Let Your Mind Run: The Hardest Run of My Life

Deena Kastor’s book Let Your Mind Run hit the market on April 10. We connected with Deena for some exclusive commentary on two of her favorite excerpts, with additional reaction from Neely Gracey, Sarah Crouch, and Molly Huddle.

Related: Let Your Mind Run: Changing My Mind, with Esther Atkins, Reid Buchanan, and 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


Suffering in a way I never had before

This section asks the reader, “What inside you gives you the belief to pursue your dreams?” Running with belief, in spite of doubt, is what lands you in the seat of your goals.


Coach pulled up beside me a few miles into the run and handed me a water bottle. “Don’t let them catch you,” he said. I drank, handed the bottle back, and he disappeared back down the road. I imagined him handing bottle to the men, saying, “Don’t let a girl beat you” or “Dammit, catch the girl.”

The forest thinned and the slope turned to sand, shrubs, and grass. The pines were gone, replaced by long lines of aspen along the creek. Behind me, the men were gaining ground. They were close enough for me to make out their features. Peter’s cropped hair. Phil’s broad shoulders. Marco’s forward lean. I pressed on.

Elevation hurt. It hurt more than any race I’d run, yet I had to run farther. But I pushed. I pushed because I had never run this hard for this long in my life, and with each step the need to know I could do it grew. I wanted to tough it out. I wanted to prove to myself I was strong. I was going to beat the guys up this damn hill.

Clouds formed over the peaks and the sky grew dark. Soon, hail began pelting my body. Good lord, what are we doing out here? I heard the van coming from behind, and when Coach pulled up I turned, expecting him to say, “Get inside.” Instead he shouted, “See you at the top!” and pulled away.

I was suffering in a way I never had before. Altitude robbed my body of oxygen, creating a burn that felt like acid running through my veins. My lungs and legs were on fire, but the strain reached into new places – shoulders, back. The pain was silent, but if it spoke, it would have been screaming. Yet I pushed on. The guys were heckling now. “We’re coming for you!” “You can run but you can’t hide!”

The temperature dropped drastically above 10,000 feet. My skin was cold, but my insides still burned. Coach drove up the final sets of switchbacks and I watched the van zigzag back and forth, waiting for the flash of red brake lights to mark the finish. I kept my eyes on the van, and, finally lights appeared. Oh, thank God.

Coach stood at the road’s end, mountains rising behind him. It was dark, cloudy, and cold, as the men and I battled the final meters. Pushing through, I reached the van ten steps ahead of them.

I couldn’t speak. Neither could any of the men. We all bent over, put our hands on our knees, and gasped. Coach walked around patting us on the back. “Good job,” he said, “good job.”

…..I couldn’t stop thinking that I had done it. I had finished the hardest run of my life. It had been just 52 minutes. But it revealed a toughness in myself I’d never known existed, telling me I could do this, that I had it in me to be a professional runner.


Like Deena, I had a moment that I distinctly remember where I realized that becoming a pro was possible. I ran the Mt SAC 5k my junior year of college and I started at the very back. It was my first big meet with pros and top collegiate athletes, and I was nervous. But as the race went on, I gained confidence with each lap. I passed one person, and then another, and before I knew it, I was at the bell lap kicking with some of the Nation’s best! I ran 15:33, my first time ever breaking 16. I placed 7th, and on my cool down, realized that only pros beat me. Back at my hotel room that night, I couldn’t sleep from all the excitement and my facebook page was blowing up with congratulatory messages! The next morning, I received an email from Deena. She saw my success, and was thrilled to see me running so strong. It was one of the best moments of my life hearing that validation from the Marathon American Record holder. Thank you Deena for showing us all what is possible!
~Neely Gracey

It is with poignant honesty that Deena draws back the curtain on what it takes to run at a world-class level. She weaves examples of the less-than-glamorous side of the sport, including long, painful workouts and moments of doubt, with the soaring heights of victory in a way that is accessible to every runner, from those looking to race their fiftieth marathon to those just starting out in the sport. In short, the lively storytelling and engaging language allow the reader the rarest of opportunities; to run with Deena Kastor.
~Sarah Crouch

I really enjoyed reading Let Your Mind Run, and I couldn’t think of a better time than during my own marathon buildup to read about Deena’s journey and the mental tools she used to achieve enormous goals on race day. When Deena talked about moments that made her believe she was ready to tackle her professional dreams, I called to mind if I had any of those moments in my past. I thought of my first Olympic trials as a 19 year old in 2004. I finished a hefty 27 seconds out of the Olympic qualifying spots but was still 7th in the country and racing within meters of my heroes. After that day I thought that in a few years I really could be one of the 3 women waving the USA flag at the finish line, and it was a realization that stuck with me the 8 long years it took to earn an Olympic spot.
~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


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