Pictured: Deena Kastor/
“Life is just awesome.” And for three-time Olympian and 2004 Bronze Medalist in Greece Deena Kastor, that awesome life extends past her career as an Olympian. Kastor turns 40 this month, and even though her Olympic days are behind her, that doesn’t mean she’s done running. In January, she announced that on Sunday, March 17, St. Patrick’s Day, she plans to be at the start line of the 2013 LA Marathon, her first ever appearance in the race. Apart from the 2012 Olympic Trials, it will also be her first marathon since the birth of her daughter, Piper, two years ago.
Though she calls Mammoth Lakes home now, the 2013 LA Marathon will also be a homecoming for the athlete, whose love of running first took root as an 11-year-old on the trails in the Santa Monica Mountains near where she grew up in Agoura Hills, Calif. So what took her so long?
“LA started out great, but went through some dark years, and kind of took the allure out,” she recalled. “Recently [former Los Angeles Dodgers owner] Frank McCourt took it over and it’s made a real resurgence lately. Last year I was doing TV coverage of it and I was on Hollywood Boulevard and thinking, ‘Wow, this is fabulous, running past Dodger Stadium and Grauman’s Chinese Theater and all these landmarks. I want to do this.’ Plus, the old course was really terrible, but the new course is so much better. I decided this is the year; I’m going to run it and win it!”
ASICS shoes and performance apparel is sponsoring the event, and still sponsors Kastor, which it has for 15 of the 17 years she’s been a professional runner. “It’s kind of rare in sports, where the new kid gets all the attention. ASICS is like a family, they’re nurturing and it’s a testament to them that they’ve stuck with me all these years. I’m so grateful to have them with me.”
Kastor, a 25-time USA champion in track, road and cross-country races, is well known for winning the 2005 Chicago and the 2006 London marathons. She also still holds the fastest American marathon time for a woman, having clocked 2:19:36. Another distinction: she’s also only the second American to win a medal in the event in Olympic history. And her considerable resume of accomplishments goes on from there.
“[Husband] Andrew is now the coach of the LA Roadrunners, the official training club of the LA Marathon, and he and I looked at my training history when my seasons have been the best,” she said. “We keyed on what clicked best back in the day.” To gear up for LA, she’s doing cross-country grass interval training, and running hills in Paradise and Swall Meadows.
As this issue of The Sheet goes to press, Kastor was headed for St. Louis for the Cross-Country Nationals, and is also entering the Pasadena Rock ‘n Roll ½ Marathon on Feb. 17. How does she like her chances in LA? “I’m an optimist, but I’m also a realist,” she replied. “I’m never going to run a 2:19 again, but if I can finish at least fourth in LA, I’ll be really happy.” Kastor, who is by descent part Swedish and part Irish, said she’s considering getting a temporary shamrock tattoo. “Or maybe some green ruffled socks!”
The next chapter
Ask Kastor which part of her life has been the most hectic, and you might be surprised to learn it’s this one, right now. She still trains twice a day, but in addition to that are numerous interviews, personal appearances, speaking engagement and TV commentary gigs, not to mention her work with young runners and service on the Board of Directors of USA Track & Field. Now that her competitive days are fewer, she’s devoting more time to sharing her experience and knowledge.
“I was talking with Interact clubs students at Mammoth High School recently, and I was reminded of something my old coach, Joe Vigil used to say,” Kastor explained. “He was a wise man who shared everything … knowledge, the dollar in his pocket, his possessions. He used to say, ‘What we have is never important unless we’re passing it on.’ Interact is a service organization, and a living example of what I cherish about living here.”
Kastor said that, other than her family, she has two big passions: running and Mammoth Lakes. “I’ve traveled the world for many years to competitions and there’s still no place like home,” she stated. She is a big supporter of the Whitmore Track project, but is quick to point out that the Mammoth Track Club’s Elaine Smith was really the project’s driving force. Kastor said she also believe that ASICS’ sponsorship of the track, in addition to its sponsorship of Mammoth’s Footloose Freedom Mile and Footloose/Chart House 5k/10k races, is a good example of a Town/private partnership.
“A training facility in town is the next logical step, and I see corporate sponsorship as the key to that,” she opined. Until then, currently the plan is to work with local vendors and “bundle” certain amenities (gym access, etc.) for international athletes who are training here to make their travels easier and less stressful.
Kastor also has a very strong word to describe cyclist Lance Armstrong: despicable. “Life offers us so much,” she said. “One day I was almost done running, and I was going uphill toward the Village, and I just wanted to stop, but I thought, ‘It’s just two more minutes, I can do it … I’m not here to be good enough, I’m here to excel.’ I dug in and finished. It’s moments such as those that cheaters just don’t get. And he thinks that because there are athletes who cheated MORE than him that it somehow makes it okay. There are defining moments in any day, and it’s about how you push through those moments. When Meb ran so amazingly in the London Olympic Marathon, it was even more impressive because it was all him out there, no drugs, no nothing.”
She’s the first to acknowledge that even running has a few cheaters, but adds it’s not worth her time to point fingers.
Meanwhile, Kastor is pragmatic about the sport’s future. “International road racing is very healthy, there’s great financial and athletic participation worldwide,” she assessed. “I know my marathon record will be broken someday, but it’s always great to see young athletes achieve.”
(Photo courtesy ASICS)