FDSH graduate Jones raises $10,000 for inner city gym leading up to Boston Marathon

Submitted photo: Keegan Jones, a former Fort Dodge Dodger standout athlete, stands in front of the famous Johnny Kelley Boston Marathon statue.

BOSTON — Keegan Jones was seeking a physical challenge and emotional courage.

The 2013 Fort Dodge Senior High graduate found both by supporting a cause deeply personal to him.

Jones is now just a few days away from his first Boston Marathon experience. The former Dodger standout athlete will be participating in the 128th annual event on Monday, representing InnerCity Weightlifting as part of their charity team.

The road to this point has been long and winding. Jones is a United States Air Force veteran who moved to Massachusetts a few years ago and first became connected with ICW through a friend and fellow Iowan.

Jones’ story isn’t just about location and timing, though. The race — and his motivation behind it — is about both believing in the work of ICW and proving something to himself.

Submitted photo: Keegan Jones with his girlfriend, Kelsey, after a half-marathon in Massachusetts.

“This felt like a great opportunity to achieve a personal goal while being able to advocate for a cause that I truly believe makes our community stronger,” said Jones, who is currently a strategy consultant for Kaiser Permanente Healthcare in Boston. “It’s always a struggle post-military career to continue finding a mission and purpose, and ICW has allowed me to continue to serve in a new capacity.

“I completed the application process and (the) multiple interviews (that followed). I was lucky enough to be selected to represent them this year. It’s an honor to raise awareness and funds toward this mission and to represent this incredible team in the Boston Marathon.”

Jones isn’t a marathon runner by trade. While he’s always been talented in the track arena — Jones was a multi-time district champion and state qualifier at FDSH, and even joined the Air Force squad as a hurdler — competing in marathons wasn’t on his radar at all until a few years ago.

“Two of my Air Force buddies and I got into a heated argument about the difficulty of running a marathon, and whether any of us could run one and finish,” Jones recalled. “Each of us fervently believed that individually we could do it, but that the other two had no chance. Out of spite, pride, and competitive spirit, we all signed up (for the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington DC) to prove the others wrong. We were deeply humbled by the difficulty of the race.

“Immediately afterward, I said I would never, ever run another marathon, or even a half.”

Submitted photo: Fort Dodge Senior High graduate Keegan Jones after the Washington DC Marathon.

Little did Jones realize at the time that he had a deeply-seated need to continue down that path — both for his own future benefit and the good of an organization that would eventually hold a special place in his heart.

“Since leaving the Air Force, I’ve really struggled with finding motivation to continue to push myself physically and train without the (requirements) of being prepared for Air Force fitness tests and being deployment ready,” said Jones, who separated from active-duty Air Force in 2022 but is still enlisted in the inactive-ready reserves. “Signing up for a distance race is a great way to push yourself toward a goal. Last fall, my friend asked if I’d help her train for a half marathon that we completed in.

“Not long after that race, and feeling good about the shape I was in, I got the call from ICW and figured it was as good a time as any to get back into running seriously and tackle another marathon.”

InnerCity Weightlifting is based in the Boston area. When Jones moved to Boston, he quickly realized it was a place he could call home in more ways than one.

“A friend of mine, a West Des Moines Valley graduate, was a member of the gym and deeply involved with them,” Jones said. “He invited me for a workout and to learn more. Since then, I’ve continued to work out there and advocate for their mission: to amplify the voice and agency of people who have been most impacted by systemic racism and mass incarceration.

“ICW partners with program participants through careers in and beyond personal training. Individuals are elevated as experts in fitness and the social issues they’ve lived with or through. Growing up in Fort Dodge and serving in the Air Force, I’ve seen the significant impact of mass incarceration on communities across the United States in small towns and big cities. Mass incarceration too often targets underserved communities, and its effects further aggravate the historical and systemic issues plaguing those communities, resulting in actions that hurt more than it helps.”

Jones became an official Boston Marathon entrant after raising $10,000 on behalf of ICW through word of mouth and various social media platforms. The money goes through Charity Teams, a nonprofit collective that helps charities select runners to represent their groups and supports the identified runners with training and fundraising efforts.

Charity Teams has helped runners raise over $32 million since 2008.

“Despite the massive increase in the size and cost of America’s correctional system, the national recidivism rate remains staggeringly high, and there aren’t many support systems in place to minimize reincarceration,” Jones said. “Where the system has failed, ICW has succeeded in building trust, creating hope, and improving opportunities for economic mobility.

“As a nonprofit, ICW cultivates a supportive environment focused on community health and physical strength training. Many ICW student trainers, coaches, and staff have been impacted by incarceration, and ICW gyms serve as meeting points to sustainably foster community and supportive relationships. I’ve seen friends and family members impacted first-hand by the difficulties of trying to get your life back on track after a mistake, and there’s not enough support systems in place to ensure success.”

Jones knows Monday will be a challenge of both physical and mental endurance. He has been training for months to face the grueling 26.2-mile trek in proper shape with his body, his mind and his attitude.

“My first marathon, I relied solely on being a former athlete in my early 20s — and I paid dearly for my lack of preparation,” Jones admitted. “The 20th mile hit me like a brick wall, and it took every ounce of willpower I had to (cover the final six-plus miles and) cross the finish line.

“For this one, I took training much more seriously — both for my own personal well-being, and out of respect for the race and the charity I represent. I’ve spent every Saturday morning since last December doing long runs with other Charity Teams members and following their training plan. My girlfriend, Kelsey, has been helping me with the nutrition side of training. I’ve really tried to take care of my body as well, with stretching, icing, recovering, and even doing hot yoga once a week to try and avoid injuries. Anything can happen on race day, but I feel a lot more confident and better prepared this time around.”

Jones has used his Dodger roots to his advantage over the course of the last decade-plus in the real world.

“That Dodger mentality I learned — being doubted, overlooked, wanting to work harder to prove people wrong — has helped drive me through a lot of achievements in my life,” Jones said. “Through basic training and even crossing the finish line for my first marathon, I knew in my mind that no matter what happened, I was going to find a way to get it done. I think that’s the spirit of our town: when other people count us out and doubt what we’re capable of we get stronger. Adversity doesn’t scare us.

“I’m drawn to causes that bring people together to strengthen the community. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a small town, or a big city, we’re all better when we get outside of our silos and get to know one another, and work together to create community-wide solutions rather than just punishing people who make mistakes. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support of many teachers, coaches, and others from the Fort Dodge community that helped keep me on a good path. Even when people stumble or face hard times, this community has the resilience to come together and help each other. Though I’ve moved away, I try to carry that with me — and that’s what resonated with me in ICW.”


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