Keira D’Amato sometimes still can’t believe this is all happening to her.
Earlier in the year she took down Deena Kastor’s 16-year-old American women’s marathon record. On Monday she smashed another long-standing record by another iconic runner at the Faxon Law New Haven 20K road race.
D’Amato, 37, of Midlothian, Va., won the 20K national championship in 1 hour, 4 minutes, 29 seconds, breaking the 1998 record of 1:05:11 set by four-time Olympian Colleen De Reuck. At the time, De Reuck set the world 20K record. The course has changed at New Haven since then.
Emily Sisson of Flagstaff, Ariz., pushed D’Amato the entire way and finished second in 1:04:35, also under the record.
“It was so hot and humid I wasn’t sure how the pace would go,” D’Amato said. “I’m so impressed with Emily Sisson. She is the toughest runner. I’ve seen her crush races in heat and humidity. She took it out like the weather wasn’t even an issue.
“I was like, ‘Well, if I want to win I guess I got to run that pace.’ She is a fighter and a tough racer and I can’t believe I pulled that one off to be honest.”
Conner Mantz of Provo, Utah, led the overall race from wire to wire, holding off three-time men’s champion Leonard Korir of Colorado Springs to win the men’s race in 59:08. Korir was second (59:13) and Sam Chelanga, also of Colorado Springs, third (59:15).
There was also a half marathon, won by Daniel Prospect of West Hartford (1:12:21) and Marie-Ange Brumelot of Shokan, N.Y., on the women’s side (1:16:32) and a 5K (Patrick Dooley of Darien won the men’s race in 15:45 and Alexa Ciccone of Cheshire the women’s in 18:36).
About 3,500 runners competed in the races, which included a kids race and a half marathon relay.
D’Amato took almost 10 years off from competitive running after graduating as an All-American from American University in 2006. She was injured, then started working full time and got married and had two children. She started up again and ran a 2:44 marathon in 2018 and has steadily improved since.
Monday she and Sisson went out hard trading the lead.
“I think I was feeling pretty good after four miles, but she was feeling better after Mile 8,” said Sisson, 30, who finished second at New Haven in 2016. “It was back and forth. Coming off the downhill my legs felt a bit heavy off that and that’s when she pulled away, around Mile 11.
“I was trying to reel her in but I didn’t have enough room.”
D’Amato had a similar race with Aliphine Tuliamuk at the 25K national championship in May, but that time, she let up and lost. Monday she kept that thought in her head as she dueled with Sisson.
“I let her go for a second and then I lost,” D’Amato said of Tuliamuk, who dropped out of New Haven last week due to an injury. “Today I just kept thinking about that, as soon as I let this pace go, I’m going to lose.”
Sisson checked her watch at Mile 8; D’Amato decided to go.
“I was like, ‘I can either fall off the back or put a move in and see what happens,’” D’Amato said. “So I put a move in and I could feel her hesitate a little bit so that gave me a lot of energy, like if I can just put in a couple more moves or put in a hard move, maybe I can take this.
“It’s exciting but it’s also terrifying to be in the front, especially with somebody like Emily right behind you. I was like, if I slow down at all she’s going to overtake me. It really kept me honest and I found more today than I even knew I had because of her, so I’m appreciative.”
D’Amato, whose marathon best is 2:19:12, will run at the Berlin Marathon Sept. 25.
Mantz had more company in the men’s lead pack. His plan was to hang around in the front then take the lead at 15K. He ended up leading the whole race except for a brief moment about halfway.
“I do like to do that in cross country but on the roads, it’s a different story,” said Mantz, a BYU graduate who won the NCAA cross country championships in 2020 and 2021.
Chelanga made a move around Mile 7 and Mantz and Geoffrey Kipchumba went with him.
“We ran like a 2:09 or 2:10 800 [meters] just in that half mile from 7 to 7 ½,” Mantz said. “It’s downhill but we were moving. Then we hit Mile 8 and the rest of the pack caught up.”
With a mile to go there were still five runners in the lead pack – Mantz, Korir, Chelanga, Shadrack Kipchirchir (who finished fourth) and Biya Sambassa (fifth).
Mantz, who is gearing up to run the Chicago Marathon in October, thought the finish line was closer and kicked about 400 meters early.
“I was kind of worried about the kick of Biya and Shadrack,” Mantz said. “Leonard and Sam, I feel like I’ve raced them enough that I can gauge my kick with them. But I was hoping they would make their move first and I could kind of go late.”
Korir, who outkicked Chelanga (2016) and Haron Lagat in 2018 to win, and won again in 2019, didn’t have it Monday.
“Around 1,000 meters [Mantz started to pull away],” Korir said. “I thought I had him but he had another gear. So when he moved, I tried to follow him but he was far away and then he slowed a little bit but then the finish line was there.”
Lori Riley can be reached at email@example.com.