Spurred on By Four-Legged Friends, Keira D’Amato Stays Smiling

By Jasmina Charania

Training partners can be crucial to a runner’s success, especially those who need the extra motivation to keep pushing during marathon training. Keira D’Amato knows this to be true– but most of her running partners have four legs.

“I think dogs get really excited to see me because I have a similar amount of energy [as them],” D’Amato said.

A mother of two and realtor from Richmond, Virginia, D’Amato’s energy is seen through her running, which tends to attract lost dogs. To date, “dog whisperer” D’Amato has found and returned eight dogs to their respective owners. The feat, which requires her to go door-knocking to locate the usually collarless dogs’ owners, has brought grateful smiles to worried neighbors. Despite the accomplishment, D’Amato says she’s just doing her neighborly community duty by returning runaway dogs.

While running is a hobby of hers, she does not take her goals lightly. D’Amato qualified for the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Marathon for the first time after running her PR of 2:34:55 at the Berlin Marathon last year.

The 35-year-old D’Amato has been running since high school. However, running was not her original interest. She joined the cross country team during freshman year to get in shape for soccer, but unexpectedly won her first race.

She says it felt fun to win. So, at age 13, she began to focus solely on running. She earned a spot on the cross country team at American University. Over the course of her college career she placed sixth at the NCAA Division I Cross Country championships in 2005 and became a four-time All-American. She took a decade-long break from running after college to start a family and her professional career in real estate but decided to get back into running after she had her second child.

Now, in preparation for the Trials, D’Amato runs between 100 and 125 miles per week. She runs 10 to 14 miles each morning and runs a longer run once a week of up to 24 miles.

Since she is a mother of two young children, ages five and three, and working full-time as a real estate agent, D’Amato has had to create a regimented schedule and a strong list of priorities in her life, with running coming in third after her family and her business.

“It’s [about] finding the right balance, but also being able to ask for a lot of help,” D’Amato said. “I couldn’t do this without my supportive husband and my supportive family… my kids are very understanding. It’s a team effort, we get it done altogether.”

Keira’s husband Anthony is currently working for a software development company in Richmond. He is also in the Air National Guard, meaning he is called away from home for days to weeks at a time. Anthony shared how balancing both of their lives as parents and having full-time jobs requires communication and teamwork. He also praised his wife for her ability to keep a clear head, both as a parent and a runner.

“She’s been really good at keeping a level head,” Anthony D’Amato said. “Her goal is to go out there, compete and do the best she can. [Running] is not her way of supporting the family financially, so it’s less stress because she’s able to support the family with her professional career as a realtor.”

After the trials, her goal is to chase the Olympic Trials standard for the 10,000-meter run on the track, but in Atlanta, D’Amato said she’s proud to be able to run with some of the best runners in the nation.

“Whether I make a team or not,” D’Amato said, “I’ll be on the start line with the team that’s chosen.”

Leading up to the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Marathon, Atlanta Track Club partnered with the Grady Sports Media program at the University of Georgia to profile some of the competitors in the 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials. The authors of these stories are undergraduate students enrolled in the program and have been lightly edited by the Club. See all of the stories at https://www.atlanta2020trials.com/news/uga-trials-project.

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