World’s premier distance runner

World’s premier distance runner

Doris Heritage continues her long tradition of coaching and mentoring young runners by being a Falcon Running Camp coach.

Touted as the world’s premier distance runner during the ‘60s, Doris Heritage continues her long tradition of coaching and mentoring young runners by being a Falcon Running Camp coach. This two-time Olympian, five-time world champion, former Olympic coach and longtime member of the SPU cross country coaching staff, gives her time freely at the Falcon Running Camp. In addition to the usual coaching tasks, she sat for an hour-long interview where she discussed what it was like growing up on Gig Harbor and how she developed her passion for running. As she tells it, it wasn’t until participating in a running camp in the early 60’s that she learned about training and running drills. She explained that her participation in running programs taught her much more than just the fundamentals of the sport. In a time when racial segregation was the norm and women were excluded from many activities we take for granted today, she joined a very few who stood by their principles and led by example. When participating in a running camp in Texas in the early 60s, she and a group of her running mates would site at the back of the bus in defiance of the prevailing rules stating ‘blacks to the back’. Rather than dining in ‘Whites Only’ restaurants, she and her team mates would ‘brown bag’ it. She says that she wanted to go to a Christian school, so attending Seattle Pacific University was the obvious choice for her.

Attending SPU turned out to be a great choice for Doris. SPU’s head coach at the time, Ken Foreman, founded the Falcon Track Club in 1955, the forerunner to today’s women’s varsity. Under Foreman’s direction, Doris set two American records before graduating in 1964. Her career as a runner did not end with graduation. She was named to the U.S. Olympic team in 1968 and 1972. She won the silver medal (800m) at the Pan American Games in 1967 and 1971. During her prime running years, she won 14 national titles, and set a world record in the 440m, 800m, 1 mile and 3000m. As if not to falter, she won the U.S. Masters cross country title in 1989.

Passing her knowledge and passion on to the next generation, she continued to coach at the national level, including the 1984 and 1988 Olympic Games, as well as the ’87 and ’90 World Championships. Her achievements on and off the track are many: First female to be elected to the prestigious IAAF Cross country and Road Race Committee, head coach of the U.S Ekiden Cup contingent in Japan and Chief of Mission for the U.S. cross country team at the world championships in South Africa.

As if all this isn’t enough, this co-founder of the Falcon Running Camp is still out there today coaching and mentoring young runners attending the 2015 Falcon Running Camp at Camp Casey. Whether it’s during the formal talk she gave to the attendees, leading drills, or simply giving some one-on-one advice, Doris’s mark  is evident. It’s the kind of presence that comes from a long unwavering passion.

What makes the Falcon Running Camp so special? It’s the people like Doris who share their experience and expertise so freely. This article focused on Doris Brown Heritage, but she is one of many accomplished coaches and trainers involved in this, the longest running camp in the country.