15 Minutes With Deena Kastor, 2004 Olympic Marathon Bronze Medalist
Eugene Daily News had the opportunity to chat with Deena Kastor of ASICS. Deena is the American record holder in the marathon (2:19:36 during the 2006 London Marathon) and half-marathon (1:06:34 at the 2006 Berlin Half-Marathon).
Deena and her husband Andrew recently welcomed the addition of their first daughter, Piper, to the family, and they now live and train in Mammoth Lakes, California.
EDN: How did you feel about your performance at the Olympic Marathon trials in Houston, as well as your season overall so far?
DK: “At that point coming back after having Piper I was just trying to be cautious coming back so that I didn’t get injured and so I was really gradual in my buildup. After that race was under my belt it left me a little hungry to not be left behind on this Olympic team. I was able to train with a lot more aggressiveness getting ready for the track. I threw in a couple track races I was really happy with. I wasn’t too happy with my Stanford 10K, but that got me a qualifier to get to Eugene. It felt like my physical fitness was really coming around. I had a great 5K in Southern California, and going into the Boulder Boulder 10K it was just kind of a fun run because I enjoy the patriotism of that event and it seemed appropriate in an Olympic year to wear some red, white and blue and get ready for the Olympic trials. After that race my back was having spasms and I was just in really bad form and haven’t run since. I felt like everything was going perfectly for the trials and I actually thought I would make this team. I think that’s the part of riding that fine line as an athlete getting ready for the trials, part of the game is getting to the starting line healthy and fit and I missed the boat on that.”
EDN: So what does a typical training schedule for a marathon look like for you?
DK: “It’s pretty much sunup to sundown. Your entire day revolves around training or recovery. I’ve actually been on the blissful side of things that I get a nice little mental distraction having my daughter around, playing with her throughout the day for this year. That’s been extra fun for me. Over the years I’ve realized I’ve always had physical recovery during the day, but mentally you’re always on as an athlete, so it’s been refreshing to have that mental recovery as well as I take care of my daughter throughout the day.”
What has it been like having your new daughter, Piper, around the house with you?
DK: “It’s definitely been different. I definitely have much more involved in my day than I did when I could be selfish and think for myself and having a husband who has been very hands on and luckily we have flexible schedules to raise our child and pursue our careers at the same time. As much as it’s been challenging for getting everything in I need to, my gym work has suffered, I haven’t been in the gym doing a lot of strength training this time around, but I’ve had years of it to feel as if its been a worthwhile balance to balance my family and running career at the same time. It’s been very refreshing. Almost a greater focus in my training, knowing I only have this amount of time in the day to get the work in. It’s been more of a focus for me, so I feel grateful that it has rewarded me with that.”
EDN: There is always a big debate between being on a team versus self-coaching. What are your thoughts on that?
DK: “It all comes down to individuality, and I need to surround myself with positive people and so having the Mammoth Track Club to train with on a daily basis, I would procrastinate to get out the door to train on a daily basis if I didn’t have the accountability of meeting people and they bring the best out of me as far as performance as well. I need people around me to push me, and I kind of thrive on the little friendly competitive spirit when you’re training with others. I thrive under those conditions, not so good by myself. Knowing that, I’ve always been very team oriented, from high school to finding a college that had a strong team dynamic in the University of Arkansas, and then trying to find a team, and that was hard to do right when I graduated from college because a lot of people just trained on their own. There weren’t a lot of teams out there training. Boulder was a hub for distance runners, Eugene, Oregon a great hub for distance runners, but it didn’t seem like anyone was training together and so to find a place in Alamosa, Colorado with coach (Joe) Vigil and train with people was really rewarding and then moving that group out to Mammoth Lakes, California was a good move. We’re in a beautiful place and really enjoying it there.”
EDN: You have had a storied career filled with race victories. Do you have a favorite memory from a race?
DK: “There’s so many. When it comes down trying to choose one, it’s always moments that I’m surrounded with friends, family and teammates. This sport would be pretty boring out here by ourselves in road racing if the streets were empty. Imagine running the trials here in Eugene with the stands empty. It would bring a whole different feeling to what we’re doing. It’s always moments when I’m surrounded by people who have helped me along.”
EDN: Some runners love to interact with the crowd during the race, while others are focused with that tunnel vision. Which one are you?
DK: “I definitely thrive on the crowds. Not a shout-out goes unnoticed. When the crowd has good energy, those are the moments that elevate good performances so I definitely thrive on the crowds. It really can’t compare to anything else when you’re in a sport that seems so individual, and it’s so opposite. You need others to thrive or make your moment feel good, it’s because other people around you share it. Now thinking through this some more, it’s surprising that someone like Ryan, who thrives with the crowd in races, that he wouldn’t thrive surrounded by people who help him along all this way. I feel like those moments are similar to moments I’ve had in practice, going side by side through mountains and up hills, and at the end we’re just drenched in sweat and feeling exhausted, but there are high fives going on and we’re thrilled with the way everyone performed. It’s definitely feels very similar to me, so it’s interesting there’s a huge difference between training and racing because to me it’s all the same.”