Human Interest

Motherhood hasn’t hindered the USA’s fastest female marathoner

marathon

Keira D’Amato holds the American record for women’s marathon running and the world record for the women’s 10-mile run. She’s sponsored by both Nike and Flynn Sports, and she has high hopes for possibly competing in the Olympics. But D’Amato isn’t your average professional runner. She’s a 37-year-old mom of two, who took a seven-year hiatus from running after an injury and only came back stronger after becoming a mother.

An amazing journey

D’Amato recently competed as part of Team USA for the World Athletics Championships, held in Eugene, Oregon. For the first time in history, all three female marathon runners placed in the top 10, with D’Amato finishing eighth. The other runners, Sara Hall and Emma Bates, finished fifth and seventh and were waiting for D’Amato at the finish line.

“I was so proud of us; being the caboose of Team USA in eighth is incredible,” she told reporters after the finish. “While I don’t feel like I necessarily pulled my weight, eighth place is still freaking awesome. And to have them waiting for me there says so much about the camaraderie in Team USA. It was a great hug.”

Originally, D’Amato was slated as an alternate for Team USA, but when an injury forced runner Molly Seidel to drop out, D’Amato got her chance. “With two weeks training I just got eighth,” she said. “So with a proper buildup to a marathon I think I can run with anyone in the world. That’s what I want to prove.”

READ: College track star balances school and motherhood: ‘My son is my biggest motivation’

A feature story from the Washington Post demonstrates how amazing D’Amato’s journey to the world championships truly is. Fourteen years ago, she was injured and had to stop running. She then pursued a career as a realtor and had two children. A failed attempt at running the Boston Marathon initially discouraged her from trying again, but years later, in the midst of parenting toddlers, she took back to the streets. And at first, it was just a hobby — something to do for herself, something that was fun.

Then, she and her husband ran a marathon together for fun, and this time, she finished. And as she ran more marathons, her times kept improving. Eventually, she signed with Nike, and she’s hoping to compete in the 2024 Olympics in Paris, when she’ll be almost 40.

But despite her success, D’Amato still knew what was important: her family. She refused to move her training routine out of Richmond, where she lives, and still holds her full-time job as a realtor, instead of training and competing full-time. “That’s what’s really important to me,” she told the Washington Post of her children. “When I come home from a race, whether I win or lose, they’re like: ‘Hey, Mom. What’s for dinner?’ They don’t care, you know?”

When the eventual call came to replace Seidel at the World Championships, D’Amato didn’t hesitate, even though she would have only weeks, instead of the typical months, to prepare. “How can I say no?” she said to the Washington Post. “This has been a dream of mine since I was in the fourth grade — to wear red, white, and blue.”

Motherhood hasn’t slowed these dreams

D’Amato wasn’t the only mom running for Team USA. Hall is almost in her late 30s and adopted four children from Ethiopia. Like D’Amato, Hall bases her training schedule around her kids. “It’s hard,” Hall said. “We might make it look easy sometimes, but that’s a constant, trying to do both really well and be present as a parent and also just want to give everything to the sport. It’s impossible to do both sometimes.”

“We’re both mothers. We’re both in our late 30s,” D’Amato added. “We’re both really proud to be able to represent the U.S., represent mothers, represent women.”

For Bates, the third member of Team USA, Hall and D’Amato are a sign that she can do it all: be a world-class competitive runner, and be a mom one day. “Just the fact they can come back not only running well but doing even better is something I admired them for,” she said. “I want to be more than a runner. They’re doing it.”

D’Amato’s husband, Tony D’Amato, and children were there to cheer her on at the World Championships, something especially meaningful for her Air Force veteran husband. He served in Afghanistan and brought some of his fellow veterans to cheer his wife on.

“I am holding back tears right now,” he told the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “Me and my two guys right here are all former servicemen, having served in Afghanistan, and to see Keira represent that country that some of our best friends died serving, there’s no better feeling. Keira races all over the world. But to come here stateside, and to have our kids here to see the outcome of Mom’s hard work she puts in every day — I think it’s a life-changing day for all of us.”

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