September Sun Doesn’t Slow This Runner’s Pace

When 32-year-old Deena Kastor lined up among the sea of runners outside of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, she felt that her body was in record-breaking condition.

"It was my plan going into the race," said the runner, whose race time of one hour, seven minutes and 53 seconds in the Jefferson Hospital Philadelphia Distance Run set a new American women's record for the half-marathon. "My fitness was indicating that I was [strong] enough to run that fast."

Kastor, trained hard for the race, running miles and miles in the high altitude and snowy mountains near her home in Mammoth Lakes, Calif. She often wore snowshoes with metal spikes on the bottom for traction as she trudged her way through the cold white powder.

Thus, the irony: Kastor admitted that the brutal Philly sun on Sept. 18 did not help her productivity, as she was forced to pace herself during the first couple of miles.

"It was warmer than I would have liked," said Kastor, the Jewish woman who won a bronze medal in the full marathon at the 2004 Olympics in Athens. "When I planned to run that race, I was hoping for cooler conditions."

Kastor earned $16,000 for her victory, a tidy sum for a simple tune-up.

"It's all in preparation for the LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon," she said about the 26.2-mile race set for Oct. 9, which will be her last major test of the year. Running a competitive half-marathon three weeks earlier serves as part of her overall training regimen.

Next Olympics: Far Off
For next year, Kastor will focus on the cross-country season during the spring months, track season in the summer and end with a marathon. She stressed that the 2008 Olympics in Beijing are still very far away.

"I guess in the very back of my mind, I'm thinking of that," said the medalist, "but there's a lot of other things to do before then."

The recent half-marathon – which began and ended at the art museum – stretched all the way east to Fourth Street, and west to the Falls Bridge, which connects Kelly Drive with Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.

An estimated 8,600 runners from all over the world finished the race, although some of the entrants walked or used wheelchairs, according to the event's Web site. There were more than 10,500 competitors.

Kastor's road to competitive running started when she joined a youth track team in Aurora Hills, Calif., where she was raised in a secular Jewish home.

"A lot of kids my age were doing it," she said. "I was running in the mountains. It was great."

Kastor also took to the sport because it wasn't limited to a single season, like so many others. "It was all year. Soccer [which she played when young] was only a couple of months."

Kastor's time in the Philly run broke a record held by Joan Benoit Samuelson, who in 1984 solidified her status in the sport when she became the first American woman to win an Olympic marathon.

"She's a fantastic lady – a gold medalist," Kastor said of her Jewish predecessor, "and no matter what people do after her, she's irreplaceable in the sport. I'm following in some pretty fabulous footsteps."



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