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

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From an Olympic medalist runner and the record-holder in the women's marathon and half-marathon, a vividly inspirational memoir on using positive psychology and brain science to achieve unparalleled athletic success

The day Deena Kastor became a truly elite runner was the day she realized that she had to ignore her talent--it had taken her so far, but only conquering the mental piece could unlock higher levels of achievement. In Let Your Mind Run, the vaunted Olympic medalist and marathon and half-marathon record holder, will reveal how she incorporated the benefits of positive psychology into her already-dedicated running practice, setting her on a course to conquer women's distance running. Blending both narrative running insights and deep-dive brain science, this book will appeal to and motivate steadfast athletes, determined runners, and tough-as-nails coaches, and beyond.
This memoir, written by perhaps the most famous American woman active in the competitive world of distance running, will appeal to the pragmatic athletic population, and jointly to fans of engaging sports narratives, inspirational memoirs, and uplifiting biographies.

286 pages, Hardcover

Published April 10, 2018

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About the author

Deena Kastor

4 books123 followers
American Record holder in the marathon at 2 hours 19 minutes. Once held every American record from 5K distance to the marathon. Author of Let Your Mind Run, A Memoir of Thinking My Way to Victory, with co-author Michelle Hamilton.

I love running, reading, writing, cooking, entertaining, rescuing big dogs, spending time with family, and living in Mammoth Lakes, California.

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5 stars
4,130 (51%)
4 stars
2,860 (35%)
3 stars
908 (11%)
2 stars
93 (1%)
1 star
18 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 836 reviews
Profile Image for Monster.
75 reviews8 followers
April 22, 2018
Kastor is not someone I relate to well (and is perhaps the sort of person I avoid). Her focus on positive thinking and mindset is probably the element of this book that most repels me, not because those cognitive behaviors are not helpful or even transformative, but because I think there are specific positionalities predisposed to be transformed by positive thinking; And it has everything to do with privilege, which Kastor seems oblivious to. Her narrative reads like modern, agnostic allegory of the Protestant work ethic.

However, if you're a running nerd and you enjoy listening to hours of training montages and split times, this is good casual reading.
Profile Image for Gina.
122 reviews
June 19, 2018
I loved this book! Very inspirational. It's not just about Deena's impressive running career, but also about her journey on how to think positively and improve her running performances by changing her mental game. I got it from the library, but I'm going to have to buy a copy so I can mark my favourite parts and refer back to it when I need some inspiration.
Profile Image for Allison.
606 reviews54 followers
April 26, 2018
I enjoyed this book in the sense that I'm reading it at the "right" time: I'm looking for ways to "up my running game" that are within my control, and mentality is super-high on the list. I like the fact that Deena stuck to the memoir format--rather than sliding down the slippery self-help slope--and that she really took care to show the origins of her various mindset shifts, whether they came from a person, a book, or her own mind.

However, I found her hard to relate to in a number of circumstances, particularly when she gave us a small taste of a particular struggle she was having during a race (bathroom urges and a blister come to mind) but then never gave us the upshot. (Did she poop her pants or luck out and have the urge pass? Was her foot a bloody mess after the race, or did she just imagine that blister?) In fact, the part of the book I most related to was when she recounted her first time training alone in Europe: loneliness and frustration are emotions we can all relate to, and trying to reframe experiences to change our emotions is something I'm still attempting to figure out.

Is this book worth reading? For a runner/reader nerd like me, I'd say yes, although temper your expectations (as I didn't find the writing itself particularly fantastic). For anyone outside the running world? While the idea of changing your mindset to achieve something is fairly universal, I don't think this book would be nearly as impactful for those who haven't personally experienced the agonizing monotony of logging miles and straining for a finish line. Of course, as I only have my own experience to go on, I would love to have someone tell me otherwise (or concur).
491 reviews
May 30, 2020
This is an interesting read to learn what it is like to be an elite runner and have your entire world and the people in it revolve around you and your running goals. "Thinking my way to victory" doesn't seem like a completely accurate subtitle. Certainly, there's many sections about how Kastor changed her thinking to be more positive and that this helped improve her running. She fails to acknowledge, though, that she has every possible and imaginable advantage in her running: a hired coach, hired runners to pace her, a husband who is also a massage therapist, no other life demands (except early on as a professional runner she seemed to work an occasional four hour shift at a diner), in high school her parents hired a professional to help her with visualization.

Kastor doesn't seem to realize her tremendous advantages. A good example is her description of the 2005 London marathon where she set the American women's marathon record. She describes how after finishing, a reporter asked her if she knew she ran perfect splits (both halves 1:09:48). She told the reporter that she didn't. In the book, she then provides this commentary:"I took the symmetry, though, as a sign that I had done it, I had defined myself with a race that was the most authentic expression of who I was." Ok, so Kastor is an amazing runner, massive accomplishments, huge talent - she also had a pacer for this race and her entire life - every piece of it - was about her being the best runner she could be. So yes, she did it, but with the proverbial wind at her back.

I can't help but think of the other books I've read by runners (I'm thinking particularly of Matt Fitzgerald, swooooon) who even when they are writing about their own accomplishments they also manage to convey that they want to help other runners (even us ordinary very average runners) accomplish their goals as well. Kastor's book feels more like a celebration of her and her accomplishments with little consideration for the incredible amount of support from others and her circumstances.

It seems like the book Kastor meant to write was about about how visualization and positive thinking helped her running. I thought her book ended up being about the far-from-normal life of an elite runner. The discrepancy between these two versions of the book probably made me more critical of it than is entirely fair.
Profile Image for Debbie Boucher.
Author 5 books11 followers
November 17, 2018
I belong to two book clubs. One read Deena's memoir when it first came out this spring. The other is reading it this month. I'm glad I finally got to it as I loved the book, not only because everyone here in Mammoth is proud of Deena and her accomplishments, but also because this memoir demonstrates the power of positive thinking. Running a marathon is a huge accomplishment, even for a talented runner like Deena. But it takes more than careful training, good nutrition, and support. What this book discusses is the mental aspect of achieving difficult goals. It has helped me, even if my goals have nothing to do with running. I recommend it to anyone interested in someone who has persevered and reaped the rewards, both publicly and personally.
Profile Image for Rick Wilson.
604 reviews206 followers
March 28, 2022
Good for what it is. A ghostwritten memoir by a Olympic athlete. I’m impressed by the down-to-earth-ness presented. The bits on mental toughness are great.
Profile Image for Ron S.
419 reviews26 followers
February 6, 2018
Rhonda Byrne in running shoes. Self-help in sneakers. Deena Kastor began her career running with genetic talent but didn't begin to truly make progress until she committed to a coach who challenged her to work on her mental approach and her philosophy. A book about discovery and making choices.
Profile Image for Mitch Morris.
22 reviews1 follower
February 25, 2020
I read this book back and forth with “Grapes of Wrath,” which has made for quite a contrast. I’m hardly the first to be impressed by it, but there is no way to describe “Grapes of Wrath” other than art. Every paragraph is like a painting, each letter, word, and comma like a brushstroke contributing to a beautiful whole. Sometimes after finishing a page, I just sit back and wonder how someone was able to make something so rich and full of life out of words. Reading his greatest book, it is easy to see why Steinbeck is considered a master of his craft, worthy of a Nobel prize and his place in pantheon among the other “Great Writers” is history.

When it comes to writing, Kastor is an amateur, and although her writing is powerful, I wouldn’t call it beautiful. Her words are simple and frank. They reflect her personality... direct and not too showy. But it was her book, not Steinbeck’s that I found myself reaching for after a long day, not necessarily because it was “better” but because it was what I needed.

This book has changed the way that I think about running. It has helped me remember to look for the beauty in each minute on the roads and trails. It has made me believe in the power of optimism. It has convinced me, at least for the time, that my personal “ceiling” for running may be higher than I’ve previously been willing to believe.

Kastor is an inspiration, and her book is exactly what I needed to power me to my biggest month of running in years. This is a book that I should read every year, to remind myself why I do this, and why I should never stop.

“Because that’s how I grow and learn. I don’t ever want to lose that.”
Profile Image for Chloe Noland.
103 reviews1 follower
January 22, 2019
I was very compelled by the reference to mental stamina in the title and synopsis of this running memoir, particularly because mental endurance is an area of my running that I am working on right now. I could definitely appreciate Deena Kastor's commitment to her running lifestyle, and drew support from her decision to turn negative thinking into positive on the trail. This is something that is often overlooked, because it sounds so simple and trite. I have no doubt that, just like meditation, this method goes far with practice. Other than this aspect of the book, though, I had a hard time relating to Kastor as both a personality and a runner. She was born with the natural talent for running and speed, and was able to live a lifestyle where she could commit 24/7 to her craft, bringing her to higher and higher levels of performance. It was difficult not to feel like she got everything handed to her. I am not trying to discount her hard work and fortitude, as well as commitment. But it seemed at times that, other than her own moments of self-doubt, there was really not that much holding her back, be it financially, socially, physically, or technically. Maybe I am just a little too new into my own running journey to appreciate the nuances of success in her story.
Profile Image for Tricia Donley.
57 reviews7 followers
January 5, 2019
“I had learned disappointment was rooted in the desire to improve & that under the grief there was deep love.” This book reminded me why I love running and why I love pushing myself to new limits. Deena’s writing style was engaging and empowering.
Profile Image for Karen.
85 reviews7 followers
May 5, 2020
Lots of inspiration here! Interesting to read about Kastor’s training regimens and all the disappointments and victories that come with being an Olympian. I found the Optimist’s Guide at the end of the book particularly helpful in teaching oneself to think and be more positive.
Profile Image for Rainey .
249 reviews
April 25, 2018
This book was incredible. It was motivating, inspiring, and fluidly told her story up to date. She tells of how she became a great athlete without making it feel like she is bragging about being great. You get to hear about the hard work she put in, the emotional and mental changes she had to make and physical limitations which changed training seasons. She talks a lot about positivity and how it changed the way she trained and lived...which sounds so cheesy, but she doesn't offer it up with a "this is the greatest thing ever you should do it too!" type of attitude. She talks about training runs/races that went sour because she believed they would be bad or she had a negative attitude, and her experience working to shift that perspective and the effect it had on her. You are able to read into all of that how great it is and want to implement it yourself. I feel like i didn't just read "the Deena Kastor" story, I actually learned a lot from her that I will put into practice in my own training and life. The best part is, the way it's written she never feels "elite"; like what she does never feels out of my reach- which is incredibly inspiring and uplifting.
Profile Image for Valerie.
902 reviews5 followers
April 5, 2018
In this book, we get to understand what it takes to be a runner. I enjoyed the perspectives she shared from early in her life, all the way through her professional career. She stresses the mental game in running and it was an interesting read. Thanks for the opportunity.
Profile Image for Wendy S..
70 reviews
April 24, 2018
This book shows the powerful mind of an Olympic medalist who has managed to remain an artist at heart by controlling her thoughts at a level I don’t know that most can do. I am absolutely in awe of Deena Kastor!
Profile Image for Jasmyn.
431 reviews
April 12, 2019
Loved this! Mental strength is so important in running long distances and handling life. I love that this isn't a self help book, just a memoir of her extraordinary running career and the importance of mental strength to go the distance. Now I want to go YouTube the 2004 women's marathon. 😊
Profile Image for Emily.
66 reviews2 followers
May 21, 2018
I loved this book! I was always interested in checking it out, but after a terrible final long run before starting to taper for my first marathon, I started listening to it on Audible for an emergency pep talk! Her stories of perseverance over many obstacles (injury, mental limitations she set for herself, loneliness, those assholes she ran with in Alamosa) and tips on channeling positivity and gratitude in the face of adversity really helped me when facing my own challenges. I also loved stories of her early track days (made me nostalgic for my own!) and the quotes at the start of every chapter. This is a book I'd reread/listen to again - great for runners but also great for anyone looking to become mentally tougher.
Profile Image for Eleanor.
4 reviews
October 11, 2021
I finished this a couple months ago but I felt the need to review it. I love this book. It gets so much into the mental aspect of running, and Coaches positive attitude is really inspiring. It was helpful and motivating to read the struggles Kastor had throughout her career: they are very similar to my own. It really highlights the point that running is challenging for everyone, even elite athletes: something I forget sometimes. Highly recommend!!

-one thing I didn’t like: I feel like the book undermined the difficultly of transitioning to a positive mindset. It almost made it seem like it’s just an overnight switch which is not the case for 90% of people
Profile Image for Jen.
843 reviews
August 21, 2018
Outstanding! Loved it! So many nuggets of wisdom that I will need to use in my training. Highly recommend!
Profile Image for Courtney.
439 reviews
November 6, 2021
3.5 stars. This is interesting insight into the mind of an athlete. Kastor is surprisingly relatable even though I’ll be lucky to ever get until a 10 min mile. Her views on the power of positive thinking are a little more extreme than mine are but anyone who runs knows how important mindset is, and I have tried to tap into her attitude for my own workouts. I really liked her journey to becoming a professional runner; I felt like the Olympics got less attention that I would have preferred (would love more behind the scenes stuff on what it’s really like to compete there) but I’m glad I read this.
Profile Image for Matthew Brand.
154 reviews2 followers
May 1, 2022
I didn't know much about Deena before reading this. So, it was good to learn about her journey. I was glad to read something that wasn't "oh, I just decided to run one day and won my local marathon." This book was exactly what I needed right now in my running journey. The mindset difference has helped me through a couple workouts already.
Profile Image for Millie.
120 reviews
February 24, 2022
I love Deena's attitude, and more so that it was always a choice. The mind is powerful; the thoughts I entertain can have a direct impact on my physical and spiritual wellbeing and can entirely change the way I feel about both good and bad situations. Her story inspires me to choose better thoughts!
November 8, 2019

This hit home in so many aspects for me and it also opened some other windows for me on things I wasn't aware of for running. This was the perfect book for me to read right after a huge marathon. Five stars isn't enough.
Profile Image for Donna Kremer.
216 reviews3 followers
April 14, 2022
2.5 stars because it was 95% about running! I’m a runner and found it boring. There were no details about a marathoner’s world to enlighten about the physical affects of running so far and fast, what’s the diet like, how do they get paid, what kind of clothes or shoes to wear. The last 12 pages finally revealed the value of this book. Be positive! Positivity will bring all good things to your life.
Profile Image for Kayla.
511 reviews15 followers
September 17, 2018
This was an excellent book! I loved reading about Deena's life from her early years of running in junior high to her years of being a professional runner. Her recounts of races were very well done. I could feel the adrenaline and was hooked into the moment as she battled it out with competitors or with her own mind.

It was also interesting to read about how the Mammoth Track Club got started with Coach Vigil, Deena, the famous Meb, and others. I drove by Mammoth Lakes, California on a road trip, so it was pretty cool to read about the roads that they run on. Her time training with Coach Vigil in Alamosa, Colorado was very interesting, too.

Coach Joe Vigil reminded me a lot of my high school cross country coach. I would not be surprised if they read some of the same coaching books that Coach Vigil recommended to Deena.

Deena's theme throughout the book was how to develop and maintain a positive attitude both in running and racing and in life. I really liked her thoughts on positivity and her use of positive imagery/visions.

I would highly recommend reading this book. :)
Profile Image for Emily at Reaching While Rooted.
192 reviews19 followers
February 3, 2019
I love running. I love the idea of positive thinking. So Deena's memoir was a perfect fit. I have long followed her career since 2010, and have come to greatly respect and admire her perseverance and grit. I have since applied her ideas of gratitude and positive thinking to my own life, and I'd like to think it has made me a better mother/wife/friend because of it.

Let Your Mind Run sheds light on what was under the hood of all those wins and accomplishments. Deena held nothing back and many time sin the book I felt like I was running alongside her on the trails of Mammoth Lake or toeing the start of a marathon finish line with her. As an elite I did not think I would be able to relate much to her story, but after reading Let Your Mind Run I realized that elite runners are truly just like everyone else. From buying a first house, to falling in love, to confronting the inevitability of growing older.

If you are an athlete, or a constant pessimist, this book is for you.
Profile Image for Amy Brown.
643 reviews11 followers
January 20, 2019
At first I didn't know if I would get into the book because it starts with Deena discovering she was a naturally fast runner in middle school and winning many, many races at the start. The book gets more relatable when she starts describing her struggles and how changing her thought patterns led to gratitude, kindness and resilience which then influenced her training, her successes, and how she responded to set backs. The book also gives you a glimpse into the training life of a professional runner which is fascinating.

I've been reading some different books on positivity and this was an interesting look at those same concepts but in the field of running. I will never be fast like Deena but it gave me some things to ponder during my training runs and future races.
Profile Image for Kimee.
324 reviews9 followers
May 24, 2021
I never thought I'd find a book about running that also referenced The Artist's Way. I'm the target audience for this one.

This is also because: I have a lot of privilege. Practicing positive thinking works for me because I have the space and luxury of not worrying about meeting my basic needs.

While I wanted to give this book a 5, because I've already implemented and found a lot of its advice helpful personally, it loses a star because Kastor doesn't do much throughout to acknowledge the extraordinary luck and privilege she had. Yes, she undeniably worked incredibly hard, but she also had the luxury of not worrying about making money after college. That alone is huge, and should've been a bigger caveat.
Profile Image for Steve.
174 reviews1 follower
November 9, 2018
I've been a fan of Deena's ever since hearing her on a podcast describing how hard she works at positivity, and how it impacts her ability to tolerate stress and fatigue while running. She's the fastest female US marathoner in history, so she definitely has some street cred on this topic. Many parts of this book should be required reading for anyone trying to get better at running marathons. Specifically, she talks about drawing strength from positivity, gratitude, friends, family, and even nature in general.

I finished this right before running the 2018 NYC Marathon, and I definitely drew on some of her advice on running happy and blocking out negativity.
Profile Image for Michelle.
80 reviews
September 26, 2020
I personally loved this book! I lived in Alamosa, Co for a while & loved that she included the small city in her journey. I loved how she changed from pretty positive to showing how she continually worked on being positive at all times to get better in all aspects of her life. I also loved her stories about racing, I missed not having the olympics this year due to COVID-19, so it was nice to read about some of the game in a sport I generally don’t pay attention too. I think she made me think, and her ability to ask questions and continue learning is what made her such a great athlete. She worked really hard and to earn every victory she got.
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