Jon Gugala asked us to do a piece on TJ Doherty, who died this past week. A popular member of the Boulder running community, TJ will be missed. Please keep his memory in your thoughts and prayers…we also ask, plead, that when you bike, please wear a helmet.
An Honorable Remembrance
by Jon Gugala
July 24, 2012
The running world is a small one, constantly moving, and if you’re around long enough, you’re bound to know someone in its transient training hubs. That interconnectedness is part of the intimacy of the sport, but it also means that when a community like Boulder, Colo., suffers a loss, it affects more than just the locals.
On Monday, Boulder’s world became smaller by one, and by extension so did the rest of us.
Around 5 p.m. on Sunday, July 22, Terence ‘T.J.’ Doherty was struck by a car while riding his bike. Doherty, who was 10th in the San Silvestre Vallecana 10KM in Madrid, Spain, in 2007, wasn’t wearing a helmet. His injuries, extensive and severe, put him in critical condition. The following day he passed away, the reception area of the hospital filled with more than a hundred friends assembled to show their support. He was 32.
But though many knew Doherty by acquaintance, one of those that knew him well was Pat Rizzo, a 2:13 marathoner who was 13th at the U.S. Olympic team trials this past January and has called Boulder home for the past two and a half years.
“He was a great uniter,” Rizzo says. “He and I not only ran together, we would also go motorcycling together . . . he was just a real good guy.”
Rizzo was one of many friends that were taken into Doherty’s room in groups of three to five to say goodbye on Monday.
“You can think you’re prepared for it. Nothing in the world could have prepared me for that hospital room. Nothing got me ready for what I saw,” he says. “There was a volume to the silence. But at the same time it was a great opportunity to say goodbye to him.”
Rizzo remembers a motorcycle ride with Doherty on the Fourth of July, and when they stopped for lunch, joking with Doherty about not wearing a helmet. “You would stop a friend from driving drunk, but you would never stop somebody from just getting on a bicycle without a helmet,” Rizzo says. “It’s never anything you would take that seriously.”
Brad Hudson, founder of the Hudson Training Systems and coach of Doherty’s fiancÃ©e, Dutch 1500-meters runner Adrienne Herzog, remembers him as someone who “had fire in his belly and a passion for the sport.”
“At first we weren’t sure how severe it was. It’s happened very fast. Everyone is still coming to terms with it,” he says.
But what has been the best thing to come from the tragedy, Rizzo says, is how it has brought the community together, both locally and nationally. Rizzo himself has received calls of support from former teammates across the country. “It shows the power of one person,” he says.
And while he says there may be eventual anger at the circumstances surrounding the incident, for now the town of Boulder sees its runners assemble to do what runners do: to run, to share stories, and, as Rizzo says, give Doherty “an honorable remembrance.”