Tuesday, 7 July 2009

US distance-running extraordinaire; DEENA KASTOR spoke to NICOLA BAMFORD about her quest for running perfection and offers the Run Britain audience some inspirational insights and tips...(written for UK Athletics 07/08).

The 35 year-old California-based runner explains what it takes to gain an Olympic marathon bronze and capture American Records by the bucket-load; and the 2006 London marathon Champion, two-times World cross-country runner-up and former 5000m road World Record-holder gives an intriguing glimpse into her life by taking part in an enlightening Q & A...

1. Please explain your motivation behind becoming a runner, how old you were, and your early days in the sport...?
I started running when I was 11. My parents were supportive of keeping me in different sports and I fell in love with the simplicity of running.

2. What events did you try – and to what success – and how did your first attempt at your specialist distance go?
I was a distance runner immediately due to the deep talent in the sprint events growing up in California.

3. Were you always a talented athlete or have you had many disappointments and setbacks?
I think that my early success and passion for the sport went hand in hand. Over the past 24 years there have been disappointments, but I know that these are the times we grow the most as athletes and individuals.

4. Who are you coached by (Terrance)?
Terrence Mahon has been my coach for the past 4 years.

5. How did it feel to collect your first Championship medal? And explain how the race went...What is your most precious medal/achievement?
Winning and medalling are the moments that keep us in this sport. They are the performances that feed our souls and keep us addicted to running and racing.

6. Please explain your most perfect race day - from the morning right through to the evening...?
I don’t feel I have ever had a perfect day. I continue and strive to be perfect, but also know that “perfect” is impossible. It doesn’t stop me from trying to come up with the best plan I can with the knowledge I have at that moment in time.

7. What has been your biggest blunder (setback)?
My biggest setback was in 2005 when I broke my foot after rolling over a pinecone at home in Mammoth Lakes, California. It is also the time I learned the most about myself. I came off that injury to win my first ever marathon at the Bank of America Chicago Marathon.

8. Take us through your current warm up and cool-down routine...
There is nothing special about my warm-up and warm-down routine. I run anywhere from 10-25 minutes depending on the weather and when I “feel” warmed up. I do a series of drill and strides -pretty basic.

9. Describe a typical weeks’ training/mileage and your current favourite training session...?
I typically run from 100-130 miles a week. My favourite workout is 2 mile intervals at the lakes basin which is 9000 feet altitude. The best part of my day is running with my chocolate lab, Aspen around the lakes. This run is really low key as I usually stop to throw a few sticks in the water for Aspen to retrieve.

10. Do you go on training stints to other high-altitude/warm-weather venues?
I live and train in Mammoth Lakes, California. The elevation of our house is 8050 feet. I find that my best training is done right here at home. I truly believe I live in the most spectacular place in the world. For someone that travels a lot, I always look forward to coming home.

11. Do you enjoy travelling for races?
I enjoy travelling for the sights and education. My husband and I have so many fond memories from travelling as well as great friends that we have met along the way. Running is also the best way to sight-see!

12. Do you see your rivals as just that, or become friends?
I am very grateful to be in sport where I can travel and compete with some of my greatest friends. I think all of us distance runners respect the work ethic of one another and when we see each other on various weekend throughout the year, we become good friends. My greatest competitor is myself. I compete against me daily.

13. What tips do you have for fellow athletes?
My tip for any athlete is to choose a sport they love and enjoy the process of trying to perfect it. Perfection isn’t possible but it should stop us from trying to get the best out of ourselves.

14. Do you have a large support network? Physio, nutritionist etc...
My greatest strength is my support group. I realized very early that I don’t know everything and although this sport seems individual, you cannot be successful on your own. I have surrounded myself with who I believe are the best people in their fields. Ray Flynn is a trusting and hard working manager. My coach is a wealth of knowledge in training and life. Dan Pfaff is the greatest technical coach/biomechanics expert who is our greatest asset in fine-tuning. The list goes on, but my greatest support comes from my husband, who became a stretch/massage therapist and is on call for me 24 hours a day.

15. Do you combine work with your training/sports career?
Running is my job and I can’t imagine having time for anything else right now. It is hard enough to plan a dinner with friends when I am in full training. For this reason, I really enjoy taking a month off of training after a marathon. It is my time to ride my bike, collect sea-glass at our vacation home, entertain at the house, take Aspen for a long walk or enjoy a leisure breakfast with my husband in a local cafĂ©.

16. Do you receive any/much financial/medical support?
I am very grateful to run for a company whose product I very much believe in. ASICS is a Japanese shoe company and is the favourite brand among running specialist. There name is an acronym, Anima Sana in Corpore Sano, which means A Sound Mind in a Sound Body. I can’t think of a better motto for a healthy lifestyle.

17. What has been your favourite/which do you rank highly in terms of UK road races?
The London Marathon has a very special place in my heart. Not only is it the location of my fastest marathon, but the course is one of my favourites. Runner’s can really appreciate the sites as they travel the 26.2 mile distance, but the finish is one of the most spectacular settings I have ever seen.

18. How do you feel the UK road scene could improve?
I think the UK does a great job in road racing and track events. Whether the track or the road, the UK remains a favourite destination among elite distance runners.

19. How much sleep do you take per evening?
I believe you should balance out hard work with good rest. I sleep about 8-10 hours every night and 1-3 hours every afternoon. I still consider “nap time” my most indulgent job perk.

20. Do you have any hobbies, or are you always too tired from training?!

My greatest hobby is cooking and then sharing with friends and family. I like nothing more than being in the kitchen by myself preparing a generous meal and then sitting down at the table to eat with the people I care about. To sit there for a few hours, eating good food while immersed in rich conversation is a perfect day for me. I also really enjoy reading; any book will do.

21. Any words of wisdom/motivational tips for our audience?
My only words of wisdom are not my own, but my coach’s. He told me before the 2005 Chicago marathon to “Define Myself.” I know have taken this into daily life. These simple words add a sense of purpose to running, being a wife, being a teammate, being an active member of our community. It doesn’t have to be so intense or serious, but define yourself in the important things you do.

22. In moments of weakness, do you indulge/over-train etc...?
In moments of weakness, I become quiet and reflective. I really just try to figure things out in order to get on track again.

23. What would you like to do after your running career is over? And do you ever see yourself retiring from competition?
When my competitive days are over I hope to stay in the sport in many ways. I hope to continue to go to races and be a part of the next generation of talent coming onto the racing scene. I love this sport and the people in it so I would choose to remain in it any way possible. Whether helping behind the scenes or just encouraging form the sidelines.

24. How would you like to be remembered after your days as an elite athlete?
I am not really sure how I want to be remembered.

25. Tell us about your relationship to husband, Andrew...
My husband, Andrew is a huge source of strength for me. He is a running fanatic and knows a lot about the history of this sport as well as the present. He gives me therapy twice a day, has a great sense of humour to keep me laughing and is extraordinarily generous in his dedication to me and the other athletes he works with. He has a running club here in Mammoth Lakes as well as a stretch and massage business. He loves what he does and is good at it- these two things go hand in hand.

25. Tell us about your education...
I graduated from the University of Arakansas in English with emphasis in Creative writing as well as a second major in Journalism. I love to read and write so this was a perfect major for me. I am hoping to complete a cookbook once the Olympics are behind me.

26. Tell us about your website...
My website was created last year as a way to keep in touch with those who have been so supportive of me and my career. Running is such an equalizer of a sport. No matter what level we compete in we are going through the same processes. Finding a goal, creating the path to get there, following the path, facing an obstacle, and getting around that obstacle…reaching your goal. It is truly a sport for the entire world and my website is a way to connect to the others participating. I try to answer every email, but it is difficult during “high traffic” times like right before or after marathons or when the marathon movie “Spirit of the Marathon” debuted in theatres across the US.

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