By T.J. Murphy/LAVA Magazine

Longtime IRONMAN New Zealand race director, Jane Patterson, was officially honored this morning for meritorious service by being named to the New Zealand Order of Merit for her work in sports administration.

On December 15, Patterson received a letter from John Key, the Prime Minister of New Zealand.

“Our success as a nation relies on citizens from all walks of life stepping forward, helping others, seeking new ways of doing things, and reaching for their dreams,” Key’s letter said. “You have made an outstanding contribution to that success and enriched the lives of all.”

The New Year Honors is a part of the British honors system dating back to 1890, which recognizes individuals who make a significant contribution in business, the arts, sport or to society and awarded in the name of the ruling monarch.

Patterson told LAVA that she had no idea she was even on a short list for the award.”It was a complete surprise!” she said.  “Period. I found out in August so it’s been a hard secret to keep.”

Patterson added, “This award means so much to me and my career which has spanned many years and many sports. I am a very proud New Zealander so to receive an honor that acknowledges my passion for sport, in particular triathlon, is so rewarding and humbling.”

Patterson has worked in the event industry for two decades, starting out with the International Management Group. After taking the position of IRONMAN New Zealand’s Event Manager in 1999, she advanced to the title of Director of IRONMAN New Zealand Ltd. She celebrated her final year of direct management of the original international IRONMAN New Zealand by completing the 31st event at Taupo in 2014.

She is currently the Director of IRONMAN Asia-Pacific, where she is now the Chief Operating Officer with added responsibilities for all company events in New Zealand including the purchase and management of the ASB Auckland Marathon.

In an email to LAVA Magazine, Patterson expressed thanks toward her team.

“I’m grateful for the people that I have worked alongside, the communities within which I have worked, the athletes and friendships that have contributed so much to my career in sport in New Zealand. I’ve worked with IRONMAN New Zealand event since 1998 so I’m happy for the sport of triathlon and it’s link to this award.”

Patterson was interviewed by LAVA Magazine in 2013, where she talked about the life of race director and commented about her role in attracting visitors to her home country.

“I am a proud New Zealander,” she said. “The thing I like best is that people still don’t know much about us—like thinking we are a small island when my home is in a city of 1.4 million. While little is known, our lifestyle remains intact. I like to say, ‘Come for the destination … stay for the race!’”

T.J. Murphy is a LAVA Magazine staff editor and five-time IRONMAN finisher. Follow him on Twitter: @burning_runner.