Born and raised in Virginia, Keira started running her freshman year at Oakton High School as a way to impress the
soccer coach. After winning the first race of the season, she quickly realized she was suited more towards
running and never looked back since. Keira was a 6 time Virginia AAA State Champion in High School and
then made her way to American University in Washington, D.C. to be coached by Matt Centrowitz. Keira was a
4 time All American, 20 plus time conference champion, and the 2006 Woman of the Year for American University,
the Patriot League Conference, and a finalist in the NCAA. Keira was inducted into both the American
University Hall of Fame (2017) and the first class of the Oakton High School Hall of Fame (2019).
Keira ran for a professional running team, DC Elite, for a couple years out of college, but was sidelined by an
injury leading to surgery. After taking years off for the surgery, then marriage and kids, Keira got back into
running simply to get into pre-pregnancy shape, but as the weight was coming off, so were the times and Keira
was able to qualify for the 2020 US Olympic Marathon Trials where she finished 15th out of 511 women who
qualified. Keira was selected to represent the US at the 2020 World Half Marathon Championship taking place
this October in Poland.
What race did you qualify for the Olympic trials and what was the moment like when you qualified?
This is actually a pretty funny story. I was originally going after the standard at the 2018 Boston Marathon. I started in the elite women’s wave and was literally seeing stars around mile 18. That’s pretty much the last thing I remember from the race. Eventually a volunteer told me I could stop running and I looked around and I had crossed the finished line already. Dude, I was out of it! I first realized how bad of shape I was in when they asked me if I needed help and I couldn’t answer. I was sent off to medical and was treated for hypothermia for a few hours before being pissed that I didn’t hit that 2:45 standard! I broke 3 that day, but oh man, that was the toughest I’ve ever felt in a marathon. It’s actually scary going that far into the well because I never want to go back there again. It causes me to run a little more reserved than I probably should.
Anyways, to make a long story long, my girlfriend, Kelly Calway, convinced me to jump into the 2018 Grandma’s Marathon a month later to go after the time. To be clear, my Coach Scott Raczko did not approve of this move! I hit 2:44.03. I was thrilled! Holy cow! A mom of two, wife, full-time Realtor qualified for the trials...like what?! It was Father’s Day weekend, my husband, kids, and mother and father-in-law where there. It was a very special day for our family. I hit the time again during the 2018 Richmond Marathon (2:40) and then hit the “A” Standard at the 2019 Berlin Marathon (2:34).
Describe the experience competing against the best marathon runners in the United States.
I specifically remember standing on the starting line of the 2020 US Olympic Trials thinking “Welp, the day is here, I’ve worked my butt off, the fitness is there, I know I can be one of the best,” but then also looking around and thinking “holy crap, what I am doing here?!” This totally wasn’t where I saw myself 4 years ago when I was very pregnant with my daughter. Pretty surreal actually. I actually try to desynthesize (is that the right word?) to the whole experience treating it like a regular workout/race and not concerning myself with who was in the race. I had a very internal focus going into it and try to make it feel like ‘not a big’ deal.
What lessons did you take away from the race?
The first thing I thought when I finished was “wow, that hurt. I’m never doing a marathon again.” Quickly followed by, “how did 14 women beat me? I need to get back to work and try to lower that place for my next marathon.” I definitely had a lot of positives to take away, I felt like I nailed the training, the taper, the nutrition…but I didn’t nail the race with all those hills. I think the downhill pounding shot my legs sooner than I was hoping so the last 8 or so miles felt like a slug fest. I also feel like that race was a little unpredictable with all the wind that day. Once you feel off the pack you were in no man’s land taking on the wind by yourself… I’ll need to prepare for that a little better for the next race. I’m proud I fought through it and finished the race as hard as I could, I just wish didn’t hit that feared marathon wall as hard!
How did you finish compared to your expectations?
I was ranked 49th going into the race. I felt like with a good race I could be top 20, freakin’ fabulous race top 10, but also, there was a little piece inside me that said “who knows!” I finished where I was expecting, but I was a little let down because I was hoping it would go a little better.
What are your goals for the rest of the year?
Originally, I was putting my head down back into training because I was selected for the US Team competing at the World Half Marathon Championship in Poland…but that was delayed from March 29 to October…So now, I’m going to chase the 10K Olympic Standard and US Trails Standard, 31:25 and 32:35 respectively and see what these legs can do on the track. Racing on the track terrifies me right now though, hope I can get over that quickly.
What does your weight training consist of and which exercise do you feel helps your running the most?
I do a Pilates class once a week and then some general strength exercises 2 to 3 times a week to ward off the injuries. Running as much mileage as I do is very repetitive on the body, so I focus on strengthening other muscles so my body doesn’t get all out of whack. I do a lot of exercises and legs lifts in the plank and reverse plank position, those are my favorite.
What's the weirdest or funniest thing that ever happened to you while running?
Oh boy! How long do you have? I’m constantly cracking myself up on my runs. I feel like I try to embrace the world around me when running, so I guess you can say I’m easily entertained. Here are a few of my recent favorite moments:
One day it was pouring and I was running like a complete knucklehead. I was running down this road that was not draining the water too well and this car drove through a huge puddle and completely drenched me with one of those mini-tidal-car waves. I got it all in my mouth and everything, it was gross, yet hilarious. I put my hands up and pretended to be really mad so the car would feel bad, but I couldn’t stop laughing. That made my day. Just knowing that car was probably laughing all day about it too made me happy. I hope that driver was one of those people that think “joggers are annoying,” so he felt like he could finally stick it to us. So, darn, funny.
My husband is hilarious and he will bike with me when I run. He usually can come up with some funny content that makes me feel like I’m gonna pee in my pants. That dude is a riot. The last time we went out together he had me laughing so hard I couldn’t even run. I even had to pause my Garmin!
I’ve returned 8 dogs to their owners. I go door to door in short-shorts and a sports bra, holding a random dog without a collar (sweating all over it, mind you!) asking “is this your dog?” This is like reverse trick-o-treating.
Okay, the funniest thing that happened recently is a bit personal, whatever, I’ll tell it. This is so embarrassing. I have this route that I run pretty much every afternoon in the same direction. I cut through some woods and run through a park and I typically never see anyone in the woods portion. There’s this weird fence and gate in the woods I have to go through and I guess the act of stopping to walk through it makes me need to use the restroom, so I hide behind a tree and pee. This is so gross, I can’t believe I’m telling this story. Anyways, one day I got crazy and ran the opposite direction through the fence and see a sign that says “Video Surveillance in Use”...I immediately look up and pointed right at my favorite tree is a video camera. What!? I was horrified. Are you kidding me? I immediately said some prayers that it's one of those fake cameras just to scare people. I mean, who puts a video camera in the woods...right?! I was horrified for about a mile but then I could see the humor in it and thought it was funny. I hope that video isn’t monitored, and lets just say I found another tree.
I can’t believe I just told you that, very embarrassing, can that get me in trouble?
What's your favorite types of fuel before a race?
The morning of is either oatmeal squares and almond milk or peanut butter on a bagel with coffee and usually some NBS Preload. This stuff is amazing, everyone should check it out. I use it before workouts, long runs, and races to get the stores up! I’ve found the combos that work for me and I’m sticking to it!
What's your biggest fear?
I have this weird fear I’ll wake up and the running gift will be gone. I start some runs thinking "is this the day that I wake up and can’t run faster than a 10 minute mile pace?" It’s so unrealistic. It’s taken me years to get to where I am, so it’s crazy to think it would be gone overnight. My biggest fear regarding running is that my running will be too much for my family and I’ll have to pull back. I’ve always said that I’m going to keep running as long as it’s sustainable for my family. I’m having so much fun with it I hope that doesn’t come for years but you never know what life throws at you. My biggest fear overall is that something will happen to my kids health or happiness.
What's your biggest pet peeve?
I have a few of these. People asking if I’m going to eat everything on my plate because they’d like to try whatever I don’t eat. The answer is “yes, I’m going to eat it all, but I’d be happy to share.” Then they say, “oh, nevermind, only if you aren’t going to eat it all.” Again, “yes, I plan on eating it all, but I’m happy to share...” It’s so annoying to me. Just take a bite. I’ll survive without a bite but I will eat it all. Is “kids waking me up before the sun comes up” a pet peeve? If so, that too. People that are close eaters. Our elbows should not be rubbing while we eat. Matching. I hate matching clothes. My mom would always try to match my sister and me, I've hated it since I was 5.
How do you balance being a realtor and running?
Running and real estate actually go together very well. It’s running and real estate that make it hard to balance family time, which is my top priority. My secret is my support system. It’s takes a village! It also just makes you have to suck it up and get up early, run on a treadmill, rearrange your schedule, etc, to make it all fit. For me it seems really simple, my priorities are my family, my career, and my running in that order. When there’s a conflict, I come back to the order and it makes it easy to see what’s most important and want need to be adjusted. I don’t have a lot of extra time, so I try to double-dip my running as my fun me time too, podcasts, audiobooks, learning something new, etc. I guess my motto in regards to this is find a way.
In your free time when you’re not running, what hobby’s do you enjoy?
I don’t have a lot of free time but I love adventures with the kids. Any excuse for a family celebration, watching Survivor, and I love games/cards. I’ll tell you what I hate filling my free time with, laundry and grocery shopping!
What's the most important tip you like to give new runners?
The name of the game is fun. This isn’t brain surgery, running isn’t punishment, yeah, it sucks at first when you are getting in shape, but if you can push through the initial “this sucks” phase you can discover some really amazing things about yourself. Your willpower, strength, determination, how you talk to yourself when the going gets tough: will either give you the “woe is me feeling” or make you able to push through that and realize you are breaking barriers you’ve never done before. It’s pretty amazing. I also always tell people to start small. The first day out you don’t need to tackle a 3 mile run. Start with 3 minutes, own that distance and then add on a little more, then a little more and then a little more until you can run a 5K. Once you can complete a 5K, you'll start to think “just maybe I can complete a 10K.” The love and addiction for running grows and grows. Give yourself a shot to experience it.
When it comes to running, what would you say is your biggest strength and weakness?
My biggest strength and weakness is my overconfidence, simple as that. I’ve accomplished some really amazing things because I believe in myself, but I’ve also had to face some tough realizations because maybe I believed in myself too much. Ah well, I wouldn’t have it any other way! I’ve always been naturally gifted with turnover too. I always felt if I was within striking distance of anyone with 400 meters to go, I could run them down, again, this is my overconfidence. Another weakness is it's hard for me to break out of my comfort zone sometimes. I need to be better with the fear of failure and being a little more willing to put it all on the line.
Who is someone you look up to in the sport?
Here’s another question where I could go on for days, I’ve had so many people I’ve looked up to in this sport. I think I’m going to have to go with my girl, Samia Akbar. We went to the same high school, college, and DC Elite team. Samia always put her head down and got the work done, rain or shine. She’s always been an idol of mine. I’m also lucky to call her a BFF.
Who is one of your favorite athletes to train with?
On Tuesday, I have my “Team Hobby Jogger” Silas and Emily. They keep me company during workouts and Silas is always so on pace, smooth, calm and overall Zen-like. I love working out with him because he’s the opposite of my personality and provides a really good balance. Plus, he can kick my butt, so it’s nice having someone that can drag you around the track. I run with Sara Baugh every Sunday for long runs. I can’t tell you how much her friendship and company over 22 plus miles means to me. She has the biggest heart of anyone I know. I always look forward to Sundays.
What's next for Keira D'Amato?
I’m going to head to the track and try to make it to the starting line of the US Olympic Track Trials. Full speed ahead!
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