Inside The Mind of Deena Kastor
The marathoner-turned-author on why Boston is her comeback race
Deena Kastor uses setbacks as springboards: “Disappointment, to me, means that I really care, and I know I have better in me, so let's get to better,” she said at a recent Asics media event for the launch of her new book, Let Your Mind Run.
To do that, the American marathon record holder works on cultivating a growth mindset rather than a fixed one—and that’s what the book is all about: “It's about the mental journey,” says Kastor. “Positivity can sound like a cliché term, but it's my deepest hope that we presented it in a way that you really get to see that my struggle doesn't come from the fact that I came from a war-torn country or that I was abused—I come from an amazing family who flew in from California today to be a part of this book launch—but a lot of our struggles come from our perspective and our mentality. So if we can shift those, we can get on a path of growth and learning.”
So while it is a memoir, Kastor says the book is more-so an instructional memoir. “It’s about my life on the roads and running and racing, but it wasn't my desire for you to learn more about me, but maybe discover and uncover more about yourself,” she says.
En route to the Boston Marathon, Furthermore caught up with Kastor during her pit-stop in New York City. Here, our conversation.
You're a writer. How does it feel?
It was by far the hardest thing that I've ever done.
How did you make time for it?
It was my schedule. There was nothing else. Nothing else at all, so it was just sitting down and writing; confining myself to that seat and writing every day.
Every day, just carving out time and saying, "I'm going to write."
Yeah. There was no holiday. I told [co-author] Michelle [Hamilton], I think the hardest part of this is that in running there's always a recovery. Even though you're running every day, one day is hard and one day is recovery; then you get a hard day and a recovery day, or an off-day, or a travel day. Or, you have some things in there that break it up. This was every day. Just trying to dig deeper and put it out there, and it was so taxing. It was emotionally exhausting just because there was no recovery process. And I didn't see the light at the end of the tunnel until that final deadline.
So, there won't be a fiction series coming?
No, no, no.
As editors at Furthermore, when we get writer's block we go for a run. Does that apply? If you were writing and you were blocked, would it come to you while you were running?
Michelle could do that. She would take something with her on a run and it would come to her; if she was being challenged by a paragraph or an idea, she would go on a run, or even just go to the kitchen for a glass of water, and she'd be like, "I got it!" I'm like, "How do you do that?" For me, when I'm running I'm running-focused. If I needed to come up with something, I just needed to sit there until it came to me.
So, what are you thinking about when you're running?
Sometimes it’s internal. A lot of times it's thinking of pace, I mean, it's amazing how much you obsess about running when you're running. And I think that maybe on an easy day, it's more chit chatty and social with my teammates. But on a day that needs to be focused on a certain task, it's thinking about pace and fluids and the terrain and the course that you're running and also how that applies to your goal, like, what the purpose of that run is so that you're reinforcing what you need come race day.
There are also so many comparisons between writers and runners. Did you feel like you related with that?
Running taught me to be very goal-oriented, and the goal was the book. So, family went to the side and running went to the side, and some of the other passions that I enjoy, cooking and entertaining; we ordered a lot of pizza. So, I feel like because I had that goal, it allowed me, gave me the discipline, to sit there. But I needed more discipline and more endurance than I've ever needed before in my life to do this. It's like mostly thinking about running, which is strange.
If you find your thoughts going someplace and you need to bring them back, is there a phrase you use to snap you back into focus?
I let my mind wander if it needs to, but I feel like the more conditioned you get in a training cycle, your focus narrows just naturally.
What excites you about the sport of running today?
I mean, everything. The participation is so amazing, and on the professional side of things, U.S. distance running is very healthy and strong right now. It's so deep and rich in competition; that's very exciting to me. But, to me, when I used to be in cross-country and track, it always felt like a performance and like I was performing for the people in the stands or performing for the people on the cross-country course, because you're competing for world standings. It wasn't until I got into road racing that I felt like I was running with everybody, that it felt like such a big community. Like 45,000 people on a starting line of a major marathon, and you just feel like you have so much in common with everybody, and I love that about distance running. You don't get it in any other sport that the masses all relate to one another; no matter what your pace is, you can run 15-minute miles or a five-minute mile, and everybody kind of goes through that same thing, which I feel makes this book so relatable to people because it's about optimizing your fitness by using your mental strengths. Anybody has the power to do that. We were all born a little more optimistic or pessimistic, but our minds can shift and change; they're adaptable.
One more question. Why Boston now?
I needed something to get me back into shape. I needed a beacon to look up to, and Boston is such a reputable place to run; it's our most historic marathon in our country, and so I knew that would be the lure to just get me back in my running shoes and get me fit. And I love the process, at the end of book writing, of climbing back into fitness, and feeling like, "My God, our bodies are meant to move, are meant to do this!" Because it just felt so good, week after week, climbing and getting more fit. It always amazes me how our bodies can just get back at it.