Who to Watch at the Olympic Trials: Keely Maguire

Keely Maguire warming-up before the race of her life,
Keely Maguire warming-up before the race of her life,

It was a rare moment during our trip to Jacksonville that I found myself relaxed and chatting about kids with two other moms. All three of us have five year olds so we were sharing funny anecdotes and commiserating as moms do. We could have been at the grocery store, swimming lessons, or a piano recital. But we weren’t. One of those moms was less than 24 hours away from nailing an Olympic Trials Qualifier in her first attempt. One of those moms is Keely Maguire.

It was only five months earlier, in August of 2015, after struggling with a seemingly endless string of injuries after graduating from college, Keely contemplated giving up the sport of running. With some cajoling from her college coach, Robert Hoppler who never stopped believing in her, Keely decided she’d give it one last shot: qualify for the Olympic Marathon Trials in a half in January or BUST!

So with the support of her coach and her family, she traveled to Jacksonville to give it a shot.

Keely traveled to Florida from New Hampshire for the singular purpose of attempting an OTQ. She originally planned to race the half in Houston on the last day of the qualifying window, but when she heard about Jacksonville, which was scheduled two weeks earlier, she knew she had to be there. Besides the world class pacers and the incredible support for up-and-comers like Keely, being two weeks before Houston made Jacksonville an opportunity not to be missed: it conceivably gave her two chances to qualify instead of one. With her short training cycle and not much to base her faith in, she felt like she needed as many chances as she could get.

Going into Jacksonville I had some good workouts and had just run well at Club Cross Nationals and that was indicating to me that it was a possibility that I might actually be able to make the standard. Honestly, if I made it at Jacksonville I thought I would just squeak under. I knew I’d have to have a good day to make it.

One of the first things Keely did after qualifying for the Trials was to call her coach.
One of the first things Keely did after qualifying for the Trials was to call her coach.

Not only did she not need a second chance, but Keely crushed the standard by over a minute and was the first new Olympic Trials Qualifier to finish, crossing the line in 1:13:48, on the heels of the likes of Stephanie Dinius, Esther Atkins, and Laurie Knowles.

 I didn’t realize I’d feel that good. The pace group helped though. Brianne was amazing, right on the dot. I didn’t have to think. I felt good and wanted to leave earlier but was like ‘don’t do it you could blow up.’ But at mile 9 I asked her if we were under and by how much she said 20 seconds and at that moment I decided I probably had it and would see what more I could do so I left the pace group.

What’s really impressive about Keely is that she manages to train and race at such a high level while working full time and being a single mom to her kindergartner, Jace.

My life is much like everyone else’s. We all have different things that we need to balance. I’m no different in that regard, its just a balance act and also accepting that everything won’t always go according to plan. Some days it just doesn’t happen or I settle for a shorter run or another treadmill run. I run about 70 miles a week. Generally my run is either in the morning or evening depending on the day. Sometimes I’ll double and try to sneak in both times. I do have an amazing support group. I wouldn’t be able to do what I am without my mother, stepdad, sister and friends, they are continually helping me out. For example, so I do not have to do the really long efforts on the treadmill on Sundays, my mom or sister have been watching my son.

And her biggest fan? No, it’s not her coach, Robert Hoppler, who has been instrumental to her success. Her biggest fan is her son, Jace.

I’ve been blessed with Jace. He is really easy going and flexible for a kid. It’s fine if he is always going here or there. He has essentially been around it since he was born so he doesn’t know anything different. He just kind of expects me to be running or that it’s part of the day. Hopefully it’ll be a positive impact for him in some way because I do feel bad that it does take away from him somewhat. But it will hopefully teach him about having goals, being driven, and leading an active lifestyle. Best quote though, I came back from Jacksonville and he asked if I won. I told him I did really well and was fourth. He said  “You should’ve ran faster then you would’ve been first. That’s all you had to do” Technically he is right, but some concepts definitely go above his head, like me being ecstatic for a time. He is at the age where everything is still a competition.

Another random fun moment where Keely and our paths collided in Jacksonville is when we picker her and fellow Trials qualifier Karen Roa up in our van on the way back to the hotel from the race!
Another random fun moment where our paths collided with Keely in Jacksonville is when we picked her and fellow Trials qualifier Karen Roa up in our van on the way back to the hotel from the race!

At twenty-five, the Trials will be Keely’s first full marathon, but she seems pretty at ease about that, looking to bask in the experience of it all rather than focusing on a goal time.  And with her love of running renewed after her recent successes in training and racing, she’s looking at this Trials as a preview of the next!

Well, running 26.2 miles will be an experience and that’s exactly how I am going into the Trials. I am just happy and feel so fortunate to even be at a venue with this caliber of athletes. My training wasn’t quite geared towards the marathon as I had to build up and be able to just handle a steady 70 miles a week. Therefore, we haven’t increased my miles that much; any increase was really done with more pool running. Obviously, my miles went up a little because we did up my long run for a couple weeks. I’m trying to think of this too as finally having the best 5 months of training I’ve been able to hold down since college and arguably ever. Hopefully, i’ll be able to see what the marathon trials is all about this time around and maybe if I keep at it and can qualify in four more years is when I can try to be competitive. 

In four years, you can bet Keely will still be running. Her coach, Robert Hoppler, has said to her often, “You’d run even if there wasn’t a sport of running.” Running is an inextricable part of who she is. It’s what she does, and it has to be, to push on past all the obstacles thrown her way and achieve what she has so far.

I think what is important is putting it all into perspective and to be doing it ultimately because its what you want. I found much more satisfaction in running the moment I decided to do it for no other reason than for myself. Running can be what you want it to be. In the end its really my therapy and structure. Without it I kind of fall apart. 

We’re so happy Keely decided to give competitive running another shot and she’ll be on our cheering list on the 13th!

Salty Running boss and mother of 3 little ones with PRs of 3:10:15 (26.2), 1:25:59 (13.1) and 18:15 (5k). I love to write about running culture, mental training, and fitting in a serious running habit with the rest of a busy life.

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6 comments

  1. Salty: another excellent interview about another amazing woman/mother/runner. The trials should be amazing to watch with such a strong group of talented, hard-working, inspiring women. I especially like that so many of the OTQs are absolutely thrilled to be able to be at the event, even knowing they likely will not win.

  2. Good luck!!! So excited to see all these hard working women run their hearts out!
    I’m always impressed by these mom athletes that figure out a way to get their training in and excel at the sport.