Deena Kastor at the London Marathon - Photo - New York City Marathonn
Her face is plastered throughout New York City on buses and subways. She’s the world’s number one ranked marathoner and fourth-fastest female marathoner in history. A nation is pinning its hopes on her to become the first American to win the New York City Marathon in nearly three decades.
Not one of the 30,000+ runners who will line up Sunday face as much pressure as Deena Kastor.
But she sees it differently.
“I don't think of it as pressure at all. It's a 26.2-mile race against the best women in the world, regardless, so it's what I've prepared for, “she told reporters on today’s conference call. “I've prepared to run the distance against the women I'm headed up against this weekend. Nothing that happens on the outside of that will affect the outcome of this race.”
New York Race Director Mary Wittenberg, who described the women’s field as a “field of dreams” said that a win would not only elevate Deena but American distance running. “Deena is up to win this race. It will take the best day of her life but she has what it takes to win. She’s in her prime.”
“I want to seize the opportunity and the moment in my career that I feel so strong to be able to pull this off, “Kastor said, adding that the starting line-up of (Catherine) Ndereba and Susan Chepkemei and Jelena Prokopcuka (and Rita Jeptoo and Lornah Kiplagat), won’t make things easy.
One runner she’ll be thinking of on the starting line will be Canadian 5000m Champion, Emilie Mondor. In addition to her Asics uniform and flash red racers, Kastor will be wearing a black wrist band in honour of her former training partner who was to have made her marathon debut in New York but died tragically in a car crash in September. “We are definitely going to feel a missing link on the starting line.”
But once the gun goes off on Sunday, Kastor will be focussed entirely on the race. “I can’t afford to have a single negative thought.”
Though she didn’t show all her cards on her race plans, she said she’s been visualizing3-4 girls fighting it out into Central Park during her 130 mile weeks spent training in Mammoth Lakes.
She said it’s hard to predict how the race will play out because she doesn’t know the fitness levels of the other women although she suspects the lead pack will stay together until about 10k to go. “If I’m in contention to win this race, in a lead pack or with someone else coming into Central Park, I know I can win this race.”
What she doesn’t want is another sprint to the finish as we saw in last year’s men’s race between Paul Tergat Hendrick Ramaala (Tergat won by one third of a second). “That’s a nasty way to win,” she said.
For Deena Kastor, who has been dreaming about breaking the tape in New York since she made her marathon debut there in 2001. (She finished seventh in 2:26:58), Sunday’s race, it all comes down to believing in herself: “This weekend I just have the built-up momentum of the past five years of learning as a marathoner and growing in this sport to a chance that I really feel that I can win it this time around.”