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Keira D’Amato breaks American women’s record at Houston Marathon

Keira D'Amato finished the Houston Marathon in 2:19:12, breaking the American women's record. (Elizabeth Conley/Houston Chronicle via Associated Press)

The Houston Marathon and Half Marathon on Sunday belonged to two 30-something moms who set American records in the event.

Keira D’Amato shaved 24 seconds off Deena Kastor’s nearly 16-year-old American record in winning the marathon and Sara Hall shattered Molly Huddle’s four-year-old American record as she finished second in the half-marathon.

“Part of me just can’t believe this is happening,” D’Amato told Houston’s ABC affiliate after hugging her children, Tommy and Quin. “The other part is, like, ‘This is happening because you worked your tail off, Keira.’ Dreams come true, you know?”

Seven-year-old Tommy had cheered his mom with a sign that read, “Your 1# in my heart,” and told the ABC affiliate, “It’s kind of like Mom’s famous, and it’s cool to have a famous mother or father.” Quin held a sign that read, “GO MOMMY GO, GO MOMMY GO, GO MOMMY GO.”

D’Amato finished in 2 hours 19 minutes 12 seconds, beating Kastor’s 2:19:36 from her victory in the 2006 London Marathon. D’Amato returned to elite running in 2016 after taking time off for marriage, the arrival of her children and the establishment of a career in real estate.

Maggie Montoya, an Olympic hopeful who returned to running after she was present during the 2021 Boulder shooting, was second at 2:29:08 in her marathon debut. Roberta Groner was third in 2:32:02.

“I keep checking it to make sure that that’s what I ran,” D’Amato said. “I just can’t believe it. I’m really tired, but I’m really, really happy. … I just feel like dreams come true, you know?”

Hall, 38, ran a 1:07:15 in breaking Huddle’s record on the same Houston course on which her husband, Ryan Hall, set the American men’s half-marathon record 15 years ago. Kenya’s Vicoty Chepngeno won in 1:05:03, and South Africa’s Dominique Scott was third in 1:07:32.

For D’Amato, 37, the record came after a disappointing spring in which a flare-up from a chronic hamstring injury kept her from the U.S. Olympic trials in the marathon and the 10,000 meters.

“It’s like the world is going on without you. You’re just sitting on the sidelines, just wishing you were part of it,” she told Women’s Running in December. “I had to pull out of the trials when I thought I had a legit shot at making the [Olympic] team. I let myself be sad. … I gave myself 72 hours, and I was just sad and pissed. I mourned the loss of another goal.”

D’Amato, who lives in Richmond with her husband, Anthony, and children, began thinking about Paris 2024.

“You don’t want to marinate in the sadness. You just want to move forward,” she said. “I went all in with family stuff that I wouldn’t normally get the opportunity to do. On Sunday mornings, instead of me being out for three hours on long runs, we’d get up and make breakfast. I tried to cherish the small things I wouldn’t normally get to enjoy.”

But she arrived in Houston after a personal best of 2:22:56 in the Marathon Project in Arizona in December 2020, and she won her first national title in the U.S. Half Marathon Championships last month in 1:07:55. She had reason to be optimistic about perhaps breaking Kastor’s record.

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