Going the distance

Pat+Britt+runs+a+lap+around+the+Kirkwood+High+School+Track+on+a+Thursday+morning.+Sep.+10th%2C+2022.

Wyatt Byers

Pat Britt runs a lap around the Kirkwood High School Track on a Thursday morning. Sep. 10th, 2022.

Every Thursday morning, 85-year-old Pat Britt runs laps around the KHS track. While his speed may not show it, Britt has run dozens of marathons, including two ultramarathons (31-100 miles), the Boston Marathon and a Tough Mudder (12-mile obstacle course).

“I just ran my 42nd marathon last April,” Britt said. “My wife’s been on my case to not do any more, but I told her [that] every five years I’m going to run a marathon.”

Britt has lived in St. Louis all his life, graduating from Saint Louis University High School and Saint Louis University. He worked in finance before retiring at 60 and moving on to volunteer work. When Britt isn’t refilling the soda machines at the Ronald McDonald House, caring for terminally ill kids through the Dream Factory or playing golf with his friends, Britt is on the tracks and trails of Kirkwood.

Britt said he began running when he was 39 to stay in shape, but as time went on he grew competitive. He said the most challenging race he ran was the Escarpment Trail Run in the Catskill mountains of New York State. 

“It was uphill the whole time. [I was] jumping off rocks, sliding down hills and going into grass up to your knees where you didn’t know where your foot was going to come down,” Britt said. “It was so dense in the woods, they took the bottoms of tin cans [and] painted [them] white, had them nailed to trees about 40 feet high so you’d know where you’re going. I missed one and came to a dropoff about 300 feet down to a river, so I turned around and went on back.” 

Britt raced across the country with his running group: the Mudd Ducks. He’s the last duck still running and he said he misses the company.

 “Sometimes, I might be the only [runner] in my age group which means I’m first and last,” Britt said. “But, I’d rather have the competition. It’s always fun to have someone to run against.” 

Britt said while he may not have much competition, he has many fans. Britt is often stopped by people eager to tell him how impressed they are.

“When I’m running, some people pull over and tell me ‘Keep going!’” Britt said. “Even as slow as I am now, they’ll say they’re inspired, and to keep doing the things I’m doing.” 

“My wife’s been on my case to not do any more, but I told her [that] every five years I’m going to run a marathon.””

— Pat Britt

Britt has had to stop before though. At age 12, he was diagnosed with Lateral Scoliosis. Since then, he’s had 4 surgeries, each with a year of recovery that prevented him from running. Despite that, he said he always gets back to it as soon as he can.

Kirkwood students like Isaac Bednarski, senior, watch Britt running laps during marching band practice. While students rarely talk to Britt, they still say they’re amazed by him.

“He’s a pretty big motivator [and] he’s committed.” Bednarksi said. “[It seems] like he’s been doing it his whole life.”

Britt has also been the subject of attention from other band students. While the senior students have seen Britt running throughout high school, Britt has caught the focus of incoming students like Ryan Talir, freshmen.

“I’ve wondered what his motivation is,” Talir said, “[I’m inspired] by his determination to just go out and do it.” 

Whether he’s on the KHS track or on the other side of the U.S., Britt plans to continue doing what he loves and inspiring the people that watch him speed by. 

“The families in Kirkwood see me run by, they say ‘there goes so-and-so…’” Britt said. “But I’ll run no matter the weather. I’ll be out there.”