Training Talk: Catching up with American Record-Holder Deena Kastor
Deena Kastor's come back to racing didn't go exactly as she had hoped. Sunday's Los Angeles Rock and Roll Half Marathon was her first race since a back injury forced her out of the Olympic Trials in January. She wanted to run 1:12. But, after taking an early lead, she ended up finishing second in 1:14:51. Before the race, we had a chance to catch up with the American record holder in the marathon and the 2004 Olympic Bronze medalist and talk about her long, successful career and what lies ahead.
You have been competing for a long time. To what do you attribute your longevity?
I believe my insatiability and desire for improvement is what has kept me in the sport for the past 28 years. I enjoy the thrill of pushing my limits and seeing progress in running and in life. It is my job, but it feels more like a game.
At 39, what’s next for you running wise?
I will run and always be committed to making a positive difference in the sport of running and Track & Field. I will be running a Spring marathon in 2013 and most likely commit to road racing around the world after that. Most of my running mid-2013 and beyond will be to stay engaged and connected to the running world while emphasizing speaking engagements, youth running initiatives and empowering other elites in the sport.
Looking back, so far what is your proudest accomplishment?
My proudest running accomplishment was winning my first cross country championship as a professional athlete. I was living and training at altitude and believed in my coach and training. It was a very powerful moment to see that a shift in lifestyle (to live simply as a runner), and having a large sense of belief in the program had me winning my first National title. The more profound moment was my coach’s reaction to that race. I ran through the finish line and jumped up to give him a hug. He said “That was great, but I’m not going to pat you on the back until you can run with the best in the world.” It may seem a little harsh, but I could see the pride on his face regardless. What his words taught me was that we can be proud of what we accomplish, but there is always more to do. That philosophy has kept me very engaged in the sport.
What haven’t you achieved in your career that you would like or would have liked to achieve?
I still have a professional dream of winning the NY and Boston marathons. Not both. Just one would suffice. It was great to win the Chicago and London marathons, but the thought of NY or Boston victories still gets me excited.
Leading up to the ING NYC Marathon, we have met a number of runners who have overcome obstacles to get to the starting line. You are a melanoma survivor. How did that diagnosis change your perspective in regards to running and in regards to life in general?
Running is such a great outlet to make us more aware of our health. Many of us run to be healthier in our body and our mind. Because runners are typically healthier than the average person, we are more in tune with our bodies and that is what allowed me to catch melanoma early. I’ve had melanoma 3 times and luckily the hurdle was never to challenging because I was aware. I am grateful that running allowed me that awareness. I believe strongly in skin protection (glasses, hats, sunscreen, running clothes with spf in the fabric) but no matter the challenge, our greatest strength is to focus on what helps us as opposed to what is ailing us. The marathon has attracted some of the world’s strongest willed humans who have been perfect role-models. Instead of giving up or giving in, they have empowered themselves despite the odds. They have used the marathon distance to defy whatever situation or disease tried to get the best of them. The marathon is a remarkable race with the most inspiring, heroic and extraordinary people taking part.
You hold the American record in the marathon (2:19:36). What American runner competing right now has the best chance of breaking it?
I would say Shalane Flanagan has the best chance of breaking my American Record in the marathon. She’s broken my records on the track and is built to run the 26.2 distance. Her career has been fun to watch and it’s not over yet.
Let’s talk training. What advice do you have for someone running their first marathon?
I believe running with people is the best way to train for your first marathon. Training in groups is good for so many reasons: it keeps you accountable for getting in the long runs, the social aspect makes the long runs go by faster, and keeps you emotionally engaged in the spirit of the run.
What is the biggest mistake you see marathon runners make?
One of the biggest mistakes is not fueling properly. I always suggest runners practice drinking the sport drink that will be offered on the race course. Get your body used to utilizing and digesting the specific drink so you don’t have gastrointestinal problems on race day. Make sure you are drinking along the race course, about 4 ounces every 20 minutes/5K.
Are there any key workouts you think everyone should do before running 26.2?
I’m not a coach, but I take orders well. Emphasizing the long run is important because you can practice pre-race routines such as dinner the night prior, sleep, breakfast and fluids while you run. Get it all dialed in so not much is foreign on race day. Hold off on practicing post-race celebrations and let that be more spontaneous.
I know you enjoy cooking and wine. What’s your favorite dish?
When you love food, it’s hard to pick a favorite. If it involves cheese, crusty bread, seasonal vegetables and a grass-fed filet I’d be pretty stoked.
What is your go-to pre-race meal?
The night before I like to eat salmon and pesto pasta/gnocchi with a glass of pinot noir or Montepulciano. In the morning, I would have a bagel with butter, a few hard boiled or scrambled eggs, banana and coffee about 3 hours before. From then until race time, I would sip on carbohydrate drink. I wouldn’t try this on race day if you haven’t made sure your body thrives with it during practice.Photo courtesy: Asics