Behind the Eightball with Kelly Calway
Busy may be better for Calway’s best marathon
by The Trailer
MANITOU SPRINGS, Colo. – “Eight. This will be my eighth marathon,” says Kelly Calway, Captain, U.S. Army, about Sunday’s California International Marathon.
And saying “eight,” she can’t help but get all nostalgic about her first, when everything went wrong.
You know how it is: You run 3:10 because you
- Decided two weeks before,
- And then didn’t train, even if you could.
And on race day you
- Drank no water,
- Ate no gels,
- Went out waaaaaay too fast because you were a mid-D girl at N.C. State (“Six-minute pace feels so easy!” and then, “WHY DO I FEEL LIKE DEATH?”),
- And were pregnant (surprise!), as Calway would find out later.
And number eight makes Calway all smiley because she remembers number seven, the 2012 Olympic team trials marathon in January, when everything went right: “It was probably my very first race that I can look back on where I can say that,” she says. She finished 25th in a PR 2:37:10.
But for Calways’s number eight, when she returns to CIM in Sacramento on December 2 (the site of her fifth, her trials qualifier in 2010), everything is different.
Her perfect race in January 2012 was built in the aquarium of the Army’s World Class Athlete Program (WCAP). Her job then was to make the Olympic team, and secondarily, to be a happy, fast-footed Face of the Army. (Fun fact: Walk into your local Army recruiting office and somewhere amid the clutter of motivational posters you’ll find a giant cardboard cutout of Calway.) But when the Olympic trials in June came and went, she, along with the rest of the WCAP, slipped back into normal duty.
It would be nice if Calway, a former English major, was, say, stationed at the base library, off her feet and surrounded by whispers and turning pages. But that is not Kelly Calway, and so on October 1 she assumed command of a headquarters company, which makes her daily responsible for 180 soldiers and, by extension, all their dependents (take that number and triple it).
It’s more than a full time job. And it doesn’t leave a lot of time for running.
“It takes a lot for me to escape for a run when my daughter says, ‘You’re only mommy on the weekends.’ That breaks my heart,” Calway says. “But I have to make sure I take that time for myself and get out there and run because that’s what keeps me sane.”
There are days, she says—the really long ones, the really tough ones—when she wonders why she doesn’t drop everything and just run full time. Leave the Army behind. Work at a running shop. “I wrestle with that a lot, to be honest,” she says. “But the Army’s given me a lot, and I feel that I have a duty in service to my country. I owe some time in the regular Army again after being in the WCAP.
“I was representing soldiers. Now I want to command soldiers.”
After the spring, when she set a 33:11.41 best for 10,000m at Payton Jordan, Calway tried to adjust to both soldiering and running. But training a fraction of the time you once had isn’t the same. (And you know how it is, the confidence that comes from consistency.) Calway approached the starting line of the Army Ten-Miler in October with fear and trembling.
And she hammered it.
It was Calway’s result, a PR 56:39 for 4th, that made her reconsider a fall marathon, something that until that point was just a fantastical idea. So she refocused, and on Sunday she races magic number eight.
No way should you be able to run better on less time than you had before. But this is Calway’s secret: “When I have myself or just running to focus on I seem to not get it done like I can when I have a lot of things going on,” she says.
So on Sunday on the starting line in Folsom Calway’s life has never been busier: her headquarters company, her company’s families, her family (husband and daughter). Her puppy. And on Sunday she hopes to perform better than she ever has.
The busier Calway gets, the better she runs. It should be a good race.
Why does Kelly Calway’s story look like a Lululemon ad? She’s a runner-slash-model (and not the other way around): “They asked me two days after I took command, so I had to ask my boss if I could go do a photo shoot—one of the very first things I had to ask him to do. It was the most awkward moment of my life,” she says. You can cheer for her on Twitter and wonder if she will ever update her blog.