Amy Hastings—AKA "Little Deena"—Is Finding Her Marathoning Future With The Mammoth Track Club
by Jon Hendershott
A major factor in the breakthrough 2:27:03 by Amy Hastings for 2nd in the wind- and rain-swept LA Marathon—in her 26-mile debut,—came more than two years ago when the Arizona State grad joined the Mammoth Track Club.
Not only did the she get to benefit from the altitude of eastern California’s Sierra Nevada mountains, she gained even more from the group’s structured training environment.
Says Mammoth coach Terrence Mahon, “In her first year out of college [’08], she wasn’t in any kind of training system. When we first met, I asked her, ‘What time to do run in the morning?’ She answered, ‘Y’know, whenever.’ Or I asked, ‘What do you do the rest of the day?’ She would say, ‘Oh, just hang out.’ So coming to us, it was strict and structured.”
Says Leavenworth, Kansas, native Hastings, “It was an adjustment, for sure, but a big thing is the whole Mammoth group are just great people to begin with. To have someone like Deena [Kastor] there and see how hard she works is just amazing. But she’s also just a really cool person.
“So being able to see her and her sense of balance about everything has been so great. I aspire to be like that,” Hastings adds with a laugh.
“And having Jen [Rhines] on the team, you couldn’t ask for a more supportive teammate,” Hastings continues. “She is someone I have always looked up to, so having her there on a daily basis and being able to train with her, has been just amazing. I still can’t believe it sometimes.”
Mahon points out that Hastings has grown in the group’s supportive atmosphere. The coach says, “It took a lot of time to get Amy to understand first what she really wanted to do in running, and then to be able to build into the training that would be required.
“For some runners, I think the marathon scares you into being serious. It’s the only event where you’re always worried about even finishing.
“But her work brought out a level of fierceness in Amy that I don’t think even she thought she had. Seeing her improve each week, both physically and psychologically, was huge. Then to have her put it all together in the LA race was great.”
One trait Hastings has seemed to always have is to forge to the front in races, track or road. She says, “My favorite way to run has always been to just take it out. It’s a lot of fun.
“I guess it’s a little bit about control, but maybe more that I feel like I’m putting in the effort to make it a good race. I’m not really sure why I like it so much, but I just feel so much energy when I’m up there in front.”
Adds Mahon, “She is fearless and definitely isn’t afraid to put her head down and go to the front and lead. So knowing that, my job as the coach is to is to give her the training that allows her to back up the style she uses.
“I’ve started calling Amy ‘Little Deena’ because Deena uses that same style. She just wants to run hard. They both like to lead and aren’t going to overcomplicate things.
“What I realized is that Amy wants to make you come on her ride, not her go on someone else’s ride. That’s the character she possesses and if you look at her past races—on the track, or roads, or cross country—they were that style. She just put her head down and went. Now it’s just a matter of taking her strengths and working with them to give her more tools.”
Hastings, 27, won’t run another marathon until the Olympic Trials 26-miler next January. She will continue running half-marathons and longer road races, but also plans track 5000s and 10,000s this season to maintain and improve her speed.
But the marathon is where her long-term vision is directed. She says, “Even when I was in high school, I felt the longer the distance, the better for me. I had a feeling I would be a 10K runner in college and then in college I felt I would eventually be a marathoner.
“The long-run days in high school and college were always my favorite days and the days I would feel the best. So I figured it was pretty natural to head in that direction.”