10 Life Lessons I Learned From Deena Kastor (AKA the Fastest Female Marathoner in the US)

life lessons from Deena Kastor

Last week I returned from a wonderful adventure called Mammoth Running Escape. It was a super fun running retreat organized by the most inspiring long distance runner I know, Deena Kastor. Say whaaaaat?! Running from whom? Where? As a retreat? Oh yeah. It was incredible. Let me tell you why.

Mammoth Lakes retreat

First of all, you get a chance to see one of the most beautiful places in the states – Mammoth Lakes, California.  Crisp air, gorgeous mountains and lakes, amazing trails, and so many peaceful scenes of animal and plant life.  Second of all, Deena herself. I mean DEENA!!! She holds American records in a marathon, half marathon, and other distances. She won races, and she raced for America during the Olympic Games. What an inspiring, humble, knowledgeable, and kind spirit.

There were a dozen of us, runners, of all ages, specialties, and abilities. We spent two days learning from her stories, workshops, trail runs, cooking demos, and even raced together in Ezakimak 5K. That included climbing up from the elevation of 9,000 ft to 11,053 ft. I did not race but walked most of it.  When I made it to the top of Mammoth mountains, I  need to say the views were so worth it. I was so happy to complete such a challenging climb.

Thirdly, you get to connect with like-minded people. Runners are a special bunch. While there has been plenty of talk about what shoes we love, and what race is the best, we were all united by our passion – just running because that’s what we love most. We shared stories, meals, drinks as well as personal experiences.

Get Back to Yourself

One of the most incredible parts of the retreat beside Deena’s hospitality was to reconnect with myself, rethink my “why’s”, my purpose, and my goals. To be completely honest with you, this year has brought a lot of turbulence in my life. I love turbulence when I am flying  (yeah, I am weird like that!), but some events and circumstances can be not as pleasant. Don’t get me wrong – everything is great in my little world – I am healthy, happy, and striving to my own definition of success. Yet it was so good to have some time in the nature to get centered, separate the important things from not-so-important, have my mission statement clarified, and get my personal reassurance of “Everything is going to be okay”.

We had such a wonderful time full of laughter, dusty shoes, gourmet meals, and amazing connections. Below there are a few lessons I learned from Deena. But you should definitely go check this fantastic retreat out yourself – even if you are not a long distance runner.

10 Life Lessons from Deena Kastor

1. Positivity is your fuel.

Deena mentioned that it takes 3 positive thoughts just to neutralize the effects of one negative. Imagine that?!  Our minds are such powerful machines though, and once you enable the power of your mind and spirit with consistent, constant positivity, you will not regret it. It takes a lot of work because life can throw you plenty of surprises.  Master the art of it in the form of small daily steps.

2. Never ever give up on your craziest goals.

Whether it is winning a marathon, starting a blog, becoming a firefighter, or just having a garden – your dreams matter. If you abandon them, they get very lonely and never become true. Don’t let them be – keep dreaming and driving yourself towards them.

3. Nurture your body, soul, and relationships.

The food you put on the table, the mood you prepared it in, the way you shared it are as important as the food’s quality. Take care of every aspect of nourishing your body with the best ingredients, movement, and thought.

4. Even the worst experience can teach you the best lesson.

Deena was telling us how she broke her foot right at the beginning of a marathon in Beijing.  Imagine how much work, effort, and gut goes into training for something this big, and then this happens. Heartbreaking? Yes. She also told us how it was one of the best lessons she learned, because it showed certain aspects of her thinking, training, and living in a completely different light.

5. Gratitude is a powerful instrument.

Use it daily, in high doses. You will never regret being grateful.

6. You can always get back up even if you fall hard ( or got stung by a bee in your throat during the race).

If the story of breaking her foot wasn’t a lesson in itself…Life often throws us curve balls, tests, and other un-pleasantries. Becoming resilient takes a lot of practice, willpower training, and yes, positivity.

7. Give everything you do your all.

Reading a book? Enjoy it fully. Making Shepard’s pie? Stop looking through your Facebook feed. Sleeping? Rest hard. Sprinting  – give it your all. Mindfulness is crucial when enjoying your life’s little moments, and it is also helpful when you go big.

8. Have plans B and C for when things can go better than expected.

Deena mentioned that as runners ( and in life, too) we often have a plan A aiming for best results, and plans B and C if things do not go as well. But we rarely think of plans B and C on the opposite side of the spectrum – when things can go better and much better than we expected. Think about this concept for a while, I think it is pretty awesome!

9. Stay humble and true no matter who you are or what you’ve done.

Modesty, humility, and kindness. They are so important to stay true to yourself and others.

10. Rest, relax, recover, and recuperate.

Enjoy life at any moment. It goes along with #7 above. You need a lot of rest and recovery if you plan on performing well or better. You also will achieve your goals faster if you have a better quality of life, and while treating yourself with love and care.

In conclusion… Need I say I want to go back so badly. Mammoth Lakes stole a part of my heart. I will implement lots of positive self-talk, and hopefully will be back soon.

P.S. Amazing how runners’ community is so closely knit and tight – we can even fit 12 people around one tree stump. Ha!

life lessons from Deena Kastor

Cheers, folks.


P.S. You can learn more about Deena here.

All photos are courtesy of RunWestin concierge and a cool runner Chris Heuisler. Thanks for sharing!  runwestin.tumblr.com

Anya Perry battled boring diets, low energy, and declining health for over 10 years before she found what works. Now, she helps women achieve their dream state of health, fitness, and vitality… without the struggles, battles of miserable diets and yo-yo results. She can’t live without coffee and challenges.


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