Deena Kastor, one of the best marathon runners in American history, almost became a baker. As the 45-year-old writes in her new memoir, Let Your Mind Run ($27, Crown Archetype), she was an extraordinary junior athlete in the late 1980s and early ’90s. But after becoming frustrated by injuries in college, she decided to leave the sport and open a café. Then a chance introduction led her to legendary coach Joe Vigil, who taught Kastor as much about life as about training. Within two years she became a national champion, and later made three Olympic teams, ending a two-decade American drought in the Olympic marathon in 2004 with a bronze medal. Her 2006 U.S. marathon record of 2:19:36 has not been threatened since. The key, Kastor writes, was between the ears: learning to feel gratitude and humility, and to see setbacks as opportunities for growth. “My mind changed; it became a place of constant positivity,” she writes. “The more I looked, the more there was to be grateful for.”
Kastor doesn’t break new ground in her earnest retelling of such lessons, but it’s a useful reminder that athletic success is never simply about physical ability.
If Kastor rewired her mind to elevate her performance, Scott Douglas, author of this month’s Running Is My Therapy ($20, The Experiment), has used running to soothe his. The journalist and former Runner’s World editor has suffered from chronic depression since middle school, almost as long as he’s been logging 70-plus-mile weeks. A large body of research has shown that lacing up is good for our bodies, but as Douglas reports, depressed people who exercise often feel as good as people who take antidepressants. And those who exercise regularly may be somewhat less likely to become depressed in the first place.
How come? The reasons are complicated, but running seems to increase the size of the hippocampus and strengthen neural connections linked to memory and focus—changes that are structural and lasting. And it can catalyze lifestyle changes: running offers a way to socialize, encourages goal setting, and gets you outdoors. Douglas won’t ever be completely immune to low moods. But for him and many others, he writes, “life would be immeasurably worse” without running.
The Runner’s Media Diet
Blog: She Can and She Did
Kelly Roberts, social-media buff and Boston Marathon hopeful, revamped her blog (formerly known as Run, Selfie, Repeat) for 2018. It still features her signature quirky, honest posts and now adds other women’s voices for maximum inspiration.
Youtube Channel: Alexi Pappas
Anyone who feels energized after reading the professional distance runner and filmmaker’s Twitter poems will be delighted by her weekly-ish vlogs. Expect unbridled enthusiasm on everything from ice baths to banana bread.
Newsletter: The Morning Shakeout
Mario Fraioli’s weekly dispatch dives into sometimes-esoteric news and commentary for serious running nerds. But there’s plenty to chew on for all levels and interests.
Instagram feed: @firstrun
Knox Robinson, founder of run crew Black Roses NYC, serves up an aesthetically perfect catalogue of group jogs, race days, and extremely cool runners wearing sunglasses. Don’t skip the poem-like captions and detailed training logs below the photos.