Porter, Patrick Ralph

Written by Linda Kirkpatrick on .

Pat Porter

(1959 - 2012)


A native of Minnesota and graduate of Evergreen High School who was a prominent name in US distance runners during the 1980s.

Although he was an unremarkable runner in high school, he competed in the Olympic Games in 1984 and 1988 on behalf of the United States in the 10,000 meters and took his former EHS coach Don Mattivi (pictured above) with him to the 1984 Olympic competition held in Los Angeles.

He developed his running potential under super-achiever Coach Joe Vigil at Adams State College in Alamosa.  "I wanted to be a hurdler or something.  But when we had tryouts, I was so afraid to try out that I just refused, kind of hung in the back of the crowd hoping I wouldn't get noticed.  The last event was the mile.  And the coaches said:  'Porter hasn't done anything yet' so there I was committed; enter Pat Porter, distance runner."

Vigil (14-time National Coach of the Year) credits Porter as being the toughest runner (mentally) he ever coached. He cited Porter's ability to run seven miles in Alamosa's frigid temperatures of 23 degrees below zero, crediting Porter's "businesslike approach for handling the workout."  He went on to say "Porter was calloused to the conditions from dealing with such weather regularly.  As such, on race day he was able to just go out and take care of business."  Porter strengthened his calf muscles by running in the nearby sand dunes and used training at altitude to give him an edge when running at sea level.

In 1983 he set a world record for a road 10K at 27:31.8.  He missed winning a gold medal in 1985 by 6/100 of a second at the World Cup of Athletics.

Between 1982 and 1989 he won a record eight consecutive USA Cross Country Championships and competed in the World Cross Country Championships during this time, finishing 4th in 1984, as well as 7th, 7th, 9th and 10th at other times during his career.

He turned down numerous high-paying distance-running competitions to "avoid the over-racing syndrome that has so badly damaged US distance running," according to a 1987 story in Sports Illustrated.  "It's a matter of priorities," Porter explained.

In 1990 just minutes before the start of a 10,000-meter race in Seattle, he discovered he'd mistakenly brought with him two spiked shoes both for the left foot.  He ended up borrowing a woman's size-8 spiked shoe from a US teammate, wearing it on his size-9 foot.  He finished 7th with one sore foot!

Porter portrayed a Finnish distance runner in the movie, Without Llmits, about the legendary distance runner Steve Prefontaine, who was killed at age 24 in a car crash.

In 2008 the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference named Porter its All-Time men's cross country runner.  In 2007 he was named to the Colorado Running Hall of Fame.

To view a 1984 interview by Ahmad Rashad with Pat Porter ...

Married to Olympian high jumper Trish King.

Pat and his son were killed in the crash of a private plane piloted by Porter upon takeoff from the Sedona, Arizona, airport.

Sources:  The Quotable Runner:  Great Moments of Wisdom, Inspiration, Wrongheadedness; Don Mattivi; the Internet