Caitlin Keen of Fort Worth Texas, will be making her Marathon debut December 10th at the 2017 BMW Dallas Marathon, with the possibility of being the first local to take the title since 2001. With last year’s champion, Jordan Snyder of New York (winning with a time of 2:59:19 ), not returning this year, the 16 year drought could come under fire. Will we see a new queen from the Dallas area take the stand?
Last year Caitlin Keen ran the half marathon and placed 3rd with a respectable PR of 1:20:17, she feels like she is ready to bump up to twice the distance and chase the Olympic Trials B-Standard of 2:45 (6:17 mi/pace). However, if she comes up short Keen stated “If I don’t hit that goal on my first go around, I know I am going to be okay. I just want to enjoy racing at this distance.”
Keen has quite the successful NCAA XC/T&F background while competing 4 years at SMU, she was a part of the 2013 NCAA national qualifying team that beat Texas and Texas A and M on a nail biting tie breaker. Becoming one of only 6 other teams to qualify out of the South central region in the past 15+ years (Texas, Arkansas, Rice, Baylor, A&M). After graduating she became the Volunteer Assistant Cross Country coach at TCU, and plans to one day move up the ranks and become a collegiate coach.
I asked Keen if it was difficult being a coach and training at the same time and her response would beg to differ:
“My training has actually improved dramatically since joining the Horned Frogs this season. Being around a determined, gritty, mentally tough group of young talent has pushed me to be more competitive. I’ve been able to invest more in the sport, kind of like when I was in college myself, only this time I’m on the other side.”
With improvements in training atmosphere, Keen is also a member of Cowtown Elite, a group she helped start with other runners in the Fort Worth area. The group is sponsored by Fort Worth Running Company which helps outfit the team to their needs. It is not well known but racing post collegiately can be very difficult at times, it encompasses many lows and some highs. The journey can really test if you want it bad enough and if you are willing to make the amount of sacrifices necessary to be successful. I asked Caitlin about her post collegiate experience:
“Competing post collegiately has taught me a big lesson about what’s important. I’m doing everything because I genuinely want to be the best I can be. It was not an easy road to get to being happy while running again, but I’m glad I went through everything I did. You learn a lot about what you want the most when you get to do it on your own.”
Taking all that she’s learned over the years, Keen believes she is prepared to take this step up to the Marathon, and a victory would mean a lot for her and the city.
“It would be a dream. It would mean absolutely everything to me. I don’t want to win just for the glory of winning. I want to win for the entire city. After watching what Shalane did in New York and how she brought so much hope to an entire country, it would be a dream to be able to do that for my small part of the world.”
Keen specifically chose the BMW Dallas Marathon for her debut, choosing to stay close to home to be surrounded and pushed by friends and family.
“I wanted to stay close to home for my marathon debut. I wanted my family, friends, and all the people that have helped me get to this point to be well represented in a city that means so much to me. There are a lot of sentimental reasons as well. White Rock has seen my blood, sweat, and A LOT of tears over the last 7 years. Running at SMU, we ran every type of workout at the lake. I can go through every section and turn in my head which is a huge blessing come race day. I want to represent the city and bring home a performance that makes everyone proud. “
No matter what happens or who shows up on Sunday Keen is ready to perform and push for a fast time.
“Whoever shows up on race day, shows up. I’d love to have other women go to the well with me, it makes it a lot more fun. Having other people that you know worked just as hard as you to be there is what you live for as a competitor.”
Be sure to cheer on local Caitlin Keen as she represents Cowtown Elite.
Extra Q & A with Caitlin Keen:
Q: How hard is it to squeeze your runs in while also coaching and scheduling around team workouts?
“It’s not as hard as it might appear just because of how badly I want to keep going with my own running. I run most of my easy days with my team and every now and then I’ll jump in their workouts if I know they could use the extra help. When we travel I’ve had to move 1 or 2 days around to accommodate where we are, but most of time I’ll wake up around 5:30 am on the days they race to get in my run.”
Q: Tell us a little bit about your race last year (2016 Dallas Half).
“Last year I ran the half and while I was shooting for a 1:18 I ended up running a 1:20. 2016 was my first year back to getting a grip on running competitively again after college. I ran 5 half marathons and 2 10-milers from Feb 2016-2017. Dallas last year was a nice confidence boost because I still ran a PR, but I still didn’t get the result I wanted. I was holding on to first and was feeling strong, then in the last 2 miles I fell back pretty far and just wanted to finish.”
Q: Will you be fueling at all during the marathon?
“I’ve been doing a lot of practice with fueling and electrolytes for this race and I’ve seen major improvements. I’ll alternate between electrolytes packets and GU’s.”
Q: Tell us a little about what its like to once be an athlete and now move to the other side, in what ways has it helped you really connect with the athletes?
“I think as a coach I have experienced more pre-race nerves than I ever have as an athlete. Not being on the line is the hardest thing to grasp because you’re stuck standing on the side screaming at the top of your lungs and your heart could burst because of how proud you are of them. Having been in their shoes only a few years ago, I understand everything they’re going through in life on a day to day basis. School, family, running, a social life, it’s all hard to keep balanced and excel in all areas. I think understanding each and every individual athlete and making a point out of knowing how the other areas of their life are going allow you to trust each other.”
Q: What has been your peak weekly mileage leading up to the race?
“68 miles has been my peak weekly mileage. I take a rest day. I believe in it. A lot of people will tell you this isn’t high enough, but I’m trying to run marathons from the rest of my life and not just the short term. As time goes on my coach and I will increase the distance. I didn’t see any need in running 80-100 miles a week if I’ve only run 80 miles a week a couple times in my life. I don’t have as much time to rest and recovery with work, but I plan on working my way up to that kind of mileage eventually.”
Q: Why did you pick the BMW Dallas Marathon to be the venue for your marathon debut? Any sentimental reason?
“I wanted to stay close to home for my marathon debut. I wanted my family, friends, and all the people that have helped me get to this point to be well represented in a city that means so much to me. There are a lot of sentimental reasons as well. White Rock has seen my blood, sweat, and A LOT of tears over the last 7 years. Running at SMU we ran every type of workout at the lake. I can go through every section and turn in my head which is a huge blessing come race day. I want to represent the city and bring home a performance that makes everyone proud.”