The Amelia Plan

In the months leading up to 2015’s Fall marathons, RunWashington is following several local runners as they prepare for their races. We’ll chart their progress as they train their legs, lungs and minds for the challenges they’ll race on race day. Each week, we’ll catch up with our runners and see how they’re doing. This is our third story about Amelia McKeithen, you can read the first and second.

Amelia McKeithen (left) before the 2014 Rock 'n' Roll USA Half Marathon, for which she was the top fundraiser for Girls on the Run DC. Photo: MarathonFoto
Amelia McKeithen (left) before the 2014 Rock ‘n’ Roll USA Half Marathon, for which she was the top fundraiser for Girls on the Run DC. Photo: MarathonFoto

Amelia McKeithen just completed her first ever 20 mile training run after a three week layoff, and she feels great.  After a slight mishap on a trampoline turned out to have more lasting effects than she had anticipated, McKeithen went ahead and rested up, enjoying sleeping in instead of waking up early for morning workouts and catching up on TV shows she hadn’t had time to watch.

It turned out to be an LCL strain, an uncommon injury sometimes seen in football players after a lateral tackle gone wrong.  “It just wasn’t getting any better and I realized it was affecting how I was running,” McKeithen said.  When she found herself adjusting her gait to compensate, she rested until she felt ready to run again.  With a month left until the Marine Corps Marathon, she’s not taking any chances.  She’s cut out her other workouts in the hopes that she’ll be 100% by race day. “I think most workouts do strain it, so I’m taking some days off,” McKeithen said.

McKeithen’s friend Bailey Trevisan, calls McKeithen’s method “#theameliaplan.” Trevisan was a former co-worker of McKeithen’s in New York, and the two have kept in touch and trade stories about training while McKeithen is in DC and Trevisan is in New York.  Soon after McKeithen decided to run the Marine Corps Marathon to raise money for The Children’s Inn, Trevisan signed up to join her.  They kicked off their fundraising with a March Madness pool, and soon after, Trevisan started plotting how she was going to prepare for the race.

While Trevisan was checking out training plans in April, McKeithen took a much more laid back approach to it.  “She’s so much faster than she thinks she is, and then I think she has a natural athletic ability.  She does a good job of incorporating other non-running elements, and she has a really good attitude about it,” Trevisan said.

Trevisan notes that McKeithen’s view towards training really seems to pay off, largely because she seems to enjoy herself.  McKeithen’s recent 20 miler was with a friend while in New York City and included a scenic tour.  “When I’m running I don’t listen to music or anything, I’m just taking in the sights.  I try to separate what my legs are doing from what my mind is doing, I’m thinking about where I am and my breathing,” McKeithen said.

Not the first word many people think of when it comes to distance running, McKeithen associates running far with calm composure.  Though she resisted yoga for a long time, she says that it has helped her by giving her the capacity to be present through the more trying miles.  “I’ve definitely noticed its positive impact on running.  Some poses are extremely uncomfortable, and learning to relax into them has helped with running,” McKeithen said.

But McKeithen isn’t a complete Zen master.  Prone to prestart jitters since she was a kid, where she would start middle school cross country meets hyperventilating and white as a sheet, McKeithen gets excited with anticipation and a little nervous at the start line.

As far as race day expectations go, on her most recent 20 mile training run she was steady at a nine to ten minute mile pace.  She thinks she can break four hours, and probably will if she runs like that on race day.  She doesn’t run with a watch, “I bought a running watch but it’s still in the box.  A watch is fine but it can’t buy you Starbucks afterwards.  I use the Nike RunKeeper app on my phone, and it’s pretty accurate,” McKeithen said.

McKeithen isn’t planning on changing much before the big day.  “It’s one month away, my fitness level isn’t going to drastically improve.  I feel like at this point it is what it is, I just want to be mentally prepared.  It’s funny, with two miles to go, whether I’m doing five miles or twenty, it’s like – am I there yet?  But that’s also the fun thing about running – the more you can train your mind and your comfort level, the more you can improve.  It’s not because you’re physically improving that much, it’s because you mentally take on the challenge,” McKeithen said.

As far as nutrition and hydration go, McKeithan is a little worried about water.  She goes through a few water bottle refills on her runs, and doesn’t like drinking at water stops because she takes in too much air.  She doesn’t care for Gu, so she has been trying other snacks during each long run.  Her current favorite are Sport Beans.

McKeithen carries herself ramrod straight, but with a sense of ease. She’s talked since the beginning of training about her lack of discipline, but manages to crank out consistently high mileage runs without any boxes to check or accountability partners.

One thing the social McKeithen was hoping for was a more collegial experience in training.  So far, while  fundraising for the families served by the Children’s Inn at NIH continues to be a motivation and an inspiration for McKeithen, it hasn’t brought her any new running buddies. “I definitely thought there would be more group running activities,” McKeithen said, and added, “I’m not very susceptible to peer pressure unless I’m running with a group of people, and then I’m like – I can go that fast – that’s the only way I really push my pace.”

She does have many friends and family members who will be in town for the race, and is trying to decide what she wants to do in terms of pre and post-race festivities.  Whatever she ends up doing, she’s probably going to enjoy herself.  Maybe Galloway and Higdon need to make room for #theameliaplan – have fun, and throw a marathon in for good measure.

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