Let Your Mind Run: Changing My Mind

Deena Kastor’s book Let Your Mind Run hit the bookshelves on April 10. We connected with Deena for some exclusive commentary on two of her favorite excerpts, with additional reaction from Esther Atkins, Reid Buchanan, and Kaitlin Goodman.

Related: Let Your Mind Run: The Hardest Run of My Life, with Neely Gracey, Sarah Crouch, and Molly Huddle

Let Your Mind Run:
A Memoir of Thinking My Way to Victory
by Deena Kastor and Michelle Hamilton
Buy on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2GMN0fo

Nothing around me changed – my mind did

This excerpt encourages readers to practice writing down things they are grateful for each day and pay attention to how that acknowledgment makes them feel.

One afternoon, out for my second run, I felt overly tired. Aspen <Deena’s dog> and I were running along the river, so I looked around. The air was calm and on the cusp of cooling for the day. I admired the fiery red sun, which cast a glow on Mount Blanca’s still snowcapped peak. Aspen jumped into the river to swim after a beaver and I laughed from the trail. I ran on and noticed an undercurrent of energy pumping through my body, coming from an unknown source, a well inside I’d never noticed before. It was such a sharp contrast to the fatigue at the start of the run that it clicked: practicing gratitude had opened a whole new channel of energy within me.

My world exploded and expanded after that. Nothing around me changed, only I did. Or rather my mind had changed; it became a place of constant positivity. I no longer had to keep intense vigilance over my thoughts. Gratitude relieved my mind of that duty. I was, however, more aware and conscious of my thinking, and I noticed a subtle yet profound tonal change in my head. I would be running and I’m so slow today might come to mind, but as a fact, not a judgment, and I’d spend a little time considering how I could rest better to prepare for tomorrow’s workout.

Living with the toxins and tension of regular negativity gave way to greater feelings of health. My body felt more fluid when I ran, lighter and stronger. My senses were heightened. I saw beauty in ordinary things. A still rocking chair. Dew on a leaf. The creaky floorboards of an old house. Lemonade was more tart and refreshing, and the look of adoration on Aspen’s face touched me more deeply. Reading seemed more relaxing. I experienced a sense of synchronicity with everything around me. The mountains and the trees, but also <my training partners>, Coach and Caroline, the regulars at the café. Items on my gratitude list – drinking a cappuccino, reading a book on the porch – evolved to be sacred moments in the day, rather than routine.

Running remained physically challenging, but there was a mental ease as I ran through the wind, up a hill, or around the track. The ease carried over to racing. While running the 10K at Mt SAC in California to earn a qualifying time for track nationals, the sounds of competition – crowds, breathing, foot strike – had a new vividness. As I moved around the track, I was more immersed in the pack, more emotionally involved. A competitor pulled up beside me in lane 2 and I made room for her to move in. Then I picked up the pace to push us both. I took an elbow and got the wind knocked out of me. My mind automatically interpreted the moment humorously – what were the hard-elbow tactics of cross country doing on the track – allowing me to smile at the girl who glanced back, sharing a split second moment of positive energy. Near the end, when I passed a competitor, I encouraged her. “Come with me.”

….This was it, I thought. This was my competitive edge: the athlete’s life, positivity, and gratitude – the mental choices that elevate training.

I obviously love the second excerpt because this epiphany came to her while running with her dog. First, I’m so glad that another extreme elite also runs with her dog. Second, I have also experienced this shift in perspective and running with Grace has catalyzed that transition. I see her will to stay with me and how distractions of squirrels and the effect of the heat naturally pull her away without a thought to her “performance” or “goals.” I see her joy in running even though she has no idea how fast or how far we will go, but she trusts that I will never leave her behind. I also know that no matter how terrible my workout was, she’ll be there to cool down with me and make me laugh when she jumps for joy as we run through the grass. Deena’s story is both exceptional and relatable. I can’t wait for more of the world to share in the relatable aspects of her exceptional life.
~Esther Atkins

This section is one of gratitude and nobody represents the word better than Deena. Before moving to Mammoth Lakes, I was an awfully negative person. I see it more now as a defense mechanism created from years of disappointment. I would think of the worst possible scenario, which is going to be very negative thinking, and if that scenario doesn’t come true then I would see my race/day/life as successful. I couldn’t handle any more failure. My mental breakthrough has been removing that defense mechanism through the help of one of the best mentors I could have. Deena always looks for the best in every situation. Her positivity is so contagious that I couldn’t even try to remain my old self when around her. I began to appreciate the things I am doing and the situation I was in. At the beginning of 2017, I was unsponsored, running poorly, and experiencing a tough winter. Somehow though I couldn’t quit. I’d like to say that its not in my personality to quit things I have started but honestly it was more that I knew Deena (and Andrew) still believed in me. I realized that having them will always be enough and it was gratitude for them that kept me motivated when I shouldn’t have been. I still time to time catch myself being negative but I snap out of it quickly because the first person who is going to not take it will be Deena and she’s definitely someone I never want to disappoint.
~Reid Buchanan

This passage from Deena’s new book really resonated with me – I love how her ‘attitude of gratitude’ elevated her training to new heights. She cites this new mindset as her competitive edge – not the intense training she was doing, not the shoes she was wearing, nor a special diet or nutrition regimen. Rather, the thing that she attributes to giving her an upper hand on the competition was her mentality. I think this carries an especially powerful message for all runners – this is something everyone can do to elevate their performance, from pros to new runners. Thanks, Deena, for sharing your words of wisdom and your own experience with running from a place of positivity.
~Kaitlin Goodman

Let Your Mind Run:
A Memoir of Thinking My Way to Victory
by Deena Kastor and Michelle Hamilton
Buy on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2GMN0fo

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