Keira D’Amato Is set to run fast at the Houston Marathon
On Sunday, Keira D’Amato will head to the start line of the Houston Marathon with the expectation that she will run under two hours and twenty-two minutes. Her current personal best sits at 2:22:56, achieved at the Marathon Project in Arizona, but D’Amato knows, based on her workouts and performances like her 67:55 to win the US Half Marathon Championships in December, that she is fitter than when she ran that 2:22:56 in December 2020. In fact, things are going so well that on December 28, she told Women’s Running that, if she had a strong final month of training, she might even go for Deena Kastor‘s 2:19:36 American record.
That the 37-year-old D’Amato is in a position to even discuss the American record is one of the unlikelier stories in US distance running history. This was a woman who started out as an 800/1500 runner, took seven years away from the sport as she got married, became a mom of two and a full-time realtor, and as recently as 2019 had never run faster than 2:40 in the marathon.
“It seriously blows my mind,” D’Amato told LetsRun on Wednesday. “On my warmup before my workout today, I was thinking that in my second marathon back on my comeback tour [in Richmond in 2017], I went into the marathon thinking that I didn’t think I could break 3:00 that day.”
D’Amato wound up running 2:47 and hasn’t stopped improving.
“It’s so hard to wrap my head around it because there’s 50% of my brain that is like, ‘What in the world is going on, how did I get there?’ And there’s 50% that is like really confident, that’s like, ‘Keira, you’ve worked your tail off, you’ve been putting in the miles for years and years and years, and you have, in my opinion, the best coach in the nation, Scott Raczko.'”
A number of fast Americans will descend on Houston this weekend for the half and full marathons on Sunday. Sara Hall, Nell Rojas, and Annie Frisbie are all set to feature in the half, while 61:00 half marathoner Frank Lara will make his marathon debut. But the most fascinating storyline is D’Amato, who will look to start 2022 with a bang after an up-and-down 2021 season.
Following a 2020 campaign featuring personal best after personal best, D’Amato spent the first half of 2021 battling a hamstring injury. She tried to fight through it but ultimately had to take time off to treat the underlying muscle imbalance, realigning her hips and strengthening her glutes. That recovery knocked her out of the biggest meet of the year, the US Olympic Trials, where D’Amato had planned on running the 5,000 and 10,000 meters.
“It sucked, man,” D’Amato said.
D’Amato started working out again in August and ran the Chicago Marathon in October, finishing 4th in 2:28:22. But she knew she wasn’t at 100%. Under Raczko, D’Amato trains in four-week cycles, building up for those four weeks before taking a down week to reset. Usually, she likes to have four of those cycles under her belt for a marathon; her late start meant she only had two of them before Chicago.
D’Amato will face three-time Houston champion Biruktayit Eshetu Degefa (2:22:40 pb) and 2016 Boston Marathon champion Atsede Baysa (2:22:03) in the women’s race, and while she’d like to earn her first career marathon victory, her focus is squarely on running fast.
Leading into the race, D’Amato has done everything she can to maximize her chance of success. She has still been working her job as a realtor in Virginia, but in recent weeks she has scaled back her hours and not taken on any new clients. She even took her kids out of school this week to limit her exposure to COVID — cases have been on the rise in her area and the last thing she wanted was to withdraw at the eleventh hour because of a positive test (they will return to school after the race). It’s not a decision D’Amato feels completely comfortable with — “I’m definitely not up for any mom of the year awards,” she said — but she hopes she can make it worth it with a special performance on Sunday.
posted Friday January 14th
by Jonathan Gault