By David Monti, @d9monti
(c) 2018 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
NEW YORK (11-Apr) — American marathon record holder Deena Kastor sits bolt upright in a conference room at her publisher’s office here yesterday speaking with a reporter. At 45, she somehow manages to have great posture and look relaxed at the same time. She never breaks eye contact as she speaks; she’s as focused in an interview as she is when she’s training at her high-altitude home in Mammoth Lakes, Calif. Somebody calls her silenced cell phone, but she dismisses the call with a discrete swipe of her finger.
While she’s here to promote her newly-released book, “Let Your Mind Run, A Memoir of Thinking My Way To Victory” (Crown Archetype), she’s also in the final stages of her training for the Boston Marathon next Monday, a race she has only run once before. At her last Boston Marathon in 2007, she battled the rain and wind of a Nor’Easter which was so strong that organizers nearly cancelled the race. Kastor sloshed her way to fifth place and won the USA marathon title, a prelude to her victory one year later at the USA Olympic Trials Marathon which were also held in Boston, but on a different course.
“It wasn’t my intention to be part of this phenomenal American field that is being put together,” said Kastor, who admitted that she only got the idea to run Boston at the end of December after finishing up the bulk of her writing on the book. “It was my intention, when I finished with this book, I couldn’t wait to get in shape again because I had spent so much time in front of that computer.” She added: “I needed to put something on the calendar again. Why not go big and choose the most historic marathon in our country?”
Kastor –who is married to her coach Andrew Kastor with whom she has a seven year-old daughter, Piper– nearly gave up marathon running six years ago after the 2012 Olympic Trials Marathon in Houston. She was hoping to make her fourth consecutive Olympic team, something that was especially important to her because she was forced to drop out of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Marathon just before 5-kilometers when a bone suddenly snapped in her foot. She finished sixth at Houston, and was seen walking away from the finish line in her socks, her head bowed holding her running shoes. She felt utterly defeated, she said, and contemplated quitting.
“I needed to have time to think about it, but the very first thing I thought about was with a new daughter, who I neglected every day I got out to train, also knowing that she was competing for my attention when I used to have one hundred percent focus on running,” Kastor said, her eyes getting moist. “I knew I could no longer have that, and no longer wanted that because I also really wanted my family, but not knowing how to make that work. My first thoughts crossing the finish line were that I failed as an athlete and as a mom.”
Kastor was nearly 39 years-old at the time, and had to totally reinvent the way she lived and trained to find a new balance. She had to stop trying to mimic the training she did as a 29 year-old, reduce her mileage and the number of runs she did every week, and lower some of her training intensity. She successfully re-booted her marathon career, taking third at the Skechers Performance Los Angeles Marathon in 2013, ninth at the IAAF World Championships in August of the same year (as a 40 year-old), and tenth at the TCS New York City Marathon in 2014.
But, Kastor really knew she was back after running a sensational USA masters record at the 2015 Bank of American Chicago Marathon in October, 2015, where she clocked 2:27:47 and finished seventh overall.
“I guess being a mom has taught me everything, including flexibility,” Kastor said at the time, referring to several critical choices she had to make during the race with regard to her pace and positioning. She went on, “It hurt just like I knew it would.”
But then came the book, which she co-wrote with Michelle Hamilton. Running went on the back burner, then off of the stove, entirely.
“When I say I didn’t run, I did not run,” Kastor said emphatically. “If running taught me anything, it’s to be very focused on my goals. I was so focused on this book I could not wait to get back into my running shoes, and get moving again. I always need a purpose; I always need a goal out there. I said, you know what? Let’s crash-course fitness and see if I can get a bib number for Boston.”
With the long layoff, Kastor had no aches and pains going into this training block, and was thrilled with how quickly and positively her body reacted to the training. Instead of feeling that she had to drag herself out the door every day to run, she instead felt a renewed energy, a renewed purpose.
“I immediately felt so good running, and feeling my body gain fitness week-in and week-out,” Kastor marveled. “This has been such a fun build-up to see how our bodies are meant to do this.”
Kastor found herself propelled by the narrative of her own book.
“That’s what this entire book is about,” she said. “It’s about pushing your limits and figuring out a way to mentally to get through physical struggles so you can condition yourself more positively, more optimistically.”
And she is optimistic about Boston, but realizes that it’s contested on a completely different course than flat streets of Chicago which allow for a rock-steady pace. She’ll check her watch, but will also have to gauge her effort by feel as she negotiates Boston’s legendary hills. She won’t be able to set a new USA 45-49 record because Boston’s point-to-point course is not record-eligible.
“I think in Chicago I can predict time better because it’s such an even course,” Kastor observed. “Here, I don’t want to obsess about my time each mile like Chicago where every mile is the same as the next so you can easily get into a rhythm. In Boston you need to ride the course with a little more flexibility.” She continued: “I do, however, have that feeling I know I need to ride, the feeling of pace I know I can sustain. So, that’s what I’m going after in Boston.”
When asked if she would continue her marathon career through the 2020 USA Olympic Trials (when she would be 46 or 47, depending on the exact date of the race), she paused to ponder the question; she did not start the 2016 Trials in Los Angeles feeling that she wasn’t ready to give the kind of performance that she would expect from herself.
“I could, I could,” Kastor said, breaking into a smile. “Just because to me this is all about challenging who I am, because I actually really value my own perspective on life and how running has helped shape me. I feel like it’s helped shape my mind so much, that I feel like I handle life with a lot of grace and joy. Running is a way to keep flexing that.”
To find out more about Kastor’s book, or to order a copy, go here: https://bit.ly/2Ht0N7V