Excerpted from chapter 16 ("Go! Go!") of Deena Kastor's memoir, "Let Your Mind Run." Text below recalls mere moments before Kastor set out to win the bronze medal at the 2004 Summer Olympics for the women's marathon:
The highway road narrowed as we approached the town of Marathon. Marathon, for all its fame, didn't match the hype in my head. I thought there'd be a big gold-plated sign arcing across the road that read: the epic battle of marathon, or something, but it really was just a sleepy village. The streets were deserted. The only sign of life was a soda shop with a lit Coca-Cola sign in the window.
Out front, three Greek men sipped espresso and smoked, their bellies sticking out beneath white T-shirts. They waved as the bus went by. The bus looped around the soda shop and onto Marathon Avenue, stopping in front of what looked like a bunker -- a short, cement building. I grabbed my things and walked down the aisle. As I passed the driver's seat, I looked at the dashboard thermometer. It was flashing between 38° Celsius and 101° Fahrenheit. I gasped. I trained for heat, but not triple digits. Earlier that day, 10,000-meter runner Abdi Abdirahman was helping me lug an ice chest carrying our team's ice vests to the bus. He couldn't get over the heat. "People are going to die out there," he said, sweat glistening on his face. I thought he was being a bit dramatic. It was warm, but it didn't feel that hot. Now, walking from the air-conditioned bus to the outside, the rush of oven-like air was suffocating.
I called Andrew [my physiotherapist and husband]. "Go out slooooooowly," he said, dragging out the adverb for emphasis. That was the plan, but I modified it on the spot: I'd go slower than slowly. I tucked my phone into my bag and ran to catch up with [U.S. Olympic assistant coach] Julie [Emmons], [and my teammates] -- Jen [Rhines], and Colleen [de Reuck], as well as our FBI agents (all U.S. marathoners had one because of the Iraqi war and the risk of being on an exposed course). We walked on the narrow path, and the glare of a white-hot sun pressed heavily against my eyes. I decided a conservative start and fluids were the only things that would save me from sharing the same fate as Pheidippides.
A set of steep stairs led us down into a small locker room, part of the municipal stadium. The air was cool. Jen, Colleen and I found a quiet corner, put on our ice vests and slid down to the cement floor. I hugged the vest to my body, staring outside, surprised to see the other women jogging back and forth in the sun. We sat quietly, talking a little about the beauty of Crete and the leisure feel of our camp setup there. Jen and Colleen left a little while later to do a short warm-up. I sat holding my racing flats in my hands and reflected on all the workouts I'd done in those shoes until the announcer called us to the line.
Reprinted from "LET YOUR MIND RUN: A Memoir of Thinking My Way to Victory" Copyright © 2018 by Deena Kastor and Michelle Hamilton. Published by Three Rivers Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. Kastor is an Olympic medalist and the American record holder in the marathon. She lives in Mammoth Lakes, California. Hamilton is a health and fitness journalist. Her work has appeared in Runner's World, Bicycling, Women's Health and other publications.