete married in 1977 and had two daughters, Kimberly and Lyndsey, but the constant travelling took its toll and the marriage ended.

Through all the changes, and locations, he kept on running – even though in Saudi Arabia running was out of the ordinary and he had rocks thrown at him and cars driving at him, as he jogged along the roads in his tracksuit in the sweltering heat.

In China, he ran around Tiananmen Square.

“I went out of the hotel and down the main street and ran around the square, past the picture of Chairman Mao,” he recalls. This was in 1996, several years after the protests which had brought the location worldwide attention.

Pete worked in the telecoms industry until 2011, when he took up photojournalism, an occupation he enjoyed immensely. His photography was wide-ranging.

“I used to photograph the repatriations at Royal Wootton Bassett, and published a book called Heartache and Sorrow to raise money for Help for Heroes,” he says.

The limited edition publication contained Pete’s photographs along with poems by his then partner Jacquie Goulding, and a forward by North Wiltshire MP James Gray.

But last September, Pete began suffering pains in his foot, and ended up having an operation.

“I had half my heel removed,” he says. “And the recuperation took longer than an expected.”

The forced immobility of having a foot in plaster was an intense frustration – but ever inventive, he found a way to keep exercising on a stationary bike.

Then early this year, he started to experience chest pains, and sensations of pins and needles. Pete was worried, as his brother had suffered a heart attack aged 57.

“I was afraid I was going to be next,” he admits. “But I did not stop my running – even on the days I could not run more than a mile.”

He had a battery of tests done on his heart and thankfully it turned out to be the effects of a virus. Slowly he began to recover – and just weeks ago, took part in the Swindon Half Marathon – a gentle trot round the 13-mile course, as part of his ascent to full fitness again.

Clearly not someone to let the grass grow under his feet, Pete is now focusing on 10 months’ training for the biggest running challenge of his life so far. He wants to learn more about nutrition, weight training and yoga to make sure he is in top all-round condition for the run.

The Race to the Stones takes place on July 14 and 15 next year. For more information on Pete’s challenge and progress, visit the website