Jan 27, 2020

Faster Than His Mom, But With a Long Way to Catch Up

To Danny Docherty, running his first U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Marathon on February 29, growing up with a mom who got up at 6 a.m. to run was no big deal. It’s just what she did.

Ho hum. On her way to becoming the only runner, male or female, to complete the Trials six times.

“I have a better perspective of what that’s like now,” he said.

Docherty, 30, qualified for the Trials in his debut, a 2:18:27 effort at the 2019 Chevron Houston Marathon. He lowered that mark to 2:15:55 in finishing third at the 2019 Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon, a race in which he pushed the pace early on.

“He has more talent and drive than I ever had,” said Bev Docherty of her son. “I never pushed the pace; I was just keeping the pace.”

Bev was 25 when she ran the inaugural Trials for women in 1984, in 2:45:33, which would be her fastest Trials by 4 ½ minutes. (Her marathon PB is 2:38:23.) She and her husband, Jim – who met while competing for the University of Iowa – had their first child, Jennie, in May 1987. Between the 1988 and 1992 Trials, Danny and Laura would come along; Bev was still nursing and recovering from a C-section on race day, with Laura only five months old. Their youngest child, Kevin, was born in 1995.

Of the four women left after 2000 who had finished all five Trials, only Bev – by then 46 – would be on the start line in 2004, but not without drama: She fell short on her first qualifying attempt, in 2002, by 33 seconds. “Part of me felt, ‘am I foolish to be trying this?” she recalled.

Bev’s second attempt, in January 2004, was a DNF. But her next workout went fine, so she headed to the Motorola Austin Marathon in mid-February, telling almost no one. There, she got her OTQ with just over a minute to spare.

Two months later, feeling blessed and lucky to be crossing the line at her sixth Trials, “I was just crying,” she said. “I knew: This is it.”

Although she did give it one last shot, she dropped out of a single 2008 qualifying attempt to avoid worsening an injury – but not until Danny had done his best to help, running in front of her for several miles to block a strong headwind.

“He didn’t even remember it,” said Docherty, 62, who was the USATF Master’s Marathon Champion in 1998 and 2000, and still holds 15 single-age Minnesota records from 15K to the marathon. A teacher and high school coach, her athletes have included Mason Ferlic, who went on to become an NCAA Champion in the steeplechase.

Like his siblings, Docherty played multiple sports as a youngster, even leading both the soccer and cross country teams to conference titles his senior year, before focusing on running. Laura went on to become the University of Minnesota 10,000-meter record holder, and all four competed for Division I schools: Jennie and Kevin at Iowa, and Docherty at Loyola. After a less-than-successful stab at pro running right after college, Docherty has been on an upward trajectory since rejoining Minnesota Distance Elite in 2017.

At the Trials, he’s aiming for Top 40 and a personal best, “on a really good day, under 2:14.”

Equaling his mother’s streak, however, is not foremost among his goals: “She got an earlier start than me.”

Photos: Victah Sailer/PhotoRun