Keyes embraces hometown race

After catching the trail running bug 10 years ago, Placer grad sets sights on sixth WS 100 finish
By: Todd Mordhorst, Journal Sports Editor
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Challenge Matt Keyes to a long footrace in December and you might have a chance. This time of year he’s tough to keep up with on the trail.

The Auburn runner will be chasing down his sixth finish at the Western States Endurance Run June 23. The 38-year-old Keyes is an Auburn native, but he had no interest in running at Placer High, where he played soccer for the Hillmen. But over the past six years the 100-mile footrace from Squaw Valley to Auburn has become a beloved tradition each June.

“Western States gives me a goal to work toward each year,” Keyes said. “It’s my hometown race, and I kind of need a scary challenge to motivate me to go out and train on those cold, wet days.”

Keyes’ running career began behind a stroller. With some prodding from his wife Kim, he started hitting the road when his son Aidan was born in 2000. Fellow Western States veteran Aaron Kopp challenged him to run a marathon with him in 2002. Keyes finished the marathon and never looked back, diving into trail running, depending on the season.

Keyes serves as the coaching coordinator for the Auburn Youth Soccer Club and has coached soccer teams each fall for the past decade. Those commitments keep him from running regularly for the latter half of the year.

“Basically after Western States until November, I train very little,” Keyes said. “In December I have to start building back up.”

While Keyes’ training regimen might be unorthodox, it’s tough to argue with the results. He’s improved on his previous best time at every Western States. In 2011 he finished in an impressive 21 hours, 41 minutes, which was 65th overall and the top finish among more than a dozen Auburn-area runners.

Keyes credits 25-time Western States finisher and five-time champion Tim Twietmeyer for passing along a lot of good advice when Keyes was getting started in ultras. Veteran runner Bob Dickinson, who will be gunning for a seventh finisher’s buckle this year, has also been an invaluable resource.

Keyes got into this year’s race when an anonymous donor gave him a raffle ticket that was selected. He is hoping to drop his time again, which would be a major accomplishment considering last year’s “snow course” led to much faster times than normal.

Fast times and belt buckles aren’t the focus for Keyes, who works as a network engineer contractor. He said the highlight of race day is seeing his three kids Aidee, 15, Aidan, 12, and Alex, 8. Their grandparents will bring them to Foresthill for a pow-wow at the 62-mile mark Saturday afternoon. If everything goes right after the sun goes down, Keyes will make a triumphant lap around the Placer High track with his kids in tow.

“At Foresthill I get to say goodnight and then in the morning we run the last lap together,” Keyes said. “We all make sacrifices for me to do this so it’s a special thing.”