Let’s get something straight: You can’t keep up with Peggy Fortune Yetman, so don’t bother trying.
Don’t believe it? OK, then try running the Boston Marathon three months after delivering your second child. Oh, and seven months after that, try competing in an Ironman triathlon event.
You know about Ironman events, right? That’s a 2.4-mile swim and a 112-mile bicycle ride topped off with a 26.2-mile run, or, in other words … a marathon.
But don’t feel bad. You couldn’t have kept up with Yetman in college either, where she ran cross country, was a Division III All-American in track and a diver on the swim team at Baldwin-Wallace, all the while earning a 4.0 grade-point average. By the way, she earned 16 letters, was a three-time Academic All-American and the Co-SIDA GTE College Division Academic All-American in the at-large category.
Of course, she would have left you in the dust as a kid, too, competing in gymnastics at age 4 and making it to the YMCA nationals in her early teens. After college all she did was earn a master’s in exercise science from Cleveland State and a master’s in physical therapy from Northern Arizona, begin her career as a physical therapist and find time to run in the 2000 Olympic Marathon Team Trials.
Now she’s being inducted into her second hall of fame, so all you one-timers can just watch her blow by you in that category, too.
Yetman, an Elyria High graduate better known around here as Peggy Fortune, will be enshrined in the Elyria Sports Hall of Fame’s 37th class on Saturday at Lorain County Community College’s Spitzer Center along with Jack Marsh, Jerry Gilbert, Suzanne Camp, Brad House and the Elyria Catholic state champion cross country teams of 1977 and ’78.
“I’m goal-driven,” said Yetman, who was inducted into Baldwin-Wallace’s Hall of Fame in 2001.
Her goal these days is to make it back to Ironman Hawaii – the Super Bowl of triathlons – and to see if she can dominate in the masters division (age 40-44) as a triathlete and runner. With that in mind, Yetman, who turns 40 on June 17, has hired a coach for the first time in seven years and has returned to serious training.
The No. 2-ranked triathlete in the nation in the 34-39 age group, Yetman earned a coveted spot on the podium with a fourth-place finish in her age group in her first Ironman Hawaii in October.
“My coach said will and talent did it for me last time,” Yetman, who lives in Beaumont, Texas, said of her strong debut. “Now he wants me to train for it and peak for it this time.”
One thing’s for certain: She’ll give it her best shot.
“I’ve always competed,” said Yetman, whose father, Bob, was director of the Elyria Y and served as her gymnastics coach as a child and her diving coach at B-W. “I’ve just been a competitor. I’ve enjoyed it. … But you need to know when to rest. I struggle with that a bit.”
The struggles reached their nadir during her high school days when she underwent a life-threatening bout with anorexia nervosa. The eating disorder had her in and out of the hospital as her weight fell from 90 to 57 pounds.
She was well enough to attend high school at Elyria as a junior and senior, but her first year at B-W didn’t go well.
“I was moved into an all-woman dorm and it reminded me too much of the hospital,” she said.
She came back to B-W the next year and things went much more smoothly, especially after a friend of hers saw her running on the B-W track one day and suggested she go out for the track team.
She did, as a walk-on. She also ran cross country and in her first race brought home a second-place finish in a meet at Kent State.
“It was crazy,” Yetman said. “I thought, ‘I can do this.’ But never did I think that someday I’d be running in the Olympic Marathon Trials.”
Dick Elsasser remembers that meet well. The longtime area running coach was heading B-W’s cross country team then and recalls seeing this novice runner in her debut college race grab the lead against Division I opponents.
“I was just watching Peggy run,” he said. “I’m thinking, ‘Here’s this kid who doesn’t know how to run yet. She could have controlled that race.”
Second wasn’t a bad debut, of course, and Elsasser knew he had something special.
“Peggy was one of those self-driven people,” he said. “Running was a challenge for her in the beginning. She just decided she was going to do it. She’s one of those kinds of people who is going to push herself to get better and better and better.”
It’s the pushing she sometimes has to control. That’s why balance is so important these days to Yetman, who married Chris Yetman in 2001 after meeting him while rehabbing an injury. She gave birth to their son, Aiden, in 2002 and to their daughter, Avery, in 2006. But their support keeps her going as well.
While she won’t be able to make it back to town for Saturday’s ceremony, her father will handle her acceptance speech and she’s sending along a PowerPoint presentation complete with one of her favorite quotations.
It comes from Steve Prefontaine, the late, great U.S. distance runner: “To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.”
That’s something Yetman will never let herself do. Besides, she actually enjoys all that hard work.
“I’m still having fun with it,” she said.
Contact Kevin Aprile at 329-7135 or email@example.com.
Elyria Sports Hall of Fame
WHAT: Induction banquet for 37th class
WHEN: Saturday, social gathering at 5 p.m.; dinner at 6:30
WHERE: Spitzer Center, LCCC
TICKETS: $30 (Cal 284-8257)