Marathon Medalists: EHS nutrition professor and graduate student win OKC Memorial Marathon
Wednesday, November 30, 2022
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The arrival fallacy asserts that reaching your goal does not bring lasting happiness.
For McKale Montgomery and Bryant Keirns, who won the women’s and men’s divisions of the 2022 Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon, happiness lies in the journey itself.
On April 24, more than 20,000 participants took part in the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon to honor those who were affected by the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.
Strong work ethic and teamwork helped drive the two Cowboy standouts to victory in the 26.2-mile race. Both are part of Oklahoma State University’s Department of Nutritional Sciences and have been training together for over two years.
Dr. Montgomery is an assistant professor in the College of Education and Human Sciences. While she was determined to win the “Run to Remember,” she also had another expectation. Although she won the annual marathon previously, Montgomery pushed herself to not only place first in her division, but to also break the female course record, which she did with a time of 02:41:07.
“I won this marathon in 2013 as well, when I was a graduate student here,” Montgomery said. “That was maybe only my second or third marathon, so I had it in my head that I wanted to win again this year. I also wanted to beat the course record. So, training for that was just knowing what that course record was and trying to go faster than that during my workouts.”
Each year before the race, a three-minute moment of silence is held to acknowledge the 168 lives that were lost in the Oklahoma City bombing. Montgomery was in the fourth grade when the OKC bombing occurred. She distinctly remembers watching the news and realizing the traumatic weight of what was unfolding on screen.
“It’s neat that they’ve stayed so true to their mission of honoring these victims and their families, and yet have been able to grow it into such a big thing,” Montgomery said.
Winning this special race punctuated the 33rd marathon in Montgomery’s ongoing running career. While her preparation for each race varies, one thing remains the same: she’s always on to the next thing.
“I could just run every single day, and a lot of people do,” Montgomery said. “But having a race in mind gives you something to target. Just like having a publication or a grant to submit. Something else to look at, then it’s on to the next one.”
Montgomery keeps that mindset as she balances the different responsibilities in her life. Dividing her time between training, researching and being a mother of one keeps her moving but allows her to shift gears and rest, though her definition of rest is more like crop rotation than down time.
“You’re never done,” Montgomery said. “I do cancer research and I just got funding for an Alzheimer’s disease study. We’re probably not going to cure cancer, right? So, I’m never going to be done with my job. It’s kind of nice to have that balance between running, research and caring for my daughter because when else would I stop?”
However, it isn’t accomplishing those goals that make the journey worthwhile for her. As she prepares for qualifying for the Olympic trials, she is pushing herself to enjoy the process rather than focusing on the outcome.
“What I’m really working on right now is not just setting goals but remembering to enjoy the process,” Montgomery said. “Because whether I get funded for this grant or qualify for the Olympic trials, it won’t be the end.”
Learning to enjoy the process becomes easier with company. Keirns and Montgomery have been training partners for over two years now. Montgomery was confident in Keirns’ ability to win the OKC Memorial Marathon.
“I knew it could happen,” Montgomery said. “I asked him, ‘Why don’t we both try to win Oklahoma City?’ And I think he just had never even had it in his mind.”
Keirns crossed the finish line at 02:24:51 — more than seven minutes ahead of the next finisher.
Keirns is entering his sixth year as a doctoral student in nutritional sciences after earning his master’s in the same field. He considers the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon to be one of his ‘highlight races’ because it was his first win and his seventh marathon. The training was an adjustment for him as he prepared for the event.
“I’ve been trying to slowly increase my mileage,” Keirns said. “That was really the focus going into Oklahoma City. You’re doing a lot harder workouts and faster paces, but thinking long-term, I knew I needed to put in some more mileage. I ended up getting to about 80 or 85 miles for most weeks.”
Staying consistent with his training is what he believes will take his running career to the next level.
“You’ll overestimate what you can do in the short-term and underestimate in the long term,” Keirns said. “I think the marathon really kind of highlights that because it takes a long time to get your body strong enough to really take time off. It’s one of those things where every week stacks up and then, after a while, you’re running a lot faster than you really ever thought you would.”
Although it’s Keirns’ offseason, he still runs with Montgomery each day as she prepares for her Olympic qualifiers. The two start their morning off at 5 a.m. with the “tour of Stillwater,” which can get up to 20 miles, depending on how they complete it.
“If I can handle her workouts with whatever mileage I am doing on my own during times like this, I just like to help because she has helped me quite a bit over the years,” Keirns said.
The duo’s dedication doesn’t go unnoticed. Cameron Cardona is a doctorate student studying iron metabolism in OSU’s Department of Nutritional Sciences. She works as Montgomery’s lab assistant.
“Seeing them win the marathon has been awesome,” Cardona said. “It’s great to see people you work with be successful and fulfilled in other parts of their lives. They are both very hardworking and inspiring individuals, so I know the wins are well-deserved.”
While Montgomery and Keirns reached their goals of winning the OKC marathon, they continue to find inspiration in every stride.
“Winning a marathon, that was the goal, I wanted to win,” Montgomery said. “Some people think that that’s the key to happiness. It’s not. It’s over and it’s done, people forget. What you have to be in love with is the process.”
Story By: Bailey Sisk | ASPIRE Magazine
Photos By: Chris Barnes and Provided