Tim Dougherty isn’t afraid to climb the steady incline of the Queensboro Bridge, hit “the wall” at mile 20, or take on the hills of Central Park in the last stretch of the TCS New York City Marathon. At each step, he’ll be running in the memory of his sister-in-law, Mary, who was among 26 people shot and killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012.
“She and the principal ran toward the shooter instead of away from him,” Dougherty says of Mary, who was the school psychologist. “So they were the first to perish that day.”
Now, Dougherty, 59, and his wife, who live in Littleton, CO, work to raise awareness about gun violence across the country. They’ve developed friendships with families of those who lost their lives in mass shootings, from Columbine in 1999 to the present. “It’s not a club you want to be a part of,” he says.
This will be Dougherty’s sixth marathon and his second New York City Marathon, which he describes as one of his two favorites (Boston is the other). He started running about 20 years ago, a few years after getting sober, and gradually worked his way up from shorter distances. “I just didn’t think I was built for long distances,” he says. But after running his first half-marathon at age 52, he thought, That wasn’t so bad, I guess maybe I could do a full.
With a PR of 4:20, Dougherty had been on track to beat that time on November 6–he recently shaved 19 minutes off his half-marathon PR–but twisting his ankle on a trail run this summer cost him a month of training. “At this point, I’m not concerned about time,” he says. “I’d love come in around 4:30.”
Instead, he’ll focus on the charity he’s fundraising for—Sandy Hook Promise, a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating students and parents about the warning signs of suicidal and homicidal behavior before it’s too late. Last year, Sandy Hook Promise raised $110,000 through the TCS New York City Marathon.
And, of course, he’ll focus on the countless victims of mass shootings who give him the strength to cover 26.2 miles, “I’ll think about them throughout the race, specifically Mary,” he says. “Because if Mary could run toward that shooter, then I can keep going, too.”
By David Alm
GET YOUR STORIES ON. Read more inspiring stories from runners chronicling their journeys to the TCS New York City Marathon starting line.
TUNE IN. The 2016 TCS New York City Marathon will be televised live on Sunday, November 6, on WABC-TV, Channel 7 in the New York tri-state area from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. ET, and for the rest of the nation on ESPN2 from 9:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. ET.