Olympian Deena Kastor says the marathon is a community

Image 1 of 8

Deena Kastor wins the London Marathon, April 23, 2006. (AP file)

Deena Kastor, of Mammoth Lakes, California, is an Olympian and American record holder in the marathon.

She has set records at many distances but is best known for winning the Chicago Marathon and London Marathon, and taking bronze in the marathon at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.

Kastor has run the New York City Marathon three times. She came to New York ahead of the 2018 marathon (which she isn't running) to meet with fans and fellow pros, accept a prestigious award from New York Road Runners, and represent ASICS, her longtime sponsor.

I met her at the ASICS store in Midtown where she spoke about her love for running, her thoughts on the New York City Marathon, what running with her 7-year-old daughter is like, and much more. This is an edited transcript of her words.

KASTOR: I'm Deena Kastor, American record holder and Olympic medalist in the marathon, and I love coming to New York City for the marathon for all the fanfare leading up to race day. I think what makes the New York City Marathon so unique is that you get to run through all five boroughs. There is no better tour of this city than doing it by foot on this weekend. I have a lot of favorite spots along the course. One being the starting line on the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge, the excitement and energy of having 45,000 excited people in one place is too much energy to contain—got to throw it out to the spectators that'll be along the course—2 million people outstretching 26. 2 miles. It's quite an incredible celebration on race day. I've run the New York City Marathon three times. My very first marathon in 2001 was here and I think this city is what hooked me on the distance.

My advice to anybody running the New York City Marathon this year or any year in the future is to really absorb all that this city has to offer. The energy of the crowds, the excitement of touring all five boroughs and the amazement of the feeling of that finish line is like no other.

I think the person with the best shot of breaking my American record would be Molly Huddle. She's broken my 10,000-meter record, my half-marathon record earlier this year, and so I tout her as the next American record holder in the marathon.

I think the reason why I come back to New York City and why I love marathon season, in particular, is because it feels like a community. All 45,000 people that take to the streets on race day have so much in common. We may be different in our motivations and our paces, but we all have really prepared to get here and go through the highs and lows on race day and making it to that finish line feels just as good whether you're the first person that crosses the line or the 45,000th person that crosses the finish line on Sunday night.

My advice to injured runners or anybody being challenged to get to the starting line or the finish line is just always believe in your capabilities, that behind every challenge and hurdle there is great possibility, so just make a plan to get back on your feet and follow it one step at a time.

Writing and publishing my memoir earlier this year was the hardest finish line I ever had to work my way toward, but I'm really happy with the product because it's more of an instructional memoir on teaching people how to use the power of positivity to perform at their optimal. The response to my memoir has been so heartfelt. I really wanted people not only to enjoy faster miles with the power of their own mind but to also be able to overcome life's challenges and so I've gotten a lot of great feedback on people who have been able to overcome in a much more compelling and graceful way. And I'm really proud of that.

My goals right now are to get fit for spring marathon season. I hope to be toeing the line of an Abbott World Marathon Major so I can get my own accomplishments underway.

Some of my favorite highlights from my career, it might surprise you that they're not an Olympic medal or breaking the American record, but a 5K in Southern California—the Carlsbad 5,000, where I was able to break the world record in a pair of specially made ASICS shoes. Really, that race was about running to my potential and in that 3.1 miles, I was able to push limits in myself that I never knew possible. At the finish line, I was nearly tripping over my feet because I was turning over so quickly. When we really push past our hurdles and any tension and doubt, we can really get into a space where we can surprise ourselves in a good way.

We're at the ASICS store on Fifth Avenue and I was just given these beautiful Tiger shoes with my name on them, golden shoes, and on the back heel, you can see that they commemorate a lot of my accomplishments. So super special that I was given these one-of-a-kind shoes today. On the inside are my husband's initials and my daughter's name. Everything I love wrapped up into one little package I can wear on my feet. Thanks, ASICS! Here at the Fifth Avenue store in New York City is the 2018 commemorative New York City Marathon shoe. You could see the tongue has the logo and New York on the side.

So I have a 7-year-old daughter, Piper Bloom, and it is such a great joy to be able to share a mile or two with her to be able to see the joy on her face that she's striding out with me. It's a conversation as we're out there on a trail or running through Central Park and she's observing her surroundings. And in doing that, I've given her a good example to follow in running—that it's joyful and pleasurable and social; something that she can have with her wherever she chooses to take it--whether it's exploring or a profession.

Running is a great analogy for life. That when we challenge ourselves in running through fatigue and injury, that we can really transform ourselves into stronger people and to be able to take those lessons into life is a great value. ###

DEENA KASTOR

  • 2004 Olympic Marathon bronze medalist, 2:27:20
  • 2005 Chicago Marathon champion, 2:21:25
  • 2006 London Marathon champion, 2:19:36, U.S. record

Very special thanks to David Atkinson for sharing his images from the New York City Marathon, the Boston Marathon, the BAA 5K, and the New York Mini 10K.

PHOTOS: David Atkinson, ASICS, The Associated Press, Arun Kristian Das

BOOK COVER: Crown Archetype

Arun Kristian Das is a digital content producer for Fox5NY.com.