Happy birthday to Pat Peterson, smiling sprinter of masters track

Pat Peterson has been through the wringer, battling cancer and injuries. But I’ve never seen her sprint without a smile. So I hope today is joyful as she turns 88. She was one of the featured athletes in the 2005 documentary “Racing Against the Clock.” In 1998, she was inducted into the USATF Masters Hall of Fame. (In what other sport do you become a Hall of Famer and continue competing for 15 years or more?)

Pat Peterson (left) leads friend Johnnye Valien at 2011 Sacramento worlds.

Pat Peterson leads friend Johnnye Valien at 2011 Sacramento worlds.

Here’s how Pat was profiled in 1998:

Patricia Peterson, a sprinter from Albany, N.Y., looks every bit of her 72 years. Wiry, white-haired and wrinkled, she wears trifocal wire-rimmed glasses, no-nonsense short hair, no makeup, a navy blue polo shirt and shorts. But in competition, the old elf looks about 25 — arms pumping freely as she speeds down the track, long legs stretched out in graceful, ground-covering strides.

Peterson has been hooked on sports since she began officiating at basketball games as a seventh grader in 1938, and has used any resource she could muster for nearly 40 years as a teacher and coach to gain equal resources for women athletes. Her own sprinting career began in 1987 when, just for fun, she signed up at the New York State Senior Games.

Two years later, however, illness struck. “Non-Hodgkins lymphoma is the kind of cancer that doesn’t go away,” she notes. Chemotherapy, a stem cell transplant and support from her church, family and friends have pulled her through two bouts with the disease. After the first, she recovered enough to win medals at the 1995 WAVA Games. And after battling back from cancer a second time, she competed at Durban, winning three gold medals and setting an American age-group record in the 400 meters.

Hope to see you at nationals, Pat! Keep pumping those arms.

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April 14, 2014

9 Responses

  1. Roger Pierce - April 14, 2014

    Happy Birthday Pat…. You are an inspiration to all of us..

  2. Renee (Henderson) Shepherd - April 14, 2014

    I have never met Pat personally but I absolutely love her and have shared her story with a countless number of my non-running friends. HAPPY BIRTHDAY PAT!!

  3. Mary Harada - April 14, 2014

    Happy Birthday Pat – keep on sprinting – you are a champion.

  4. Peter Taylor - April 15, 2014

    Pat, you’ve added a lot of excitement to our events over the years, and I hope your life will be full of joy in the years ahead.

    From what I have observed at the meets, Pat, everyone you encounter enjoys talking to you and just being around you. To have a positive approval rating of 100% is pretty impressive, in my opinion.

  5. Jeff Davison - April 15, 2014

    Happy birthday. Your smiling and volunteering in the middle of competing (medaling) at Sacramento was amazing.

  6. MICHAEL DE JESUS - April 15, 2014

    I WISH YOU A VERY HAPPY BIRTHDAY.MAY YOU HAVE MANY MORE.

  7. Karla Del Grande - April 15, 2014

    Pat, you are one of my heroes! You are such an inspiration, for your positive attitude in overcoming challenges, and your friendliness at meets. I loved learning about you in Racing Against the Clock and then meeting you in person a few years back. Happy birthday!

  8. Kathy Bergen - April 15, 2014

    Happy Birthday, Pat

    I’ve missed you. I hope you will be in Winston-Salem. We have lots of catching up to do.

  9. Mark Cleary - April 16, 2014

    Happy Birthday Pat- We hope to see you again soon at a National Championship !

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