Deena Kastor on Positivity: Let Your Mind Run

Welcome to our first ever week dedicated to a professional (and accessible and inspirational) #motherrunner! We're starting with a gem: Deena Kastor, whose accolades you will read below as Tish Hamilton talks about Deena's recent book, Let Your Mind Run

What else is up for Deena Kastor week? Glad you asked! The lovely Deena will be taking over @TheMotherRunner Instagram account today (Monday), so tune in for a day in the life. We've got a giveaway of some of her favorite Asics gear—and a few copies of her book—queued up, as well as an excerpt of Let Your Mind Run. We'll bookend the week with Deena + Tish as cohost on the Another Mother Runner podcast. 

It's gonna be a BAM! BAM! BAMR! of a week, so be sure to tune in daily!

I love running. I love reading. But I don’t necessarily love reading about running. GASP!

What’s my problem?

I blame the 20+ years I worked as an editor at running and other fitness magazines, where—because I read about running (or fitness) all day, all week—I just couldn’t do it in my “free” time. It was too much of a busman’s holiday.*

*What’s a busman’s holiday? asked my dear running friend Jodi, who thoughtfully gave me running books. It’s doing on holiday what you normally do as a job, like a bus driver going on a bus trip for vacation.

Of course, there are lots of good running books you may have loved reading (but I didn’t, sorry!): John L. Parker’s classic Once a Runner, Chris McDougall’s best-selling Born to Run, Haruki Murakami’s cerebral What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, to name just a few.

Non-runners accuse us of being hopelessly self-involved, monomaniacal in our interests even … boring. And it’s true, a badly written, ill thought out, rambling and unedited running story can be as excruciating as having a preteen recount the plot summaries of every episode of Grey’s Anatomy. All fourteen seasons. The experience is scarring.

So it took me a while to get around to reading Deena Kastor’s new book, Let Your Mind Run: A Memoir of Thinking My Way to Victory, co-written with Michelle Hamilton, even though Deena and Michelle are two of the finest people on the running planet, and I’d had the great pleasure of working with both of them in the past, and I’d even read an early draft.


My boyfriend, Rick, bought himself a copy of Deena and Michelle’s book. “It’s really good,” he said. Oh yeah?

“Yeah,” he said. “It’s really well-written. It’s not like [other athlete’s memoir Jodi gave us]. It flows from chapter to chapter and hangs together really well.” Okay, okay, but I’ll be the judge of that.

Denna kastor
Deena's bronze medal in the 2004 Olympic marathon was the first US women's Olympic marathon medal since Joan Benoit won in 1984.

Deena Kastor describes herself as a “happy, mostly cheerful person,” and if/when you ever meet her or hear her speak, you feel that right way: Her cheerful positivity is contagious. You come away all pumped up to recast your negative thoughts into positive alternatives.

Deena is a preternaturally gifted runner: She started running when she was 11, and pretty much won every race she entered, charging hard from the line and never looking back, more or less, through high school, college, and a pro career. Over the years, she has accumulated many, many accolades, of which these are just a few: She nabbed the bronze medal in the scorchingly hot 2004 Olympic Marathon in Athens, Greece. She set (and still holds) the American marathon record of 2:19:36 in London 2006. In October 2015, she set the American Masters record of 2:27:47 at age 42.

She is also a mother to Piper, now 7, a coach and cheerleader of the Mammoth Track Club with her husband, Andrew, a terrific cook, baker, wine connoisseur, entertainer of many friends, reader and writer.

Deena at home with daughter Piper, who is now 7, husband Andrew and one of their two mastiffs.

As gleaming as that resume looks, her was not a journey without setbacks (thank goodness, otherwise bor-ing). Most famously, she suffered a broken foot near the 5K mark of the Beijing Olympic marathon. But there were other, less public, more internal bumps in the road.

“When I first became a professional runner, I thought the hardest part would be the physical training,” she writes in the prologue. “What could be more taxing than interval workouts so intense you taste blood in the back of your throat? The answer quickly became clear: wrestling with my mind. Starting out, I had no idea running would be so mental.”

She calls her book an “instructional memoir” on the power of positivity on performance. But you don’t have to be chasing an Olympic medal—or even a PR—to appreciate how her methods apply to everyday life. “Positive thinking has long been considered a powerful life tool, to the point that it has almost become a cliché,” she writes. “Yet its great power emerges when applied as a lifelong process. Changing a single thought improved the moment I was in, but years of dedicated practice changed my career, my life, and ultimately me.”

Lucky me got to meet and interview Deena (in white), and she is truly genuinely positively cheerfully inspiring! (And also gracious about posing for photos.)

You may come to Deena’s memoir to vicariously experience the many international stages on which she has performed spectacularly and you may use her insights to power your own positive performance—in whatever arena you find yourself competing. But here’s why you’ll stay: The book is really well-written. Rick was right! It is well paced. It flows from chapter to chapter and hangs together really well. Which makes this old editor weep with gratitude.

(and come back later this week for a chance to win Let Your Mind Run + to read an excerpt!)

11 responses to “Deena Kastor on Positivity: Let Your Mind Run

  1. Our MRTT Chapter has a book club, and we are reading Deena’s book this month! I read it in less than a week, and it was fantastic. I also struggle through many running related books b/c it is hard to keep focused with work, young kids, etc., but I had no issues escaping with this one b/c I couldn’t put it down.

  2. I also don’t typically like running books but love Deena so I bought it. It is a great book and actually highlighted a lot of things on the positive side or running that I have been working on this year.

  3. I really enjoyed McDougall’s Born to Run — fascinating culture and histrot woven into his own running reflections. Adding Deena’s book to my to-read list — a poorly written book is always so difficult to get through even with a great story to tell, so your post raving about the quality of writing with a story I know I want to hear sounds like a great read!

  4. I’m glad that we can agree on how disappointed I was in Once a Runner and What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. I didn’t even finish Once a Runner! But, I did LOVE Deena’s book. I read it at the beginning of the summer – it was well worth it and I’ve thought of her advice several times this summer while running or cycling – which I have to say I don’t usually do with the info from most books – running or non-running!

  5. I read it in less than a week, then gave it to one of my running friends to read. She finished it in 4 days – with a toddler and an 8 year old at home. Excellent book!

  6. I really enjoyed Deena’s book! It was like 3 books in 1: memoir, how to train, and motivational. I look forward to her taking over AMR!

  7. I’ve read several running books, but I related the most to Jen A. Miller’s Running: A Love Story. Her candor in describing relationships with her parents, boyfriends, and running made me a little teary at times.

  8. I read a running book each month for my blog-based book club. A few books stand out as inspiring, excellent reads. Deena’s book is one of them. Kathrine Switzer’s is another. Susan Lacke’s excellent tribute to her coach is amazing. Becky Wade’s Run the World was wonderful. We mere mortals are lucky to have so many strong role models!

  9. When I was 13, I read Joan Benoit Samuelson’s Running Tide over and over. Watching her win at the 84 Olympics was so inspiring, but reading about her Olympic qualifying race, shortly after arthroscopic knee surgery, made me feel like anything was possible.

  10. My husband got me Deena’s book for Christmas. I loved it and relived some of my childhood, having grown up in SoCal running the same invitationals. I also got to run a little vicariously through the book as I was cutting back miles since I was pregnant (but am no longer as of Wednesday!)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*Exclusions Apply

Want some mother runner insipiration with special content and deals? 

You will receive an email within the next 24 hours with your discount code!