McKeen runs 100 miles


Facchino Photography

Heidi McKeen’s time-consuming hobby is running impressively long distances such as ultramarathons.

26.2 is an important number in running – for many, it is not only the number of miles in a marathon but also the distance they wish to someday complete.

However, for the daring few, 26.2 miles is not the end goal but just a checkpoint on a much, much longer run.

Heidi McKeen, a Biology teacher at GBHS, is one of those few who runs ultramarathons, races that go beyond 26.2 miles.

As most great stories go, her love for running and marathons have humble beginnings.

“I started running when I was twenty… in college,” McKeen said. “I ran my first marathon because my college roommate had leukemia and so I did a leukemia and lymphoma team and training program. I wanted to feel like I could do something for my roommate and have a positive impact.”  Immediately after the race, McKeen said that she thought this would be her only marathon.

“When I crossed the finish line I said okay, I’m never doing it again,” McKeen said. “It was super hard, and I was glad I did it, but (I thought) never again.”

However, it didn’t take long for her to change her mind.

“A week later, when I wasn’t so sore anymore, I was like ‘Oh man, that was amazing, of course I’m doing it again,’” McKeen said. “I haven’t stopped since.”

As McKeen’s love for running grew over the years, so too did her training regimen. After she started teaching, got married and had a son, she had to find balance.

“Weekdays I get up at 3:30 in the morning… and get going,” McKeen said. “I have a couple of running friends that will meet me for a run as early as 4 in the morning, so we put our running shoes and our headlamps on and we hit the trails early… so I can be home before anyone in the house is awake. (That way) I have time to have breakfast with my son and get him ready for preschool and get myself ready for work.”

I usually do a long run on the weekends, it might be a 5 or 6 hour time commitment, but if I can start at 5 in the morning nobody in the house is gonna be awake until 8 anyways,

— Heidi McKeen

On weekends, the routine is similar; although she is off of school, her other two roles of being a mother and a runner keep her busy.

“I usually do a long run on the weekends,” McKeen said. “It might be a 5 or 6 hour time commitment, but if I can start at 5 in the morning nobody in the house is gonna be awake until 8 anyways, so if I’m only gone for a few hours, it minimizes the impact on my family.”

McKeen says that while she sometimes regrets not spending more time with her family, she is lucky to be gifted with a family who understands her love of running.

“It’s definitely a struggle (to spend so much time away) but my husband is very supportive and my parents, even though I’m almost 40, still come to all of my races,” McKeen said.

After all, it isn’t too difficult to support someone who has reached incredible success in an area that they are not professional in, as McKeen has done.

Even though she only started running once she was in college, she literally hit the ground running.

“I first started out running marathons and I did that for a number of years,” McKeen said. “I became very involved in training for that and I ran the Boston Marathon in 2003 and then decided ‘Okay, what else can you do’ so I started running ultramarathons; distances greater than 26.2 miles.”

That led her to her latest feat: running the Rio Del Laigo 100 Mile Endurance Run.

I finished in 23 hours and 21 minutes and was the third female to finish; for my first race, a really good result.

— Heidi McKeen

“November 3 (at the Rio Del Laigo run) I ran my first 100 mile race, and I trained for that a really long time,” McKeen said. “I finished in 23 hours and 21 minutes and was the third female to finish; for my first race, a really good result. It feels good to put in the hard work and then have a good result to come with it.”

Now that she has “finishing a 100 mile run” in her repertoire, McKeen is considering her options for her next move.

“My husband often asks me (if I could) run a marathon super-fast, but I don’t know because it’s a totally different type of training,” McKeen said. “You’re preparing to be out there for at least eight hours (with ultramarathons), whereas people are running marathons in 2 hours.

McKeen says that she can always aim for a personal best.

“I’m not that fast, but I would like to try and do a marathon again,” McKeen said. “I can push myself harder than I probably ever realized I could after doing this hundred miles. I could try to qualify for Boston or at least get a personal best on a marathon time.”

However, whatever she chooses to do, she will be rooted on by not only her family, but also her students.

“I respect… that even though she’s a teacher and has to grade so many papers and has a kid at home, she still finds time to do what she loves,” Gabrielle Espinoza, a senior, said.