Let Your Mind Run: A Memoir Of Thinking My Way To Victory

By Deena Kastor and Michelle Hamilton
320 pp. Three Rivers Press. $17.00.

“Let Your Mind Run” reads as an even distribution of 2 offerings. First, Deena Kastor’s run background is immense. She impresses with expressing long ago details at a granular level. In particular, her ability to chronicle her abundant run history reaching as far back as childhood cross country with tremendous clarity. It’s reasonable to wonder if Kastor’s been writing this memoir for much of her life. Second, Kastor intends to get into the reader’s head. What I mean is, she offers lessons that preach the application of mindfulness of positivity to, really, any skill, any expertise. As this ushers in an understanding for the book’s title, “Let Your Mind Run” intends to push our collective ceiling’s higher by utilizing a potentially untapped, or little used resource (i.e. our mental approach). Of course, in these pages the “skill” is running, but the application’s at the behest of the reader (for example, “Let Your Mind Run” has pages dedicated to downhill skiing). In all, the intention being the reader’s run ability will be enhanced not just solely from what we glean from Kastor’s run history, but also an improved cognitive charge towards tackling that particular workout, hill, or race, etc.

However, the book’s chronicling of Kastor’s run history shines. As a child, Kastor tried various sports but running stuck. She wasn’t just good at it, she enjoyed it. Into her teen years, the races got longer and the victories piled up. Kastor takes great pride in reading her successes, both in track and cross country, as reported in the local paper. Her accomplishments had her traveling in her youth to several locales, namely: the cross-country national championships in Raleigh, NC and San Diego for the Kinney championships (i.e. the “pinnacle of high school running”). Her young running accomplishments (winning local and state titles) translated to a full scholarship to the University of Arkansas. Unfortunately, Kastor’s college running experienced turbulent times. After early freshman year progress, Kastor succumbs to injury (plantar fasciitis), and finds herself cyclically injured for several years. A sub par college running career invited heightened interests in other capacities (baking and creative writing). Upon college graduation, Kastor finds herself directionless. What would she do with her life? Still, at her core, Kastor loved running. Enter: the esteemed Coach Joe Vigil. “…there is no such thing as overtraining,” said Coach Vigil, “just underresting.” Wow. Terrific words.

Following through on a recommendation, Kastor contacts (Colorado-based) Coach Vigil. In short time, Kastor’s running in Colorado, and waiting tables at a local diner. Training at altitude pushes Kastor’s racing to a different level. (Forgive me, Kastor’s professional accomplishments are too numerous to list.) Winning cross-country nationals. Finishing sixth in one of the world’s premiere Grand Prix meets, Stockholm’s DN Galen. Then, following a 3rd place finish at the US 10K Classic outside Atlanta, Kaster’s subjected to offensive behavior among her Colorado-based teammates. Was it jealousy? Nonetheless, it appears even elites are subject to unkindness. These pages are of interest as Kastor seems to rely on her writings in an attempt to understand, in a sense, therapeutically. Moving on, the racing accomplishments continue (and in the midst of it all she meets fellow Coloradan and future husband Andrew Kastor). A bronze Olympic marathon finish. Winning the Chicago and London marathons. Indeed, Kastor’s running star burned bright. Then, disaster. A broken foot during the Olympic Marathon in Beijing. Would Kastor recover?

Please read “Let Your Mind Run”. It gets my thumbs up (👍), not solely because of it’s excellent accounting of Kastor’s race background, but because she teaches. She shares the details of her race build-ups, and this running reader benefited from it.

A brief return to the earlier mention of the book’s other discourse (in general terms): exhorting positivity, resiliency, feeling lighter, embracing growth, etc. Kastor, an avid reader, offers numerous literary references for promoting these traits. The book concludes with a series of exercises that are (per Kastor) “…designed for you to follow the same positive-thinking I used to reach my potential as an athlete”.

Constructive criticism? “Let Your Mind Run” can feel overrun with Kastor’s moments of blissful zen (e.g. kissing the trunk of a beloved crab apple tree). Then again, it’s also possible this view might stem from my present (less-than-sunny) disposition.


#DidYouKnow courtesy “Let Your Mind Run”: Coach Vigil prefers infrequent racing, believing too many races in a season disrupts training. “Traveling and racing lowered weekly mileage, took you out of your routine, expended valuable energy, and directed your focus away from your goal.”

#Follow Deena Kastor Here and Michelle Hamilton Here