By Lu Duong
In 2004, those tuning into the women’s Olympic marathon saw on their television screens an evolving epic battle between multiple racers. As the race unfolded on a brutal course and the 100-plus degree heat continued to rise, embattled world record holder Paula Radcliffe pulled out, leaving a contingent of the world’s best vying for glory. Among those elite was America’s own Deena Kastor, whose brilliant and calculated strategy earned her the bronze medal. Deena recently won the 2005 La Salle Chicago marathon weeks after smashing the American record for the half-marathon at the Philadelphia Distance Run. Her accomplishments include: 2004 Olympic Games marathon bronze medalist; 2004 Olympic Trials Marathon runner-up, 2004 USA 10,000m champion; 2003 Jesse Owens Award winner; 2-time World Cross Country silver medalist ('02 & '03); 3-time USA 10,000m champion ('00, '01, '03); 2001 U.S. Marathon champion; 4-time USA 15 km champ; 6-time U.S. 8 km cross country champion; 2000 4 km XC champion; 8-time NCAA All-AmericanThe world watched with excitement during the 2004 Summer Olympic Women’s Marathon. The women appeared immersed in a battle resembling a strategic-chess match, each vaulting for an advantage amidst the freshly tarred roads which emendated a searing 100 degrees. In the final miles, Deena Kastor became America’s darling as she catapulted to a bronze, overtaking some of the world’s best marathon warriors. Kastor hasn’t allowed the result to enclose her career. She recently smashed the American half marathon record in Philadelphia last month. Last week, she fulfilled a dream of hers by winning the LaSalle Chicago Marathon by 5 seconds over her nearest competitor.
Recently, she was the cover athlete of both Runner’s World and Running Times. Deena recently sat down and answered a few questions before embarking on her amazing win in Chicago.
Writer’s note: This interview was conducted following the Philadelphia Distance Run this fall. 1) Deena, your voracious appetite for books is well known within running circles. Can we expect any published works in the near future?
I love to read and write. I put a lot of energy into my training and do not have the time and focus it takes to write a book. You'll have to wait until I retire to read anything.
2) You recently smashed the American half marathon record on a warm, sunny morning this past Sunday in Philadelphia. Were you calculating your splits throughout the race or simply focusing on the task at hand as a speed workout/precursor to Chicago?
Philadelphia was a tune-up race for Chicago. My entire focus this year is on running a personal best at the La Salle Bank Chicago Marathon. I was confident in the half marathon that I could run that fast, but I was hoping the heat wouldn't affect my performance. 3) This month, you are on Running Times magazine cover and feature spread in Runner's World. What are your thoughts on your rising stature within the sport?
It is always a privilege to share my experiences with magazines, newspapers and individuals. I was very honored with how generous the Running Times and Runner's World articles were this past month. I don't consider myself any different than anyone else aspiring to do great things in this sport.4) There's a story about a young girl's house burning down; when told by her mother to grab the one thing she loved-she grabbed a poster signed by you. It was said you began tearing up when told of this. What is it like having such a profound impact on youth that obviously look up to you with great admiration?
There is no greater feeling than to have a positive influence on the youth of our country. There are so many distractions and bad influences available to people, that it is priceless to see boys and girls getting on the "right track" at an early age. Having lofty goals and focus will undoubtedly give them success in whatever they choose to do; sports teach us this.
5) You ran a brilliant strategic race in Athens. While others slowly backed off each mile due to the terrain and unbearable heat; you chipped away at the leaders one-by-one. What was going through your mind the last 6 miles heading towards the finish?
During the final miles of the Athens marathon I was gaining momentum and excitement because I knew my goal of medaling was attainable. 6) The latest Runner's World piece on you mentions your love of cooking (you were actually an entrepreneurial pastry chef in college). Do you feel that cooking, reading, and time with your husband keeps you more centered rather then overly-focused with the sport?
I was taught at a very young age to have passion in whatever I am doing. My husband is a great balance for me. He also has a lot of passion for work (massage and stretch therapy/ coaching) and passion for what I do. He is a great supporter. As much as I love running, I think entertaining and cooking are my favorite things to do. Reading is a great balance to a strenuous training schedule. We have created a life here in Mammoth Lakes, California, that is filled with everything we love to do and I feel really fortunate to be able to say that.
7) What music do you listen to before training?
I love music and we almost always have music playing at our house. I love techno music, something with a fast and strong beat. I also love remixes of Madonna. Bjork is another big favorite.
8) Deena, many of your readers balance a professional career, children, and other obligations plus training; any advice (particularly for the women) or guidance to assist them in their athletic pursuits?
Everyone with a busy schedule has different needs. One thing we all have in common is a need to be physically fit and to nurture ourselves. So, get in the training! It is a great way to get out the door with your spouse for some quality time, visit with a friend or just be alone. Whether solitude is your desire or quality time with someone you care about, get out the door! When we are taking care of ourselves, we are much kinder to those around us!
9) What many may not realize are your training methods-you train with elite men and cite their aggressiveness in training as a key factor that has shaped your success. Do you ever train with elite women?
I am currently training with Running USA in my hometown of Mammoth Lakes, CA. We have a well rounded group of men and women. It is nice to have this balance. Daily, my training partners surround me with talent, enthusiasm and a hard work ethic; they are an amazingly inspiring group.
10) What mental preparation do you engage in prior to a peak race?
To prepare for big races I don't do any special preparation. The focus and positive reinforcement comes every day in training. To put in the work is all the confidence you need as long as you believe in your training.
11) ASICS has obviously played a very supportive role in your running endeavors. Any thoughts?
ASICS, my sponsor, has been incredibly supportive in all my decisions regarding racing and promotion. I believe in the product, the principles of the company and adore all the people that work for them. ASICS is an acronym for Anima Sana In Corpore Sano, a sound mind in a sound body. How Zen. It is with pride that I wear a logo with such deep meaning. 12) Any advice on the mechanics of running to those reading? Or should the weekend warrior be more concerned with a steady diet of good, consistent mileage for improvement?
Mechanics aren't important. 13) What does your eating habit resemble? Do you follow a specific diet protocol?
My diet is pretty intuitive. In marathon training I eat everything I can get my hands on. When I am taking a break, my appetite is quite small.14) Do you utilize a treadmill into your training or prefer the outdoors?
I sometimes get on a treadmill in the winter, but I love running for the change of scenery and the distance I can cover. In the winter, I would rather snowshoe than run on a treadmill. 15) Going into the Chicago marathon, would you please take us through Deena Kastor's day?
I feed the dog first thing (6am)...Aspen is food obsessed. Then I go upstairs and make some breakfast. I take Aspen for a walk in the forest and then come home and get ready for practice. Andrew stretches me out on the massage table. 8:30 is practice. I am logging about 20 miles total for the day. After practice I eat something with protein and carbs (yogurt with fruit and granola/cottage cheese on toast/sandwich etc) while the water is running in the tub. Then, I take a 15 minute ice bath. Eat a little more. Get a massage from Andrew. Take a nap. Eat a snack. Run 4-6 miles. Lift weights and do core work. Make dinner and go to bed.
16) Meat & potatoes or seafood and salad?
I don't discriminate. I love all food. I recently found I am allergic to strawberries. So, that is my only NO. 17) Your husband and you are 10 years removed from your running career. What do you see yourself doing?
I want to open a cafe. It is always evolving with the times. Right now I see it as a bakery, wine and cheese shop. That would mean all of my favorite things in one place! 18) Favorite movie?
My favorite movie is Fight Club. I actually am not a fan of the fight scenes (except when Edward Norton is kicking his own a** in his boss's office) but there are great one liners in the entire movie.
19) Favorite wine or beer?
My favorite wines are Zinfandels, Shiraz/Syrah, and a bold Cabernet. It may sound cliché now, but I typically don't like Merlot. Justin Vineyards has a great 2002 Zin. Other favorites are 2001 Rombauer Zin and a 2001 Shirvington Shiraz. 20) One major goal before you retire from running?
One of my greatest goals is to win a major marathon in the US. The marathon is my best event, and I have yet to ever win one. 21) And lastly, any words to your fans reading?
endurance sports, politics, reading, organic foods, coffee shops, great friends, good food, great drinks.