Let Your Mind Run: A Memoir of Thinking My Way to Victory

Reviewed by Tom O'Grady

Deena Kastor’s Let Your Mind Run: A Memoir of Thinking My Way to Victory is a captivating and inspiring memoir about one of the most successful American long-distance runners of all time. Kastor, a three-time Olympian and American record holder in the marathon, details her journey from a young girl with a love for running to a world-class athlete, while emphasizing the crucial role of mental training in her success.

The book begins with Kastor’s early years in Southern California. Kastor notes that her mother wanted her to run because it was a sport that did not have cuts so it could not hurt her self-esteem.  It was as a youth that Kastor discovered her passion for running and quickly realized her talent for it.  Kastor tells a story that is vivid and engaging, painting a picture of a young girl who found solace and joy in running, even while facing the typical adolescent struggles of self-doubt and insecurity. Her love for the sport and her determination to improve are palpable, and even though the reader knows that she is ultimately successful, it’s impossible not to root for her from the very beginning.

As Kastor progresses through high school and college, she continues to impress with her natural ability and her relentless work ethic. Though she does face some injuries and struggles during her collegiate years, it’s not until she starts training with coach Joe Vigil that she truly begins to understand the importance of mental training. Vigil becomes a mentor and father figure to Kastor and instills in her the belief that running is as much a mental sport as it is physical. Vigil challenges Kastor to find her philosophy on life and running. He also encourages her to visualize success, to focus on the present moment, and to find joy in the process of training and racing.

It’s clear that Vigil’s teachings had a profound impact on Kastor’s professional running career. She describes the mental exercises she used to prepare for races, from visualizing herself running effortlessly to focusing on a single word or phrase to stay present and focused. She also recounts the races where she struggled mentally, and how she was able to overcome those challenges through sheer force of will and positive self-talk.

One of the most inspiring parts of the book is Kastor’s description of the 2004 Athens Olympics, where she won the bronze medal in the marathon. Kastor writes with incredible detail and emotion about the race, from the physical pain she endured to the mental strategies she used to stay focused and motivated. But what’s most striking is the way she describes the joy she felt during the race, even while pushing herself to her limits. It’s a testament to the power of mental training and a reminder that success is as much about attitude as it is about talent.

Throughout the book, Kastor emphasizes the importance of finding joy in running, even during the toughest moments. This is an important message from a top talent like Kastor. She writes about the beauty of the natural world, the camaraderie of the running community, and the sense of accomplishment that comes from pushing oneself to the limit. Her passion for the sport is contagious, and it’s impossible not to feel inspired to lace up your own running shoes after reading her book.

While Let Your Mind Run is primarily a memoir about running, it’s also a book about personal growth and the power of positive thinking. Kastor writes candidly about her struggles with anxiety and self-doubt, especially when she faced injury in college and transitioned as a young adult into her professional career. Kastor was able to overcome those challenges through mental training and self-reflection. Skills that her coach helped developed and that she refined with running. She also shares stories about her family, her marriage, and her experiences traveling the world as a professional athlete, giving readers a glimpse into the life of a world-class runner. These are nice touches that highlight the human element of the life of a top athlete.

Let Your Mind Run is a must-read for anyone interested in running, mental training, or personal growth. Kastor’s writing is engaging, her stories are inspiring, and her message is one of positivity and hope. On a side note, I had an opportunity to meet Deena Kastor in person in 2014 shortly after the Boston Marathon. Kastor was visiting Saratoga Springs and even in 2014 (four years before her 2018 memoire) many of the elements from Kastor’s memoire were apparent in the
stories of her professional running career.

Deena Kaster - Wikipedia

Deena Kaster on Instagram

2014 photo of local runners Tom O'Grady, Sara O'Grady and Deanne Webster with Deena Kastor



Reviewer Tom O’Grady is a successful runner, coach,
writer and college professor with a joint appointment
 at NYSDOH/UAlbany School of Public Health. 
Click on his picture to read all that he has written for the
Pace Setter and that is written about him.

Tom recently finished his ninth Boston Marathon
and came in third locally

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