Let Your Mind Run: Review of Deena Kastor's Memoir

Elite runner Deena Kastor poses with an American flag after a race

Olympian Deena Kastor's memoir

Elite runner Deen Kastor runs with her daughter
Professional runner Deena Kastor finishing a race
Professional runner Deena Kastor poses for a photo

The cover of Deena Kastor's book "Let Your Mind Run"

Deena Kastor is arguably one of the best and most versatile female distance runners the US has ever seen. She's set several American Records throughout her long career, and as of today (March 28, 2018), her American record in the marathon (2:19:36) set at the London Marathon in 2006, still stands. On top of her statistical success as an athlete, fans love Kastor for her bubbly-positive personality and her willingness to give back to the sport that has shaped every facet of her life. So, it comes as no surprise that she's written a memoir (published April 10, 2018) to chronicle the journey.

Let Your Mind Run is at once an inspirational journey into the heart of using positivity and gratitude to fuel success and also a girlish, almost diary-like coming-of-age book about Kastor's life as a woman and elite athlete. The book starts in the prologue with an inner dialogue from the 2004 Olympic Marathon in Greece—a private moment with which, as runners, we can all identify.

Chapter One then takes us back to before Kastor started running. She describes her youth with childlike naivety (after all the first sentence is this: When I was a kid, running was play). Throughout the book, though, even as she matures as an athlete, her writing remains youthful and exploratory. It feels almost like we're getting a secret glimpse into Kastor’s personality when she describes each new running lesson, as though every piece of knowledge is a near-miraculous discovery.

It’s after college, when Kastor starts working with legendary coach Joe Vigil in Alamosa, Colo., that she starts to shift her attitude, thanks in a large part to his coaching and influence. It’s also during this time that Kastor turns her early success into a professional career. She learns that attitude and determination have a lot more to do with success than talent.

She skillfully weaves together her experiences as an elite athlete with valuable life lessons about the power of gratitude and positivity. And her transition from running with fear to running with strength, power, and courage, is one of the narrative’s defining moments. As readers, we’re along for the ride.

At times it does feel almost too positive. She downplays some of the most potentially challenging moments in her life—her multiple bouts of melanoma and her mother’s fight with breast cancer, among them. Despite this, and even with a lean toward the new-age-y in the final chapters, we can’t help but close the book with an elevated sense of hope that, like Kastor, we too can live our lives even better, even happier, and with even more love.

Mere days before the 2008 Olympic Marathon, Deena fractured her foot and was unable to run. It would have been, perhaps, the most celebrated day of her career. She was ready to run a PR and had a solid shot at taking home an Olympic gold. And yet, in the book, Kastor doesn’t talk about it all that much. She spends more time describing the experience of eating a homemade sandwich on her porch a few weeks later than she does dwelling on the missed opportunity for Olympic victory.

While in the beginning, winning a race defined her, as she stands on her porch, unsure if she’ll ever race again, Kastor is acknowledging that the outcome doesn’t make anyone who they are and that, no matter what, she is grateful for the journey and for the abundance she’s created in her life.

For any runner—seasoned or otherwise—Let Your Mind Run is a heartfelt lesson on what it means to truly run (and live) our best lives.