Allie Kieffer made quite a first impression on the Buffalo running scene earlier this month.
Kieffer, who moved to Buffalo early in the calendar year, took part at the Subaru 4 Mile Chase on July 14. She finished second in a time of 20 minutes, 36 seconds - breaking the American record for the race and earning an extra $500 in the process.
"It's the only run I've done this year in Western New York," the 29-year-old Kieffer said afterwards.
Her performance created a great deal of conversation among local runners. How did an athlete who is that fast drop into our midst? It's a story that moves across most of the country, and includes an obscure world record along the way.
Kieffer grew up in West Islip, Long Island, where she was always fast and as a child was the youngest member of the area's track club. Then it was on to middle school, where she was part of the soccer team.
"I was really good, because I was around the ball a lot," Kieffer said. "I didn't have great ball skills. I decided in seventh grade I was going to run instead. I joined the cross country team to be with my older sister."
From there the little sister showed promise, joining the varsity in eighth grade. Kieffer kept at it in high school.
"I did well my freshman year, making the states in cross country," she said. "I got an appendicitis as a sophomore and missed most of the cross country season. But I made states in track, and that took me to a whole other level.
"Mom hired a private trainer for me. I worked all spring and summer, and got up to running 55 miles per week. As a junior I made the Foot Locker national competition, and that was a huge step."
Kieffer earned a scholarship to Wake Forest but got hurt as a senior and wasn't allowed to be part of the high school track team. So she ran unattached around the East in all-comers meets before college.
"Wake Forest was a wonderful experience," she said. "I didn't run great - I went up and down, but Wake was wonderful. It was a great education and a great family."
Kieffer had some eligibility left after four years of college, and went off to one of the top programs in the country in Arizona State. She had a good cross country season but got hurt in track again. From there Kieffer tried her luck in Boulder, Col., at being a professional runner - hiring a professional coach and traveling to races. She was good enough to qualify for the Olympic Trials of 2012 in the 10,000 meters, but got hurt ... again.
"It was always that I had stress fractures - the same motion over and over," she said. "You are riding the edge of either being injured or having amazing performances at that level. I stayed a year in Boulder, but wasn't running well at the end and ran out of money."
Kieffer headed back to New York City to find a real job, and decided to do some coaching in order to make friends. One of them was a 2:39 marathoner, and she had to get in shape just to keep up. From there Kieffer decided to try going "all in" in her running again. She ran some races, earned some money and in 2016 set a world record in the marathon - the indoor marathon, that is, which is rarely staged. Kieffer ran 211 laps in 2 hours, 44 minutes and 44 seconds, breaking the record by nine minutes.
With a little cash in the bank account, Kieffer went on a nice vacation that didn't include running. Then when her boyfriend took a job at the Jacobs Institute in Buffalo, she came along and resumed her training. If people here were surprised to have a ex-pro runner in their midst, imagine what Kieffer's friends in other parts of the country thought about her move to Western New York - which isn't exactly Boulder when it comes to serving as a home base for top-flight runners.
"They said, 'Why Buffalo?' but Buffalo hasn't been bad at all," she said. "We had a mild winter, and I trained outside every day. The roads were cleared."
Kieffer has putting in the miles around town, and she's been running well as she's set some personal records. Kieffer has broken five minutes in the mile and 16 minutes in the 5K. She finished sixth in the Boilermaker in Utica just five days before the Chase in Buffalo.
"It does feel really good," she said about her performance in the Chase. "It's the end of the season for me, and I felt strong. ... I don't know if I've done something wrong, but I've been lifting weights. I've even made some friends around town."
Kieffer may do some more races in the area in the weeks ahead as part of a workout program. Her ultimate goal is to run marathons - the outdoor variety.
"I think it's the glamour of the achievement," she said about the allure of the 26-mile distance race. "There's the feeling of doing your best in a marathon. It surpasses the accomplishment of finishing a 10K or 5K.
"I'm gritty. I like to log a lot of miles."
* Lindsay Matthews Scholarship Race, 5K, 6909 Milestrip Road in Orchard Park, 10 a.m. on Sunday July 30, 667-3786.
* Jackhammer Trail Series #1, 3.2 miles, Chestnut Ridge Park in Orchard Park, 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday August 1.
* GBTC 1 Mile Track Race, Sparky Adams Field in Kenmore, 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday August 2.
* Daemen Athletics Summer Track Series #5, various, Sweet Home High School in Amherst, 6:15 p.m. on Thursday August 3.
* Christine Padasak Memorial Autism Awareness 5K, 393 North St. in Springville, 9:30 a.m. on Saturday August 5, 949-4072.
* Beast of Burden 100 miles/50 miles Ultra Marathon, 718 Market St. in Lockport, 10 a.m. on Saturday August 5.
* Raby Family Memorial 5K Run, Lewiston-Porter High School in Youngstown, 11 a.m. on Saturday August 5, 572-1197.
* St. Christopher Summerfest 5K, 2660 Niagara Falls Blvd. in Tonawanda, 6:30 p.m. on Saturday August 5, 216-4103.
* Run716, 15K, 840 Seneca St. in Buffalo, 7:30 a.m. on Sunday August 6, 863-4747.
* Stephen's Cross-Country Run, 6K, Long Point State Park in Bemus Point, 9 a.m. on Sunday August 6.
* Tofurky Trot, 5K, LaSalle Park in Buffalo, 9:30 a.m. on Sunday August 6, 348-8346.
* Latino Vets 5K, 254 Virginia St. in Buffalo, 12 noon on Sunday August 6, 207-1883.