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Movin’ On Up
After graduating from college, Hastings moved a few hours north to the 7,000-foot environs of Flagstaff to try altitude training for the first time. For a while she was still coached by her college mentor, Louis Quintana, while also receiving guidance from legendary coach Jack Daniels. But Hastings missed the supportive team environment she thrived on in college.
“I had a hard time going out and doing it all on my own,” Hastings says of her brief stint in Flagstaff. “When your coach isn’t there with you the whole time it’s difficult. I realized pretty quickly I needed to make a change, and so I had actually been talking about how I wanted to train with Deena Kastor.”
Funny how things work out sometimes.
After an up-and-down first year as professional where she again qualified for the world cross country championships and placed 14th in both the 5,000 and 10,000 meters at the 2008 U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials in Eugene, Hastings made the move to Mammoth Lakes, Calif., and joined Kastor, the silver medalist in the 2004 Olympic marathon, as a member of coach Terrence Mahon’s Mammoth Track Club, a powerhouse of a training group which included Olympians Kastor and Jen Rhines, as well as other notable names such as Ryan Hall and Meb Keflezighi.
“We actually had a poster of Deena and Jen Rhines in my house in college so it was absolutely incredible,” Hastings says of her arrival in Mammoth. “When I first met them I was absolutely in awe of them and it took time to realize they were just normal people who work really hard but are very balanced. That was really cool to have that just to realize running didn’t have to be 100 percent of your life.”
Running took on a whole meaning for Hastings, however, and she began to train with renewed enthusiasm alongside her idol in the thin air of the Sierra Nevadas, some 8,000 feet above sea level. Improvement came gradually as she began to dabble in road racing, but the high-altitude training was paying off as evidenced by her first big breakthrough at the 2010 U.S. half- marathon championships in Houston, where she finished fourth in 1:11:19.
The following year, Hastings finally made the leap she knew she had been destined for since high school, finishing a strong second at the LA Marathon in 2:27:03 in her debut effort at 26.2 miles. It was the third-fastest debut time ever for an American runner, behind only Goucher (2:25:53) and Kastor (2:26:58).
“I fell in love with the marathon before the race,” reveals Hastings. “I really feel like I’m made for that kind of training. I had been struggling the couple years before that because I have a hard time recovering from really short, intense stuff. So once we switched to marathon training, I don’t know, I was just hooked. The race was just the icing on the cake.”
On the track later that summer, Hastings’ strength reaped her 5,000m personal best to 15:14.31 to finish second at the U.S. championships, qualifying her for the 2011 world championships in Daegu, South Korea, where she placed 15th in the final.
Never the first one in the room to raise her hand for leg-searing speed work, Hastings credits marathon training for her improvement on the track.
“My last two years I started switching to marathon training, which I think was really good,” Hastings explains. “My mileage bumped up a whole lot, and it was the same kind of workouts we did the first two years but the emphasis was more on the tempos and long runs. I kind of started doing more marathon-based training and it really helped my track times.”