Warned she's 'not getting any younger,' she beat the U.S. women's marathon record at 37
Virginia's Keira D'Amato earned her record-holding title at the Houston Marathon earlier this month
Keira D'Amato started running again five years ago to spend quality time with her husband. Now, at the age of 37, she's broken the U.S. women's marathon record.
The Richmond, Va., woman earned her title earlier this month when she completed the Houston marathon in two hours, 19 minutes and 12 seconds, breaking Deena Kastor's record of 2:19:36, set in London in 2006.
"I feel very powerful. I feel like I'm kind of sticking it to Father Time a little bit," D'Amato told As It Happens host Carol Off.
"People, you know, they keep telling me, 'Keira, you're not getting any younger.' And I was like,' Yeah, but I'm getting much faster."
'Forced out' by an injury
D'Amato used to run competitively when she was younger, but an ankle injury took her out of the game in 2008.
She couldn't afford the surgery necessary to fix it at the time, she said, so she moved on with her life — getting married, having kids, and building a successful career in real estate.
Still, she always wondered what could have been.
"I felt kind of forced out of the sport, and it wasn't really on my terms," she said. "I feel like I've always had this unfinished business with running."
But she got her chance to try again five years ago, when she bought her husband an entry to a local marathon as a Christmas gift.
The present, she admits, was something of a prank.
"It was a very thoughtful gift because entries can be very expensive. But then also, it means that for the next four months of your life, you're going to be running a lot and training," she said.
She felt bad about the responsibility she'd downloaded onto him, so she offered to keep him company by going on "little running dates" together. She'd since undergone the surgery, and her ankle was no longer a problem.
"It started as a joke, and then I felt bad, so I joined in on the joke. And just from there, it just really blossomed," she said.
Competing against her younger self
After awhile, her motivation for running changed. At first, she says it was about "having fun and connecting with my husband." Then he was deployed with the military, and she found herself alone at home with their two young children.
"So then running turned into just a little space for me," she said. "That's what I think is just so beautiful about running is you can make it what you want. And it can serve different purposes in your life at that time for what you need."
D'Amato started improving quickly. Soon, she was beating the personal bests she'd set when she was in her 20s.
"That's when it all started getting really exciting, and everything started to morph into, well, let's find my limits," she said. "Running, for me, it's always very internal…. I like going to races and seeing how I stack up against the competition, but I think I'm most competitive with myself."
She says her life experience, career and family have helped her achieve new heights that she couldn't reach the first time around.
"Coming back to running, I feel like there is just less pressure. I didn't need Keira the runner. Like, I got to be. It was a gift to be Keira the runner," she said.
"And if the running failed, I would still be Keira the mom and Keira the realtor and Keira the wife."
Now she's hoping to add "Keira the Olympian" to her list of monikers as she trains to qualify for the 2024 Summer Games in Paris.
But still, she says she's not sweating it.
"If I don't make the team, I'll be in the same spot that I am now," she said. "And I'm a happy person, so I'm doing OK."
Written by Sheena Goodyear. Interview produced by Chris Harbord.