At age seven, while running in Sunday School picnic races, Diane Palmason discovered that she “loved to run fast.” She has continued to run fast ever since. As a high school student in 1954, Diane was so speedy that she earned a spot on the Canadian team for the British Empire Games (later changed to Commonwealth Games). She was “awestruck” to be in the same 220-yard heat as the then world record holder, Marjorie Jackson-Nelson.
Diane graduated from Queen’s University and did her graduate studies at McGill, but since there were no track programs for women at Canadian universities in those years, she “retired” from track. After reading Cooper’s “Aerobics,” Diane was inspired to keep in condition by doing some recreational running. However, after her fourth child, she suffered from serious back problems which eventually led to a spinal fusion in 1975. But back surgery would not keep Diane from ever running again. After reading a newspaper story about a woman winning the National Capital Marathon, she decided that she would love the challenge of running a marathon. In the spring of 1976 Diane ran her first marathon. Eight years later, in 1984 and at age 46, she ran her fastest-ever marathon in a time of 2:46.21. Diane ran a total of 77 marathons and broke the Canadian record for the marathon in the W40, W45, W55, W60 and W65 age groups.
In 1979, Diane competed in her first-ever WAVA Championships (WMA) in Hannover, Germany. She won silver medals in the W40 5K, 10K and marathon. In 1981, while competing in the US Masters Championships in Philadelphia, Diane set her first Canadian Masters record on the track (W40 800m), She set her first World Record in 1985 in the W45 10000m. In 1995, she competed in the US Masters Indoor Championships in Reno, Nevada, where she set a World Indoor Record in the W55 400 metres. Later that year, Diane competed in her second WMA Championships in Buffalo, New York, winning gold medals in the W55 800m and 1500m, and a bronze medal in the 400m. Diane had an incredible year in 2003, breaking four World Masters records in the W65 400m (1:08.21), 800m (2:41.81), 1500m (5:46.61) and mile (6:19.04). She also added Canadian records in the 100m and 200m. After the track season was over, Diane competed in the Toronto International Marathon where she broke the W65 Canadian marathon record. Unfortunately, health problems forced her to limit her training and her opportunities to compete.
In 2007, while living in Blaine, Washington, Diane joined the Greyhounds and drove to North Surrey to participate in our training sessions. A year later she moved to the Comox Valley, but remained a member of the Greyhounds. Then 70, Diane broke the world record in the 400m (1:17.34), the Canadian record in the 200m (34.25) and BC records in the 100m, 800m and 1500m. In addition to her individual records, she teamed up with three others to break the world record in the W70 4x400m (6:12.25) and the Canadian record in the W70 4x100m (which included Greyhounds Ella Lee and Klazina Noort). In 2009, Diane improved her world record in the W70 400m (1:17.14), her Canadian record in the 200m (33.70) and her BC record in the 100m. In October, at the World Masters Games in Sydney, she won gold medals in the 200m and 400m. As Diane neared the finish line during her 800m race, she collapsed – a few weeks later she was in Victoria having a pacemaker implanted.
When the BC Seniors Games were hosted by Diane's home town in the Comox Valley in 2010, she agreed to participate on a W70 4x100m relay team which broke the Canadian record (1:12.01), and was her last race on the track. But for her last hurrah, Diane pinned a number on for a 15K race right after her 75th birthday. A few years ago she said “It’s so enjoyable to put my shoes on, get my dog and go out for a run. If you stay active and eat well you’ll feel great.” She remained a Greyhounds member until 2012. Diane was inducted into the Canadian Masters Hall of Fame in 2010.