(18-Dec) -- When 2020 began, Keira D'Amato was hardly a household name in elite running circles. The then-35 year-old, a full-time realtor from Midlothian, Virginia, was a long-ago collegiate miler for American University with a career best time of 4:38.74 set back in 2007. Born Keira Carlstrom, when the name "Keira D'Amato" began popping up in road race results in 2019 many did not connect D'Amato with her collegiate past. She had literally not run a high level race in over nine years.
PHOTO: Keira D'Amato setting the USA record for 10 miles in an all-women's race (51:23) at the Up Dawg 10-Miler in Washington, D.C., on November 24 (photo by Karen Mitchell; used with permission)
What a difference a year makes.
Working with coach Scott Raczko --the man who coached Alan Webb in high school and during part of his pro career-- D'Amato has quickly risen to the top echelon of American distance running, especially on the roads. During her unorthodox pandemic-year racing campaign, D'Amato has broken the American record for 10 miles in an all-women's race (51:23), lowered her half-marathon personal best to 1:08:57 (making her the #10 USA performer of all time), and ran a solo 5-K road race in 15:08 (course not certified, however). She also finished 15th in the USA Olympic Trials Marathon in a personal best 2:34:34 on the heels of a 1:10:01 half-marathon the month before.
"It's been an interesting year for everyone," D'Amato said via video conference on Wednesday. "When everything shut down I just thought, like, pedal to the medal. Like, my plan's not going to change. I'm going to substitute races with time trials and just keep going."
But D'Amato's best accomplishment for this year may not yet have happened. At Sunday's The Marathon Project in Chandler, Ariz., she is looking to channel all of her speed and fitness through one mighty effort into a world class time at the age of 36. The numbers are on her side. Using the time-tested Reigel Formula, D'Amato's half-marathon personal best converts to a 2:24:46 marathon, and her 10 mile time converts to an even better 2:24:02. Those predicted marks are a full 10 minutes faster than her current marathon personal best.
"I feel really confident," D'Amato said. "I feel like I've built a lot of confidence between my training and racing the last few months, so I'm really excited to show that in a marathon. I've done a handful of marathons and I feel like I haven't quite nailed it yet, but I think that everything I've done in 2020 is setting me up for a great race on Sunday. We'll see."
D'Amato's 10 mile record run was on November 24, and she was hoping to use some of that fitness to get an Olympic Trials qualifying mark at The Track Meet on December 5, in San Juan Capistrano, Calif. Unfortunately, she got food poisoning before she left Virginia for the meet and was forced to stay home.
"I'm feeling much better; I'm one hundred percent," she said.
"Training's been going really well. That was really rough. I mean, waking up to food poisoning stinks. And then everyone wants to know what gave you food poisoning, then having to re-live that and go through all the foods and everything. Yeah, that sucked and then just the timing of it for that meet, which was such a fabulous meet, and a lot of people hit all those standards. It was really tough to sit that one out."
But that's all behind her, she said.
"I took a couple of days off and bounced right back and back into training. Got in some really good training over the last couple of weeks and feeling one hundred percent now. Ready to rock it."
Represented by Flynn Sports Management, D'Amato demurred when asked what shoes she would wear on Sunday saying, "I am not quite sure yet; let's just put it that way." Unsponsored, she may be telegraphing that she has a new sponsor relationship to reveal on Sunday. We will see.
Interestingly, D'Amato has an unusual side goal for Sunday. She'd like to become the fastest marathoner in her family. Her husband, Anthony, ran 2:31:49 at the Shamrock Sportsfest Marathon in Virginia Beach in 2008. He's done several marathons after that, according to the database at MarathonGuide.com, but none at that level.
"I have a family PR that I'm going after," D'Amato said. "My husband's PR is a big motivator for me. I want to be the fastest D'Amato in the family. That's really fuel for the fire."