Whoever said people slow down as they get older never met Olympic bronze medalist Deena Kastor. The running superstar turned 40 on Valentine’s Day, then packed up and traveled to Pasadena to tackle the Kaiser Permanente Rock ‘n’ Roll half-marathon. As if finishing in 1:12:57 and, ya know, winning the race wasn’t enough, she’s got her eyes set on the LA Marathon in March. Her goal? Winning that one, too! We chatted with the pro to find out how running has changed her throughout the years, and to nab some tips for those looking to bust out of a rut.
First of all, happy belated birthday! Did you do anything to celebrate?
Well I was heading to the Kaiser Permanente Rock ‘n’ Roll Pasadena Half-Marathon the next day, so nothing too outrageous. But we had a barbecue that night – good food and good wine, of course.
That sounds perfect. Now that you’re officially in your 40s, have you looked back at how you ran in your 20s and seen any changes in your running style?
I think my mileage is a little lower. Now I make sure there’s a lot of quality to my miles, rather than quantity. I spent many years running 120-140 mile weeks training or marathons; now I’m focused a little lower. It was a natural process for me, rather than an age change, but I focus on recovery and rest a little bit more now and making sure my body can handle the intensity. That’s always been intuitive for me, so I’ve been really lucky. I’m rarely plagued with injuries because I back down before they come to fruition. The sport of running is very healthy, but people can go unhealthy and it’s all about maintaining that balance.
What do you like to do on recovery days?
Sometimes I’ll take a short 2-3 mile run to loosen up, and other times I’ll take a day completely off and give myself a rest. Resting to me isn’t going to the mall and heading out to parties. If I feel I need it, I lounge on the couch all day. There’s nothing wrong with that. There’s certainly days you need to disconnect from the computer and your running shoes.
What’s your favorite part about running?
For me, I would definitely say I love the relationships; the social aspect of it all. I know some people say they like to get out and have alone time, but I love the engagement of it – meeting my team every day, going to races and meeting with other runners. It’s very social for me. It always feel almost playful. Although I’m working out intensely, it doesn’t feel like an intense job. It feels like I’m going out to play with some of my favorite people.
So you just ran the Rock ‘n’ Roll Pasadena half-marathon a few days after your 40th birthday. Did you have a goal finish time in mind?
I didn’t have a goal finish time because in studying the course it looks very hilly, so I didn’t want to put that time pressure on myself. I wanted to push the whole way, using the mental tools I’ve learned from my team to focus on pushing from the starting gun to the finish line.
You’re also tackling the L.A. marathon in March. Any goals for that race?
I’d like to win! It’s going to take a very hard effort, but my preparation has gone really well and I’m looking forward to another marathon win under my belt. It’s my first run as a master’s runner, now that I’m in my 40s, and my friends and family will be there cheering me on – there are a lot of reasons I want this to be a successful marathon.
You’ve shattered a lot of running records over the years – what advice do you have for those stuck in a running rut?
There’s so much you can do that don’t even focus on running! You can see quantum leaps if you get an hour or extra half hour of sleep every night, or take a look at your nutrition, or run with a group. My gosh, I’ve been in many ruts over the years and there are lot of things that I do: finding a new trail to run on; getting a new fun outfit. Some new shoes can make all the difference in the world. You can always keep this sport exciting.
How do you see running in your life through your 40s? Think you’ll celebrate your 50th birthday in the same fashion, with another half-marathon?
Oh, I don’t know! I’m not looking that far ahead yet. I’m going to enjoy my 40s for now. But I feel great. I quoted Oprah last night saying, “The future is so bright it burns my eyes.” Forty feels fantastic, I think. I love the life I live. I always feel there’s a lot to look forward to. I just take them one at a time, so we’ll see what excites me after the LA marathon.
Now you tell us: What’s your favorite part about running?