Deena Kastor: Rejuvenated For 2007 After Being Disappointed With 2006 Despite 2 American Records and Being Ranked #1 in the World in the Marathon by: , LetsRun.com
In a day and age when 23 year-old tennis stars like Kim Clijsters are
retiring, a 30-minute phone call with soon-to-be 34 year-old Deena
Kastor (her bday is Feb 14) is strikingly energizing. So much so that
by the time the call was over, this 33 year-old interviewer felt like
bumping up his 30 mile weeks to 130 and giving the Olympic marathon
trials another shot.
There certainly is no need to worry about Kastor being burned
out or perhaps content with what she has already accomplished. Not a
chance. Kastor, who first made her mark on the US national running
scene nearly 20 years ago in the fall of 1987 (then competing as Deena Drossin) when she placed 11th at
the Foot Locker (then called Kinney) Cross Country national
championships as a freshman in high school, is always setting new goals
that keep her focused and motivated - perhaps more motivated than
"I've been running for 22 years and this is the first time
that I actually trained over the holidays," said Kastor. "My
training's going great right now."
Despite 2 American Records & World #1 Ranking, Deena Not Pleased With 2006 "I was actually really disappointed with my whole 2006
season," said Kastor who became the first American and just 8th women
overall to break 2:20 in the marathon last year. "I guess it seems
pretty snotty to say that considering the world ranking I was granted
at the end of the year (Kastor was ranked as the #1 marathoner in the
world by Track and Field News and Race Results Weekly), but really from January 1st until the year ended, I
felt like the whole year was a struggle, nothing was very fluid or
smooth. I was able to pull off a great performance in Berlin and London,
but when I look at the whole year in general it was a really
challenging year for training and racing for me. The year was
was very challenging from a training standpoint for Kastor. She was
able to pull off two amazing performances in April, but a lack of good
training seemed to catch up with her later in the year as she finished
a disappointing 6th at the 2006 ING New York City Marathon in 2:27:54.
Kastor attributed much of her problems in 2006 to a "series
of bad decisions" on her part. In a nutshell, she felt like she took
off too much time for the holidays and when she started her training as
she traditionally does on January 1, she felt like she was already
behind. Then once she started training, "she didn't take to the
training very well" at first. Then add to the mix colder than normal weather and a slight back problem and Kastor felt like she was
playing catch-up all year long.
Kastor said she didn't have a "smooth training stint" until
the 3 weeks between Berlin and London last year. Both those races went
very well, but the rest of the year wasn't something she enjoyed. "It
was just a challenging year all the way around," said Kastor. "I think
it was just the stress of starting January 1st of just feeling very
behind on my training."
Kastor is determined not to make the same mistakes in 2007.
"I learned my lesson. I'm never going to relive 2006 again. My
training is going great right now."
Kastor is training
specifically for the 2007 Boston marathon. With cross country
nationals coming up, however, one day a week she has been getting on
the grass and doing some interval sessions to prepare for US Nationals.
Deena Returning To Her Cross Country Roots Before making her mark as one of the world's best marathoners,
Kastor made her mark as a cross country runner. Kastor hasn't
lost a US long course cross country championships since her last year
in college. In 1996, Kastor finished 20th at Stanford in US cross,
which was interestingly enough the same year that Lynn Jennings won the
last of her record 9 US titles. Between 1997 and 2003, Kastor reeled
off 6 straight US long course titles (the race wasn't held in 1998).
Throw in the one US short course title that she won in 2000 and a
victory in Boulder would move Deena to within one of Lynn Jennings.
hasn't just been successful domestically, she is one of the world's
best. In addition to regularly annihilating the US fields, she has had
great success on the world stage. In both 2002 and 2003, she was
runner-up at the world cross country championships.
Kastor now considers herself to be a "marathoner now more so
than a cross country runner" but it should not be surprising that she is very excited to be
competing in cross country again at the 2007 US XC Nationals in
"Cross country has always been a huge passion. I love the
sport. It's the essence of distance running and is distance running in
it's most natural form. It's where I feel my roots lie in the sport and
I've felt cheated these past years as I haven't run (cross country
nationals) since 2003," says Kastor, who went to US Nationals in 2004
with the intent of competing but thought the icy conditions were too
much of a risk given it was an Olympic year.
"To me, this is a celebration of the sport, being able to go
to Boulder and be a part of cross country this year. I definitely don't
have the same perspective as the past when I used to run cross country.
I feel now that I just owe it to myself to get out there and enjoy the
sport in its most natural environment."
Kastor's mental perspective on cross country has changed and she's likely to bring a different race plan into the race as well.
of going in as this feisty aggressive cross country runner, I'm going
to cross country nationals just excited to be a part of it again.
Previously in cross country, I was aggressive from the gun, and went
out and tried to kill myself from the start and see how much of a lead
I could get. Now I just want to go out and be conservative the first
couple of laps, make sure the footing is good."
"They seem to have been getting quite a bit of snow this
season and I want to be conservative so I'm not risking anything in the
long run also. I do have a win in Boston as my ultimate goal this
spring. I definitely am going into it with a different perspective than
I ever have before,"
said Kastor, who will skip World XC if she makes the team in Boulder as travelling back and forth to Africa less than a month before Boston would be too hard to recover from.
Boston Marathon The Priority This Spring Speaking
of Boston, Kastor is very excited to be competing in the most
tradition-rich marathon in the world for a number or reasons, including
one that many LetsRun.com runners have probably experienced.
feels a bit of a joke that I can be talking to someone who may not know
all of my credentials, but immediately when they find out that I am a
marathon runner, they will ask me, 'So have you run Boston?' And as
soon as I say 'No,' the person will say 'Well my son has qualified
twice and has run it twice.'"
"So it's like I haven't legitimized my career unless I've run the Boston marathon. On a laymen's term, this
marathon legitimizes a marathoner," said Kastor with a bit of a
"A win there would just be incredible. I was born in Boston
and a lot of my childhood memories are from there so for me to go back
to the East coast and to run this race, I'm really excited for it."
Kastor was indeed born in Boston but she only lived there for a
week before being raised in California. That being said, New England is
very much in her roots and it is easy to tell she has a true affinity
for the area. Every summer, up until she was 18, her family would go
to the beach south of Boston where her mom was born and raised to spend
a month on the beach.
"It's where all of my childhood memories come from. Even
though I was raised in Southern California, all of my childhood
memories are on the beach in Boston growing up."
After winning in Chicago and breaking
the 2:20 barrier in London, Kastor has sought out to win the two big American
prizes that she hasn't won, New York and Boston. New York
did not pan out last fall, but she certainly seems motivated to make amends for last
year's mistakes this time around.
Kastor said she is training specifically for the challenging
nature of the Boston course and focusing a lot on "hill strength". She
thinks that her work on the grass for cross country will also help her
with Boston as "training for cross country gets you very strong for a
course like Boston as well."
Motherhood May Be In The Future Even
though Kastor is perhaps more motivated than ever, the fact of the
matter is she is 33 years old, and she won't be able to be world ranked
#1 forever. She has given thoughts to the future and a family.
"I love this sport and each year I just keep making new goals that
keep me charged and fired up to continue training but I am getting
older. Andrew (her husband) and I have thought of having a family and
having a child to raise. That's definitely in the future but I also
plan on being in the sport forever."
A post-Olympic child wouldn't be the end of Kastor's competitive days, however.
could see myself) maybe after the Olympics, having a child and coming
back and running one or two marathons a year and keeping it at that -
not getting on the track and getting into year round racing - keep it
more low key and stay at home more (and traveling less) and put in a
couple of races a year. My travel time would be spent more giving talks
and being a part of the sport in a more giving way than racing all the
time," added Kastor.
Kastor may have her mind on a family of her own down the road, but her immediate focus is on making 2007 a year to remember. Unlike a lot of distance runners who become totally
self-absorbed, Kastor's spirit is full of warmth for others. Love for
her training partners, love for Shalane Flanagan and yes even love for
High Praise For Her Training Partners, Her Competitors and LetsRun.com She described the training group in
Mammoth Lakes of Ryan Hall, Sara Hall, Jen Rhines, Ian Dobson, Kate
O'Neill, Mike McKeeman (her personal training partner who runs nearly
every step with Deena),her husband and massage therapist Andrew Kastor
and coach Terrence Mahon as being an "awesome group".
She went out of her way to point out how her training
partner, Mike McKeeman, had hit the A standard at the Philadelphia
marathon (2:17:50) and said she found that to be "pretty exciting."
Even more exciting for us was Ryan Hall's recent 59:43 half-marathon
record for Americans. We asked Deena her thoughts about the record.
his half marathon, I think all of us here knew he was capable of
shattering the record because of what his workouts were. He was just so
smooth going through every workout with such grace and ease. We all
knew he had it in him but you just hope that when you see your training
partner putting these workouts in that they can put it together on race
day and he did it beautifully. It's a huge art to be able do that. So
many people can do these fantastic workouts, and they can't put a good
race together time after time, but he just did it so beautifully that it
was exciting to see - well deserved," said Kastor.
Kastor definitely was enthused about Hall's potential in the marathon.
husband and I just booked tickets to watch the (Flora) London marathon
because we know something spectacular is going to happen there too. We don't want to miss that one," said Deena.
We also asked Deena what she thought about Shalane Flanagan's recent 8:33 American 3k indoor record.
think it's awesome. Shalane is an awesome girl. She's very likable,
great with the media and a great role model in our sport and I wish her
"I think American distance running is doing so well right now
after so many years of it being stale, stagant, and unimpressive. It
just seems that each year it's getting better and better. People are
breaking down these barriers and records that have been there a while."
"It's an exciting time right now. I think for the individual
athletes doing these things (like Ryan and Shalane) it's awesome for
them, but from a media standpoint, I think it's going to help launch
our sport, or at least give our sport the potential to have household
names to follow. The opportunities our athletes are giving our sport
is phenomenal right now. We can be up there with baseball and
basketball because of what people are doing right now. If we keep
getting people like (them) - people that are so good and so loved, if
we keep getting them to perform they way they are, our sport is an
PS. Kastor also was full of praise for LetsRun.com (and we in turn thank our loyal visitors) as she thanked us for being the #1 referrer of visitors to her newly designed website, DeenaKastor.com (after Google). *Also her coach, training partner and husband all have a training site we just found: www.spiridonrunning.com
Robert Johnson, the men's distance coach at Cornell University, can be reached at