Moscow World Championships, Day 1: Deena's Swan Song by M. Nicole Nazzaro

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I have to admit, I love Deena Kastor. I was in Athens when she took the bronze medal in a gutty run in absolutely horrific conditions. I had remembered seeing how broken up Deena was at the 2004 Trials when she did not win the marathon in St. Louis. Her run, which featured the fastest last 10k of anyone in the women's marathon in Athens, is as inspiring today as it was in 2004.

Deena's run in Moscow was as gutty as she is. An ambassador for our sport, Deena speaks articulately, and lives the Olympic oath every day of her life. 

M. Nicole Nazzaro's piece today on Deena Kastor is worth the read at this early time on Saturday morning. 

deenakastor2013.jpg
Deena Kastor, photo courtesy of Mike Deering, Shoe Addicts
 


Moscow World Championships, Day 1: Deena's Swan Song
by M. Nicole Nazzaro
 
You could do a lot worse in your last week as an elite marathoner than to set a master's record at a revered American road race, then hop a plane, fly halfway around the world, and clock a speedy marathon against the world's best women in inhuman conditions to place ninth at the world championships.
 
But that's just what Deena Kastor, age 40, accomplished this week. First, at last Saturday's Beach to Beacon 10K in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, she ran 32:28.3 to place seventh overall and set an American master's best (breaking the 13-year old record set by Colleen de Reuck); and then this afternoon at the world track and field championships, she eked out a 2:36:12 ninth-place effort against the likes of two-time world champion Edna Kiplagat, and 81-degree heat with full sun on a shadeless paved course, in central Moscow. If this is her swan song, oh, what a song it was.
 
Afterwards Deena was exhausted. And circumspect. She's had a monster of a marathon career, becoming the first American woman to break the 2:20 barrier, setting the American record, and notching an Olympic bronze medal in Athens. Nine years after that sparkling Olympic run, she led the American women's team in the world outdoor championships today. And she allowed that while she didn't want to make an emotional decision, today's race was likely her last marathon at the elite level.
 
Overachieving women marathoners who continue to compete past the age of 40 are nothing new - Britain's Joyce Smith was the first woman to clock a sub-2:30 marathon after her fortieth birthday, achieving that feat at the 1981 London Marathon (1st in 2:29:57). The following year, at age 44, she won London a second time (2:29:43) and to this day remains the oldest woman to have won the outright title there. Historically, women tend to run more strongly after childbirth (think Paula Radcliffe). Whatever the reason, for Kastor and other top women marathoners, their competitive lives can thrive even after 40.
 
We caught up with one of the Running Network's good friends, former marathon world record holder Jacqueline Hansen, who underlined the importance Smith had in the early 1980's in demonstrating not only that women over 40 could run world-class times, but that the time had come for the IAAF to add women's marathoning to the Olympic program.
 
"Joyce's performance was one of those key moments in convincing the IAAF to get on our side with pressing for the marathon in the Olympic Games," Hansen recalled today in an email interview. Kastor, in other words, is simply fulfilling the promise that the women of Hansen and Smith's generation sought to demonstrate to the IAAF. (After seeing the strength with which today's medalists powered through the streets of Moscow, it boggles the mind to consider that it was less than thirty years ago when women had no Olympic marathon to contest.)
 
As the sun sets on this first day of the world track and field championships in Moscow, Vladimir Putin is addressing the crowd at the opening ceremony, and I'm wrapping up a five-story day and preparing to head back to my Izmailovsky Park hotel for some much-needed sleep. But I'm taking with me the inspiration that Kastor demonstrated today in this stadium. Something tells me that I just might be listening to her mixed zone interview during my morning run tomorrow to give me that needed kick to push me over the finish line.
 

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