Two Mahtomedi men in their 60s, one who had open heart surgery less than a year ago, represented Team USA in the world duathlon championships.
Ron Dockery ran and bicycled in the 27.5K sprint and Luke Harned competed in the standard 55K race at the International Triathlon Union’s Duathlon World Championships Aug. 10 in Ottawa, Canada.
Neither Mahtomedite medaled, but Dockery experienced an honor as rewarding as a medal, he said. He was the U.S. flag bearer for the pre-race parade of nations. He was chosen out of the 400 American athletes because of his speedy rebound after heart surgery.
Dockery hopes his story inspires others to persevere after a health emergency.
“It’s really about your mindset,” he said. “Most of the time you can come back from it if you really want to.”
The nearly 65-year-old is a longtime competitive runner, both in tennis shoes and on snow shoes. Recent triumphs included qualifying for and competing in the National Snowshoe Championships in 2007, setting the record for the Challenge Aging 5K in 2009 and winning his age division at the Bahamas Half Marathon in 2011.
Running at his hardest always is a painful endeavor, Dockery said. He was running a race last August when he “felt a different kind of pain” and “knew something was wrong.” He quit the race. If he hadn’t he probably would have died from a heart attack, his doctor reportedly told him.
Dockery, who has a family history of heart disease, had three near blockages of coronary arteries. He had double bypass surgery.
He said the recovery was the “most painful and most frustrating thing I’ve ever been through.” The frustration, he added, was because he wasn’t able to be active.
However, his recovery was quicker than most, he said, because he was otherwise in good physical shape. Dockery was home from the hospital in less than four days and, with his doctor’s endorsement, was racing again in six weeks (a 5K of which he walked part of the time).
His finish at the Apple Duathlon in May in Sartell qualified him for the World Championships.
He didn’t aspire to medal at the world competition; just getting there was accomplishment enough, he said. Crossing that finish line ranked up there with completing his first marathon and setting a course record, said the retired human resources executive for 3M and Medtronic.
Dockery, who also volunteers for the Woodbury Athletic Association’s track program, said he’s mulling a trip to Arizona in the fall to compete in the national duathlon.
In November, Dockery is headed to Las Vegas with his son, Dan Dockery, to compete in Challenge Nation, an “Amazing Race” style event in Las Vegas, after qualifying at two regional events.
Luke Harned couldn’t be reached by press time. According to Ron Dockery, Harned, 61, also is a prolific accomplished local runner and duathlon competitor.
Meeting fellow athletes like Harned who also enjoy pushing themselves to their limits is the best part of participating in races, according to Dockery. “I really enjoy meeting all the people,” he said. “The competition really is secondary.”
Dockery gave the following advice for novice runners: Consult a physician before you begin, get good shoes and replace them often, start slow and don’t set your expectations too high, and find a partner to help motivate you.