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CHICAGO - Deena Kastor threw out the first pitch of the White Sox's July 23 game with the Boston Red Sox at U.S. Cellular Field, where they showed her surprising bronze-medal finish at the 2004 Olympic marathon on the video screen.
That experience, obviously, had a lasting impact because Kastor is bringing the surprising White Sox attitude to Sunday's LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon.
"I'm going to die trying," Kastor said Thursday of her attempt to win her first major marathon title and to become the first U.S. woman in the sub-2:20 club.
Kastor stands an excellent chance of doing both, based on her performance at the Sept. 18 Philadelphia Half Marathon.
Her winning time of 1 hour 7 minutes 53 seconds, broke Joan Benoit Samuelson's 21-year-old U.S. record for that distance. Two years earlier, Kastor had broken Samuelson's equally hoary U.S. marathon record with a clocking of 2:21:16 while finishing third at the London Marathon.
"It's definitely one of my goals to be part of that elite group of sub-2:20 women," Kastor said. "I am going to run an aggressive race."
Since Japan's Naoko Takahashi (2:19:46) became the first woman to break 2:20, at the 2001 Berlin Marathon, five more have joined her, two in Chicago: Paula Radcliffe of Britain (2:17:18 in 2002) and Catherine Ndereba of Kenya (2:18:47 in 2001 and 2:19:55 in 2002). Radcliffe's time is the second fastest ever, behind the 2:15:25 she ran at London in 2003.
The Chicago Marathon gives Kastor the chance for a big finish in a year she started fast before foot problems slowed her.
Kastor began with an impressive victory at the U.S. 8-kilometer championship and followed with a U.S. record over that distance at the April 4 LaSalle Bank Shamrock Shuffle.
In May, while playing with her dog in the back yard, her foot rolled, causing an injury diagnosed as a stress reaction.
Kastor was forced to immobolize the foot for two weeks. That was less than a month before the U.S. Track & Field Championships, when she finished a disappointed fourth in the 10,000 meters.
That kept Kastor, U.S. record-holder and four-time U.S. champion in the track 10,000, from making the team for August's world championships.
"After that, I have been trying to make the best of what was left," Kastor said.
(c) 2005, Chicago Tribune. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service.