Keira D’Amato ready to run the New York City Marathon

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Keira D’Amato premiere New York Marathon Sunday will cap off a spectacular year of racing, a year in which she rose to the top ranks of American women and turned pro with one of the most unusual stories in sport.

“I’m extremely pleased with it,” D’Amato said of a year that began when she made headlines for claim the American women’s record at the Houston Marathon in January. She was well known in the running community, but became national history for setting the record after a decade out of racing due to injury, as well as the happier arrival of a marriage and two children.

“I’m a 38-year-old mum and just had the best year of racing ever. You know, most pros race a handful of times, maybe five [a year],” she said. “I think if I make it to the start line healthy in New York, it will be my 14th race this year, and for a 38-year-old mom, that’s really awesome.”

D’Amato rose to the rank of genius by winning in Houston in 2 hours 19 minutes 12 seconds, overturning an American record that has stood since 2006. A Real estate agent in Richmondshe is also now a professional runner sponsored by Nike.

“I think I ran double [the number of races] of any of my competitors,” she said. “I’ve won some really iconic races, set course records and overall I feel like my job has been my best year. But it’s really exciting for me because I see a lot of room for improvement, and I think 2023 can be even better.

After setting the record in Houston, D’Amato won the Boston Athletic Association 10K in June; finished eighth in the marathon at the World Championships in Athletics in Eugene, Oregon, in July; broke a 24-year-old course record to win the US 20k Track and Field Championships in New Haven, Conn., in September; and finished sixth as the best American (with a time of 2:21:48) in the Berlin Marathon later that month.

She’s a mother of two and one of America’s fastest marathon runners

D’Amato attended high school in Northern Virginia and was a four-time All-American at American University. She joined DC Elite, a professional running team led by Scott Raczko who coached Alan Webb when he set the men’s US record for the mile in 2007. But his left foot derailed his career. Two bones weren’t connected properly and she needed surgery that her insurance didn’t cover. So she went to work for the Freddie Mac building society and eventually became a real estate agent.

For eight years, she focused elsewhere, until in 2009 she had foot surgery. She attempted a marathon in 2013 but told the Washington Post this summer that a “perfect storm of everything that could go wrong in a marathon” led her to think 26.2 miles was not for her.

She and her husband, Tony, welcomed son Thomas in 2014 and daughter Quin two years later. Things changed in 2016 when she entered her husband, also a runner, in the Virginia Beach Shamrock Marathon, then decided she had to run it too. She started training, and the races continued, and her times kept dropping, fueling goals that came fast and furious: to compete with the best in the world at marquee marathons, to represent the United United on the world stage, qualifying for 2024 Olympic Games in Paris. As one of two American women with times under 2:20, reclaiming that American record would also be nice.

“I’ll be honest – is it fun to be the American record holder?” she says. “Shit, yeah!

D’Amato’s record stood until October 10, when Emily Sisson lowered her mark by 43 seconds, winning the Chicago Marathon in 2:18:29 as D’Amato watched. D’Amato joined running royalty and former US marathon record holders Joan Benoit Samuelson and Deena Kastor in Chicago as a spectator. While it was fun to have the record, she didn’t mind seeing Sisson improve on her time. Plus, it gave him a new purpose.

The connections of American marathon runners go far beyond the course

“It wasn’t about me that day, and I wasn’t going to let anyone else have a good day make it a bad day for me,” D’Amato said. “I wasn’t going to let any kind of negative emotion seep in because it wasn’t about me.

“It was always about chasing the goal. I have achieved the goal of my day. I went there in Berlin and did not achieve this goal. And I knew if I didn’t cut my time, someone else would, you know? ” she says. “I was really proud of her and just thought I played a part. Now it’s her journey, the American record journey and pushing it down to be even more competitive on the world stage. I’m really proud of that.

Moreover, “the tide lifts all ships. I’m moving that bar forward – Emily just moved it forward again,” she said. “I will have to work even harder now. I want it back. I’m going to have to run a sub-2:18, which is my plan anyway. I think it’s really healthy competition, and I think all American women will be better off for it.

D’Amato arrives at the end of the year with “healthy” legs and “feeling fresher than ever” despite a minor bug. It is, she says, her “X-factor”, although she thinks she has removed it from her system.

The weather forecast for the New York City Marathon calls for a warm day, with cloudy skies and temperatures in the 60s in the morning and low 70s by mid-afternoon. D’Amato agrees with whatever the weather gods come up with.

“Bring it on, Mother Nature,” she said.

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