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Doris Brown Heritage: A Running Pioneer and Life Inspiration

Doris Brown Heritage was born on September 17, 1942 in Tacoma, Washington. She went to Peninsula High School in Gig Harbor, graduating in 1960. She then attended Seattle Pacific University, where she earned a B.A. in 1964 and a M.S. in 1971.

In 1966, Doris became the first women to run a sub-5 minute mile indoors, clocking 4:52. At one point in her career she held every women’s national and world record, from 440 yards up through one mile. Doris is perhaps best remembered for her five victories in the International Cross Country Championships (1967–1971), and she also represented the United States at the 1968 and 1972 Olympics games. In 1976, Doris won the Vancouver International Marathon and placed second in the New York City Marathon. She coached track and cross country at Seattle Pacific University for four decades and is an assistant coach to this day.

Doris was the second female inducted into U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1999 and was inducted into the National Distance Running Hall of Fame in 2002. Because of her iron will and trail-blazing spirit, she helped pave the way for other female athletes around the nation with the help of being part of Title IX.

We were honored to have Doris come talk with our TNM athletes and to inspire them with her remarkable story and career, as well as with her words of wisdom that can only come from such a long and fruitful career and life. I felt very moved and humbled listening to someone with so much passion for her sport and life, and to someone who has had so many extraordinary accomplishments in her lifetime. Her humble attitude (when asked about her marathon time, she brushed off her time of 2:47:35 and placing first with the notion that she could have done better had she properly been able to train for it) and zest for life and running are truly inspirational.

Doris has had an amazing and long career. But what inevitably comes with such a storied career are plenty of ups and downs along the way. While many people would have burned out and quit if they had to face half of the obstacles that she encountered, her true passion, heart, and pure love for running always kept her putting one foot in front of the other and carrying her through it all knowing that she had a greater purpose in life.

Here are a few life and sport reminders that I took from her talk. I hope that each one of you can find inspiration and motivation in her message as well!


  • Strive for GREATNESS! One of Doris’s life mottos is, “Good is not good enough. You should always strive to be great. Strive for greatness!”
  • It is about the JOURNEY. You can’t have the peaks without the valleys, and it is how you pull yourself up out of the valleys and to the tops of the peaks that count and are what help to build, test, and challenge your character. It is through the journey that you learn things about yourself, how strong you truly are, and how to create the experiences that build you as a person and an athlete along the way. It is not just about a destination or reaching a goal. The destination would not seem nearly as significant without the journey, the hard work, and the friendships you build and forge along the way.
  • We GET to be doing what we are doing (we are blessed). Training and racing are a privilege. Do not waste your energy on the negative. Go into your training and racing with the attitude that you get to, not that you have to. Remember, no one is making you. We all chose this sport because we have a passion for it. Not all training days and race days are going to feel awesome or be a PR, but it is about powering through, persistence, moving forward and, above all, PASSION. On those days that are tough mentally and physically, remind yourself that you are lucky to be out doing what you are doing, and by conquering and persevering through those tough days, you will become a better athlete.
  • RESPECT your competitors (and yourself) by competing at your utmost potential and working your hardest! Not all days (and races) are made equal, but it is about giving all you have on that given day and leaving it all out there. Just because you realize partway through a race that you aren’t going to be hitting a PR or your goal time does not mean giving up and quitting mentally or physically. You will be disappointed with yourself if you do. Cross that finish line with your head held high.
  • Surround yourself with positive people and become that positive person for others. Be the one to lift up those around you!
  • Carry your passion, work ethic, determination, desire for greatness, and positive mental attitude into the other aspects of your life; don’t just leave them to your training and racing. Use those skills you utilize in training to make more impact in the other areas of your life. While training can sometimes feel like your life, it is not your whole life. Don’t let the training become who you are. There is so much more to life.
  • Train SMART! It is not always about more training, but smart, quality training!
  • Set realistic goals. If you set unrealistic goals, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. Goals also tend to change as you develop as an athlete.
  • While gear and technology has changed dramatically over time, there is no quick fix or secret device that is going to make you magically faster. The “secret” to success as an athlete is pure hard work, dedication, patience, desire, and smart training.
  • And of course, trust in and listen to your coach — they have your best interest at heart 😉

Doris’s four P’s:

  1. Patience — Be PATIENT with your training and with life. Rushing to get to the next of anything never brings success or happiness.
  2. Passion — Be PASSIONATE about what you are doing and your journey.
  3. Pride — Take PRIDE in competing and in yourself.
  4. Persistence — Be PERSISTENT.  Never give up on your goals or on your dreams.


  • Risk – big things in life never happened without great risk. Do not be afraid of failure. There is the time-old saying that you must fail to succeed!
  • Expect – greatness from yourself.
  • Act – on expectations. Action absorbs anxiety. And A stands for Attitude, so keep it a positive one!
  • Choose – choices make all the difference and importance in life, so choose wisely.
  • Hustle – get moving. Greatness doesn’t happen on its own. Get going and get after it!

Doris’s talk made me want to not only become a better athlete, but a better person; to strive for greatness both in sport and in life. I hope that each one of you feels the same after reading this and start to take a slightly different approach to training, racing, and life.

-Coach B

For those interested in learning and reading more about Doris Heritage, here is a book written about her by her coach:

Forman, Ken. The Fragile Champion: Doris Brown Who Always Ran the Extra Mile, Tate Publishing, Mustang OK., 2005. ISBN 1-5988611-9-0

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