I know, I know, another running book, AND one I only received the other day (see the story here). But it’s signed to me! And the lovely Wendy from the Taking the Long Way Home blog has a book club, and this was her April read, so it seemed like too good an opportunity to miss. Anyway, you had some fantasy and romance to read about yesterday, right, and it’s Iris Murdoch Readalong time later today (packing ’em in!) so it’s not all running, running, running.

Deena Kastor – “Let Your Mind Run: A Memoir of Thinking my Way to Victory”

(April 2018)

Kastor is an Olympic marathon medallist and has held American records in every running distance from the 5k to the marathon. But, as runners tend to be, she’s very down to earth and very keen to share what got and kept her to those dizzy heights. It’s worth mentioning that she’s also generous in her thanks to her co-writer, Michelle Hamilon, and we know by now that I always like that, working with ghostwriters myself.

Deana was a very promising runner at school but she never really learned about running and especially training, always going out at full tilt and pushing and pushing herself. Unsurprisingly, this led to and injuries, and she didn’t seem to understand why, although she’s got a clear-headed view on it now. It was only when she started working with coach Joe Vigil in Colorado, having taken a big chance, that she started to understand the power of planned training and also embraced the power of really what is down to positive thinking, and that’s when she made huge improvements and stayed pretty well injury-free.

I will have to admit now that some of the almost relentless positivity did make me a bit uncomfortable. She reads a lot of books I would consider to be on the “woo” side of things. However, she does make a very powerful point about turning I can’ts into I cans, and you can use these techniques to try to work against ingrained negative thinking. She’s also good on joining up mind and body and on visualisation, which I use in a slightly less aggressive way (but hooray for aggressive running in women!) and she is a relentless cheerleader of other runners, something I identify with very fully.

Woo aside, she’s a very down-to-earth woman and writer, as I mentioned above. My favourite sentences in the whole book were these:

The food was intended for the volunteers, since the elites had already eaten and moved on to obsessing about pooping before the gun.


On the way out of the hotel, I stopped in the lobby bathroom before loading the bus. It was an unsuccessful stop. There’s still time.

What runner hasn’t known this? There’s also a description of an ENTIRE MARATHON where she needs the loo and has to make a pretty horrendous choice (again, we’ve all been there to one extent or another). She also tries lots of fuelling options when training for her first marathon, with some reminding her of recovering from flu and others making her sick. She gets scared each time she has to run a longer distance when training for the 26.2 and again that’s something anyone who’s done that has experienced. Did she need to mention this? Probably not – but I loved it. I loved all these very clear and earthy descriptions that make this a real runners’ book.

I also found a real personal connection with Deana when she’s forced to pull out of the Bejiing Olympics marathon very early on. She then gets really antsy and can’t run, and her doctor tells her “You had all this fitness built up and never released it” and mentions how in the taper she’d built up all this kinetic energy and potential she was unable to use. This was nice to read as I wondered what made me do my DIY marathon a few weeks ago – and it was also very good for me to read about her taking A MONTH OFF RUNNING after marathons.

It’s also lovely to see lots of the star runners of her time appear, with our own Paula Radcliffe popping up and beating her (and she’s gracious about not noticing Paula drop out of the Athens Olympics marathon). She also takes the time to mention how the officials are the only ones out at a freezing cross-country event, checking the course for downed branches etc. and the volunteers at the big city marathons – it’s always lovely to see that work acknowledged – and mentions how it’s great to start with the masses in those city marathons where the women aren’t set to run on their own.

So on balance an excellent read with a lot to love and a lot of great lessons. Sorry this is yet another obsessive running read, and hope I haven’t bored the non-runners too much. I’m currently reading a book about a Syrian refugee swimmer and another Debbie Macomber, with a light Irish novel to come …

Read the book club review and other people’s comments and links here.