By MIKE IBANEZ
Roughly 26 miles separate the northeast Lewisville home of Keith Pierce and the Dallas Marathon finish line. The urban trek in the literal distance of a marathon. It’s also the metaphorical distance of Pierce’s return to competitive distance running.
Pierce, a two-year resident of Lewisville, emerged from a five-year competition hiatus to win the BMW Dallas Marathon last weekend. His time of 2 hours, 29 minutes, 27 seconds was more than a minute faster than second-place finisher Logan Sherman of Dallas.
The finish is even more impressive considering Pierce’s decision in 2011 to scale back his distance running training after becoming the father of triplets. With his children enrolled in kindergarten at Valley Ridge Elementary this August, he determined it was time to make a comeback, and chose the Dallas event as his homecoming.
“I’ve run the Dallas Marathon four times and was competitive in my three previous efforts,” said Pierce, who is a three-time winner of Fort Worth’s Cowtown Marathon. “I was always on the cusp of getting back to that distance and made the decision to get in marathon shape and get competitive again.”
On a perfect day for distance running, Pierce employed his trademark strategy of setting a quick early pace. It almost cost him, however, as he tired early — less than halfway through the 26.2-mile distance.
By that time, he was already three minutes ahead of his closest competitors. The gap closed when he reached the portion of the course circling White Rock Lake.
“I had in my mind that I was capable of running 2:25 and I maintained that pace through the first half,” Pierce said. “But I slowed down considerably at the lake where there is a combination of hills and wind, and you’re kind of alone without a lot of people cheering you on.”
Pierce credited his family for supporting his return to competitive distance running. The 36-year-old taught and coached track and cross country at various stops in Texas before settling into his current role as an assistant coach at Denton Ryan High School.
Lewisville is his wife Stephanie’s hometown, and is still home to his in-laws.
“It’s nice to be here where family and so many familiar people are,” Pierce said on Monday during his parent conference period at Ryan. ”At one point I was pretty gung-ho. Now it’s more about enjoying our running community, training and going out to experience the enjoyment of competing.”
Winning despite not meeting his time goal could mean that Pierce is peaking going into his next race — the Boston Marathon in mid-April. That one is more than 1,700 miles from Lewisville, but seems much closer on the strength of his win in Dallas.