Even though Doc Patton retired from competitive racing in November 2013, he is certainly not done with track.
The sprinter, who earned two World Championship gold medals in the 400-meter relay, as well as a pair of Olympic silvers in the same event, was still making noise on the straightaway in 2013 at the advanced age (by track standards) of 35. His 6.50 winning time for the 60-meter dash at the Millrose Games earned him a world record in the event for athletes over 35. Months later, his 9.75 (wind-aided) time in the Texas Relays 100-meters would serve as the sixth fastest clocking for the event under any conditions.
But, after an unsatisfying 2012 campaign, Patton had decided that 2013 would be his final year of competition. He also made the decision to rededicate himself to the sport that had served as his livelihood for the past 10 years.
Reflecting on his final season, Patton admits, “It was very, very bittersweet—and more bitter than sweet.” As for sprinting again, he says, “As far as I know, I’m done.” But he’s not done with track yet.
As Patton readies for his new venture, his voice brims with excitement while he explains what’s coming next. “I’m getting ready to open a number of speed camps and clinics here in Texas. Track is big in Texas, and I’m looking to get the clinics going in the next month or so. We’re going to aim for more summer meets and building toward more of the track events.”
And in a unique partnership, Patton will be linking with TrackNation to form TrackNation Dallas, the first city hub within the movement.
“We’re going to start here and move from city to city,” says Patton. Looking at a timeframe to begin, he adds, “Hopefully sooner rather than later.”
But for Patton, it was always about the speed of it all.
Growing up in Dallas, Doc Patton excelled in track & field from a very young age. Born to William Johnson and Dorrise Patton of Dallas in December 1977, Patton made his mark as a sprinter and jumper in AAU youth meets, then later as a standout athlete at Lake Highlands High School in the northeast section of Dallas. After a short stint at Garden City Community College, he earned an athletic scholarship with Coach Monte Stratton and the Horned Frogs of Texas Christian University. At TCU, he took his sprinting and jumping ability to the next level, earning four All-American honors at the 2001 NCAA Outdoor Championships, scoring in the top six for the 100, 200, 4×100 relay, and long jump.
Realizing that he could compete with the “big boys,” Patton entered the U.S. Outdoor Track and Field Championships after his junior year at TCU and placed fourth in the 200 and seventh in the long jump. During his senior season in 2002, he was runner-up for both the indoor and outdoor 200, eventually being declared the U.S. champion after the winner was banned for illegal substance use.
Standing at the precipice of becoming a professional, he had one major decision to make—whether to continue doing the long jump, an event in which he had reached a distance of 26’ 7-1/2”.
He gave up the long jump.
“I loved the long jump. I miss the long jump,” admits the 36-year old. But I realized that there wasn’t enough opportunity to compete as a jumper. There was more sprinting (races) in Europe. I wanted to have a steady revenue stream. But it wasn’t an income thing—it was more of an opportunity thing.
Upon further reflection, he wonders about the possibility of doing both.
“I could have been great at both—or neither. There’s still the part about going back and forth and having to jump, then run a race, then jump again.”
Patton’s career was off to a great start. In 2003, he won his first unencumbered national title, this one in the 200. Later that summer, he placed second in the World 200 and also won his first World gold medal as a member of the winning 4×100 meter relay team.
“Coming out of TCU, I knew that I had a good year in 2002, and I was ready to compete with the professionals. I made the decision to give the pro thing a try.”
His first national championship happened almost by accident.
“All I knew was that the top three runners would make the team and go to Worlds. I just wanted to make the team. [In the 200], once I realized that I was on the team, I eased up at the finish.”
With a laugh, he extends the thought. “Fortunately, I ended up in first place.”
The next year, 2004, saw another milestone added to Patton’s career, this time in the form of an Olympic silver medal earned in the 4×100 relay. Ironically, the time of Patton’s quartet (38.02) was faster than the time run by the foursome who competed without him in the finals.
But it was the next two years that would define his toughness as an athlete, as a series of painfully consistent injuries marred the 2005 and 2006 seasons.
“It was the first time I had been injured—EVER. It started during indoor season when I fell on my knee and partially tore my PCL.”
As tends to happen with running injuries, one thing led to another.
“I partially rushed coming back. But while I was trying to protect my knee, it put more pressure on my left hamstring, which got hurt. I ended up being sidelined for the whole year. What really bothered me was missing a chance to be on the World team that year.”
The problems spilled over into 2006, as the lingering hamstring injury was coupled with a painful groin injury, one that would eventually require an operation four years later.
Was there ever an urge to quit the sport?
“No. I didn’t want to quit. I always wanted to show people that 2003 wasn’t a fluke. I didn’t want to be a one-off guy.”
It was in hobbled form that Patton found the key to success for the rest of his career, and as it turned out, Benny Vaughn had been holding it all along. Vaughn has more than 30 years of experience in athletic therapy and owns a treatment center in Fort Worth.
“I met Benny in 2003, around the time of the World Championships. He was the guy that always told me where to go and who to see. He used to work with the Texas Rangers. He sent me to Eric Minor who owned a strength studio.”
In spite of being in shape, Patton prolonged his career by finding the weight room more often.
“I had been getting by on natural talent for a long time. Now, I had a ‘pit crew’ to help put me back together.” Through rehab and an increased focus on nutrition and building strength, Patton was back in rare form for the 2007 season, although now more focused on the 100. Along with Tyson Gay, Wallace Spearman, and Leroy Dixon, his American team recaptured the gold medal in the 4×100 at the World Championships. He followed in 2008 with a new PR (9.89) in the open 100 at the Shanghai Golden Grand Prix.
After the operation for his recurring groin injury in 2010, Patton came back in 2012 to earn another Olympic silver medal—again in the 4×100, before storming into the sunset with a banner final campaign. Looking at the 6.50 he ran in the 60-meters at the age of 35, it begs comparison that the winning NCAA indoor time in 2014 was 6.52 by Florida State senior Dentarius Locke.
Looking back on his career, Patton is quick to recognize where the backbone of his accomplishments came from.
“I had the same people throughout my whole career. My coach, Monte Stratton, was with me from TCU all the way to the end. What’s that, 14 years? I had the same agent, the same pit crew, so I never had to move out of state or go anywhere like some runners do.”
And although he is content with life at home with wife Crystal, daughter Dakota (4) and son Darvis Jr. (1), Doc Patton knows that his next race has just started.