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  • Writer's pictureJack Mullaney

Marty Hehir, Keira D'Amato, and the Two Trains Theory

A few weeks ago, Marty Hehir won The Marathon Project in Chandler, Arizona, running 2:08:59 to beat a competitive men's field.

In that same race, Keira D'Amato set an 11 minute PR of 2:22:56 to finish second in the women's race.

Hehir is a fourth year medical student at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. He's also a father of two.

D'Amato is a full-time realtor in Northern Virginia. She's also a mother of two.

Both runners follow what author Neil Strauss calls the Two Trains Theory.

Think of running as one train. For runners like Hehir and D'Amato, they've got that train going pretty fast. In fact, all professional runners have the running train rolling. But for a lot of them, that's their only train.

That's a problem when the train slows down or comes to a crashing halt, like when an athlete gets injured, goes through a slump, or ultimately decides to retire. It leaves the runner stranded on the platform, watching other trains speed by.

This is why Strauss recommends starting a second train while the first train is still moving. Two things ultimately happen.

First, when the first train (i.e. running) slows down or goes through a rough patch, attention can shift to the second train (in the case of Hehir and D'Amato, medical school or real estate). It enables a Two Trainer to hedge their self-esteem and enjoyment in a way, as their efforts and feelings of self-worth aren't tied up in a single train.

The second thing that happens is that when the first train ultimately stops (at the end of a running career), the second train is already going as fast, or perhaps faster, than the first was. It creates a more seamless transition out of professional sport, something long seen as a challenge for athletes.

With that said, while I don't know Hehir or D'Amato personally, my guess is that they are better runners not in spite of their second train, but because of it.


At the collegiate level, the term "Student-Athlete" implies two trains. As coaches, we'd be right to support our runners with both.

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