By Michelle Eberhart (USMA West Point, Public Affairs)February 11, 2016
WEST POINT, N.Y. (Feb. 11, 2016) -- Capt. Kelly Calway, a Department of Physical Education instructor at The United States Military Academy at West Point, will race in the Olympic Marathon Trials in Los Angeles on Feb 13.
When Calway was eight years old, she ran her first race. Within seconds of the start, she was pushed down to the ground. She picked herself up and finished the trot, coming in second or third, she can't remember. All she remembers is that it wasn't first. Since that moment, Calway has told herself that would never happen again. She wanted to be first.
Fast forward 23 years and Calway is preparing for the Olympic Marathon Trials and the avid runner has yet to be pushed down again.
Calway began running 10K's with her mother. She competed in the AAU Junior Olympics and eventually received a scholarship to run track and cross country at North Carolina State where she was enrolled in ROTC.
After college, she competed in the All-Army Sports Program and was eventually accepted to compete in the Army World Class Athlete Program (WCAP).
Now, she is a Combatives instructor, a wife, a mother of two, an Officer Representative of the Army West Point Track and Field team and still manages to thrive as a competitive athlete.
Falling during her first race has certainly not been the only obstacle Calway has overcome. The road to success has been a long one, literally. After graduating from college, Calway signed up for her first marathon. As a Division I athlete, Calway ran cross country and the 800- and 1,500-meter races but the marathon was a feat Calway had yet to conquer.
"I was so ill-prepared," Calway said of her first encounter with 26.1 miles. "I just signed up for it and decided to run it. I mean, I have always been running, but I didn't train like a marathon, I didn't respect the distance. I didn't even drink enough water."
After hitting the wall on mile 18, Calway struggled but finally finished the race. Shortly after, she found out she was pregnant with her oldest daughter, Hazel, who is now eight years old. Calway didn't let pregnancy get in the way as she trained throughout and decided to run another marathon just two months after giving birth.
"It was so painful," Calway said. "So I guess I'm just a glutton for punishment. Since then, they've gotten progressively better, well, I've gotten smarter."
Calway had the opportunity to compete with the All-Army Sports Program and WCAP where she ran the 10-miler, cross country and the marathon. In 2012, she competed at the Olympic Trials for the first time with a personal-best time of 2:37.
"I got to compete for the Army and basically be a professional athlete for two years," Calway said. "I could have gone back to WCAP because I had the times and qualified but I wanted to continue to progress as an officer."
In order to do that, Calway went to Graduate School in California where she earned her Master's Degree in Kinesiology. She planned everything out from there. She deployed to Kuwait and upon returning, she became pregnant with her second daughter, Hattie, while stationed at Fort Carson, Colorado.
"I ran the whole time I was pregnant until the day I had her," Calway said. "I waited two weeks after she was born and then built back up from there." That's because Calway knew she wanted to run the 2016 Olympic Marathon Trials. She also knew she wanted to come to West Point to teach. "My mom taught in DPE when I was a little kid," Calway said. "I lived on the same street that I live on now."
Interestingly enough, her husband and father are both West Point graduates and her husband is currently an Economics professor in the SOSH department. "We've just been West Point through and through my whole life," Calway said. "Both my parents are on the wall in Arvin, my mom is on the faculty wall and my dad is on Coach K's wall as a basketball player."
Despite the easiness of returning to her childhood residence, Calway says that training at West Point has been her most difficult obstacle yet. "I've done 22-mile runs down 293 and back and my face is frozen," Calway said. "My husband will meet me out there; my girls bring me my water, a goo and a change of gloves because my hands get so cold."
Not to mention that Calway is generally training on her own as compared to WCAP when she had high-caliber training partners and no other full-time job. However, Calway sees this as an advantage. "I feel like I'm getting mentally tougher than a lot of the people I'm going to be racing against," Calway said. "Whatever conditions happen to be on race day, I'm prepared for it."
She's also confident enough to say this may be the best prepared she's ever been. "If not the best than a close second," Calway said. "It's tough to beat training at WCAP when that's your whole job. "I have a great coach who I've been working with for years and she knows me and we've worked really well together," Calway continued. "I've gotten all the runs in that I need to and I'm just excited to race."
Calway also has the assistance of the Army West Point Track and Field team to help her out. "The Cadets are so young and excited and motivated. The track team is fast," Calway said. "They're here to be future leaders, they all have amazing stories and things they've overcome, and you know the things that they've been through and their desires, they just make me think a little different."
"So for this marathon I'm motivated by these Cadets," Calway continued. "It's just so awesome to be able to work here and be able to represent these future leaders of the Army from the U.S. Military Academy. Every day, I hear another story or have another encounter with a Cadet that just inspires me."
Calway is the only female runner representing the Army in the Olympic Marathon Trials. Her mother, father and sister will be at the race to cheer her on while her husband and daughters track it real time from home.
Q & A with Kelly Calway:
What's your average mile pace? I'm shooting for a 5:55.
What kind of shoes do you run in? Brooks, I like their motto: 'Run Happy.'
How many pairs of running shoes do you go through during training? The rule is about 300 miles for the lifespan of a running shoe, so if I run 100 miles a week, that's just 3 weeks. Probably 16 pairs of running shoes, not including 'fast shoes' for track workouts, so probably 18-20 pairs of shoes.
What will you be eating before your race? Oatmeal with peanut butter in it and if I can handle it I'll put a little honey in just so I can get as many carbs as I can, and then I always have coffee before I race. After? I love eggs, so I will be looking for anything with eggs and probably a beer.
Any supplements? Just iron pills because I have low iron.
Interesting fact? I'm a vegetarian, since I was 14. My daughter Hazel is too.
Any advice you'd give to a Cadet who'd like to train for a marathon? Set those goals and focus on speed. Race yourself into shape and build, be smart about building those miles, set those goals and set interim goals for races along the way.