Let Your Mind Run (Book Review)


My running group is trying to revive our book club. Mind you, we did one book. In 2017. We chose Deena Kastor’s memoir, Let Your Mind Run (Amazon Affiliate link) this time. Learn more about Deena at her Website here.

I absolutely loved this book. Most of  my sole sisters did, too, although one person was somewhat on the fence about it, and there were varying degrees of like/love. Did you know that I actually met Deena briefly? It’s true.

Deena was so sweet!

Oh, how I wish her book had been available back then (a few years ago). I’m always star struck when I meet a famous runner, and I really never know what to say. She put me at my ease, though, and asked about my training, and really listened. Such a fangirl moment.

Deena is not just incredibly talented, she’s also smart. How I wish I could sit down with her and pick her mind even more now!

Did you know we share a birthday? Eleven years apart, but still, that might explain why I have also been practicing visualization, gratitude, affirmations and so on for a long time. Now, If I could just have a smidgen of her speed (or her metabolism) . . .

What’s in the book?
Let Your Mind Run is part memoir, part mental tricks, and part a “run down” of many of Deena’s races. I am so impressed by her recall of races stretching all the way back to herself as a very young runner, but knowing how much she emphasizes mental training (more on that later), it’s not too surprising that she has taken such meticulous notes.

Here’s a list of the chapters in the book:

  • Winning
  • Losing
  • The Magical Vision of the Malboro Man
  • Getting Schooled in Running
  • Assembling an Athlete
  • What are You Thinking?
  • A Well of Strength
  • Strategic Joy
  • Seeing is Believing
  • Positivity Has a Passport
  • Love Makes You Stronger
  • A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Optimism
  • Going the Distance
  • Running on Joy
  • Go! Go!
  • The Meaning of Winning
  • A Sandwich on the Deck
  • The Positive Path

You definitely don’t have to be an Olympic athlete, a national or world record breaker, or even a good runner to appreciate the wealth of information in this book — obviously I am none of those things. I scribbled down so many notes from this book, though — and I know I will be rereading this book again. I’ve read many books on building your mental game, but I truly believe that this is one of the best I’ve read/listened to (since I listened to the audiobook — not on the run, though).

If you’ve never watched it, I suggest watching “Spirit of the Marathon” — you can buy it on Amazon for $2.99 here(Amazon Affiliate link) — in conjunction with Deena’s book — maybe after you read the chapter on the Chicago Marathon — it follows several different runners in that marathon, from marathon virgins to elites (including Deena, obviously) — and I have watched it many, many times for inspiration.

So many great ideas!

Just a few of my takeaways
When I opened my journal and everyone saw I actually had notes, they were so surprised! I didn’t buy a physical book — I probably won’t, but I will buy the kindle version at some point — and there was so many great tidbits to glean from this book:

  • She had a great way of explaining adaptation succinctly: you push your body; you rest; and your body adapts. In fact, I was impressed with how much time she took off running — completely — after marathons. It’s something recreational runners so rarely do — many nagging injuries can probably be traced to the fact we don’t take recovery seriously enough (although of course that’s not the only reason for injuries).
  • As Deena writes on her Website, the one thing she hopes we take away is that a positive attitude and gratitude — for even the smallest things — can make huge differences in our lives.
  • Don’t compare yourself to last season, last year, years ago. Find a way to be the best you can be in the present moment (let the past go).
  • Consider with running what do we take and what do we give back? That question really caught my attention, and it’s something I’ve been pondering on the run. What exactly is my running giving back to this world?

There’s so much more in the book — for instance, Deena talks about how to train for heat when you’re not in a hot environment. Which is something I’m doing presently, as my half is in GA. The South in February can be extremely cold — even snow! — or extremely hot and everything in between. I know; I lived in TX for 17 years.

If it’s cold, that’s not a problem for me. It will never be as cold as it’s been here at home! If it’s hot, though — that can be really tough and I don’t have as much time to acclimate to as I’d like. I was already practicing some of the tips I used for training for my NOLA Half two years ago (read about it here). It’s nice to know an elite athlete doesn’t think that’s crazy!

If it’s not hot, no worries. Those uncomfortable runs build mental toughness — toughness can carry you far.

Who is this book for?
I was discussing the book, before I’d gotten too far into it, with one of the other members of our group. She said that it would probably only interest runners, because it goes so heavily into the details of running. After finishing the book, I think she might be right. Yet Deena mentioned so many books from athletes in different sports that helped to inspire her — many of them old — I wanted to read them too! Alas the only copies available of some of the older books are very expensive.

There is so much information on building your mental strength, so many ideas that I am now trying to incorporate into my own running. Would an athlete from another sport find this book as interesting? Maybe. 

I do know that I would recommend this book to any runner, whether they are BOTP like me or winning AG awards all the time. It’s so important to keep growing and there’s just so much information in here to help and to inspire.

Final Thoughts
The Sole Sisters all agreed that Deena’s emphasis on finding the positives in everyday life and every run are game changing. We all know this, of course, but to see how it could change her training and her races was inspiring — and yes, I tried to put those ideas into play with several challenging runs last week (with varying degrees of success).

One last final thought: Deena, please, I want a cookbook from you, too!

Want another opinion on this book? Check out Wendy @ Takingthelongwayhome’s review here. And Liz’s @ Sedateladyrunning here.


Linking up with Zenaida Arroyo and Kim @ Kookyrunner