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Olympic bronze medalist Deena Kastor is brimming with confidence heading into Saturday's IAAF World Championships Marathon, her first. The 40-year-old mother is feeling fit and ready to race her way to a top-five placing in Moscow.
"My training has been great, I've looked at the competition and I feel that if I'm engaged on that day and hungry enough for it, then I can do that," Kastor told Race Results Weekly, speaking at the TD Beach to Beacon 10-K in Maine last weekend.
If Kastor's finish at the 6.2-mile race in Cape Elizabeth was any indication of what to expect on August 10, then her competitors should be nervous. Placing seventh in 32:28.2, Kastor timed the fastest 10-K ever run by an American masters athlete. Her time was more than 20 seconds ahead of Colleen De Reuck's USA masters record of 32:50, though because of the course's 65% start/finish separation and elevation loss of .82m/kilometer, it will not be recognized as a new American record. It is statistically valid for all-time lists, though.
Crossing the finish in Fort Williams Park --a stretch which Kastor considers one of the prettiest in the sport-- the national record holder in the marathon had no clue she'd run faster than the masters record. Not until she texted her husband, Andrew, did she realize the significance of her time.
"I feel happy with my race. I think in marathon training, a 5:03 first mile is a little fast for me. But I feel happy with my race," she said with a grin. "I felt like I pushed the whole time and kept engaged trying not to let that gap widen in front of me, fighting for every step. I felt good with it. Definitely a good effort."
Though she raced the TD Beach to Beacon 10-K all out, Kastor's main priority is the marathon in Moscow.
"I've been really trying to tap into something special every day when I have a hard workout back home, so I'm looking to execute that similar strategy when I'm racing," she said.
Looking forward to the marathon, Kastor said she wants to finish in the top five, bettering her highest IAAF World Championships placing: a sixth place showing in the 10,000m in 2007, when she ran 32:24.58.
"That's what I've been training for," Kastor said with confidence. "I definitely feel like I've put myself in position. If I can fight like this for 26.2 miles, then I think I have a good shot at reaching my goal there."
After flying to Russia on Sunday, Kastor said she plans to relax and recover in the coming days. Aside from a few shorter runs and strides to stay loose, the Mammoth Lakes, Calif., resident will lay low until the race begins on Saturday at 6:00am EST.
Kastor looked at Saturday's race in Maine as one final chance to get into the racing mindset.
"It's great preparation for Moscow next week, just to get that feisty competitiveness in," she said. "Any time you can get a competitive opportunity leading up to a World Championships is a welcome one."
“Our races are to our sport what Wimbledon and the Australian, U.S., and French Opens are to tennis, and what the Masters, U.S., and British Opens and PGA Championship are to golf. Each race has the history, the tradition, the honor roll of legendary champions, and a special place in the eyes of all to make them stand apart from the other events.” Mary Wittenberg