Amelia McKeithen is ready for the Marine Corps Marathon. As she predicted herself early on in her training, she hasn’t followed a particular plan to prepare. McKeithen likes to run when she feels like it instead of when the calendar says she has too, but still she’s managed to log an impressive amount of miles, even if she’s not keeping track. She’s done two 20-milers, even though she skipped her final training run. “The training plan said I should run 20 miles on the weekend of the 3rd, but I’m a fair weather runner. I’ll run if it’s cold out but not if it’s gross out,” McKeithen said. The combination of the wet weekend and a wedding to attend kept McKeithen from logging her final long run, but she thinks it will be ok.
She’s looking toward race day with a mixture of excitement, a touch of competitive spirit, and has started worrying about some of the details. But she’s not letting any of her minor concerns stand in the way of having a good time.
Marathon training hasn’t stopped McKeithen from enjoying a full social life. And she thinks that’s a good balance. She planned to mark her first official weekend tapering by heading down to homecoming at her alma mater, UVA. She doesn’t think being pent up waiting for race day is going to do anything helpful for her performance. She’s been running on and off every few days, trying to avoid wearing high heels, and otherwise just looking toward race day.
Her attitude towards the marathon is a direct contrast to many stereotypically Type A runners, many of whom spend months sequestering themselves on weekend evenings, micromanaging their training schedules, and obsessively logging their workouts. Amelia isn’t sure exactly how much she’s run, overall. But the average runner might not get a 20 mile run in too often if they waited for a day when they felt like doing it. McKeithen has managed to keep the joy of running throughout the training cycle.
“I definitely don’t feel like my life has been taken over every day. I think that’s something to keep in mind, I think some people don’t sign up for bigger races because they don’t have time, or maybe they think people have to get up at 5 every day.” McKeithen wants people who think that they don’t have time for a marathon to know that it hasn’t cramped her style, or curbed her enjoyment of running. “I’m still having fun,” McKeithen said.
Even though McKeithen’s approach to marathon training has been marked by a somewhat remarkable level of ease and levity, McKeithen is by no means immune to pre-race jitters and questions. “I haven’t looked at the race course, but the chatter is starting to stress me out. I’ve heard there’s hilly portions,” McKeithen said. “I just don’t want my legs to freeze up.” The weather is another concern of hers, since she’s based her long runs on days she wanted to go running. I pick my long runs on days that are nice to run a long run.” Her ideal weather is “60 and sunny with a slight breeze and 40% humidity,” but temperature isn’t her main concern. “If it’s really cold I’m not worried. Rain is the main thing, it’s just demoralizing and it’s not fun,” McKeithen said. She knows she can’t do anything about the weather on race, day, but rain would cramp her style.
The other question in McKeithen’s mind is the change in her workout routine since she tweaked her knee in a trampoline accident. The knee is no longer giving her any trouble, “it’s fine – it better be, I’ve been babying it for months now!” McKeithen said. However, in the process of making sure she healed properly, McKeithen has given up her diverse and vigorous cross-training routine. Not only does she miss the challenge and variety, “I’m worried that will have an effect on my fitness. I’ve also been spending no time stretching, and some classes make you sort of do that,” McKeithen said. She doesn’t know what the combined loss of strength and flexibility training will do to her on race day.
Although she’s doing a first-timers typical worrying about the race course and her preparedness for the challenge if 26.2, Amelia’s also getting excited, and stoking her competitive fire. A few of her co-workers have run the race before, and she’s been checking up their times. Working in a male-dominated field, she’s keen to surpass the guys.
McKeithen has trained all she can, and she also done all the fundraising on behalf of The Children’s Inn at NIH that she can. “Friends and family have given more than I could have ever expected, and I’m so grateful for that, now it’s my job to do the race,” McKeithen said. She’s particularly looking forward to the opportunity to meet families from The Children’s Inn at the pre-race fundraising dinner the night before. She and a friend will head up to the dinner honoring fundraisers to see hands-on the people that she’s been raising money to help. That, and friends and family there to cheer her on, are two of the most exciting things about the upcoming challenge.
McKeithen doesn’t run with a watch, and doesn’t want the distraction of her phone for the race, so she plans to use the on-course clocks to make sure she doesn’t go out to fast and to help regulate her pace. She’s still hoping for a sub-four hour race, but overall, “finishing and feel good are the two most important things to me,” McKeithan said.