Goucher’s Great Debut

(from in the January 2009 issue of T&FN)

WHEN THE TOPIC of Kara Goucher’s pending marathon debut made the rounds of the press corps, the prospect of her running 2:23 in a blessed race or even 2:25 with some “problems,” seemed well within reason for a runner who many see as a Ryan Hall-like natural for the 26-miler.

Some great expectations once you realize that 2:25 would be a U.S. debut record, the third-fastest American time ever and the fastest an American woman had ever run in New York.

On a cold and windy race day the 30-year-old Goucher lived up to the potential bestowed upon her, negative-splitting a 2:25:53 that augurs well for a formidable future in the event.

“It was interesting,” she says with the same hesitancy with which she began her marathon career at the prompting of coach Alberto Salazar. “When Alberto first started talking about the marathon, I wasn’t that interested. He said, ‘Let’s just start with the 10K’ and it just kind of progressed from there.

“Alberto believes I was built to do this, and he trained me the way he trained himself. I really enjoyed the training and the race was a really interesting experience for me. I had some things go wrong and was still able to finish 3rd and run 2:25. So, I think that Alberto is right; the marathon is where I belong.”

Goucher’s race began with a simple strategy: ”My plan was to just tuck behind whoever was leading and just gut it out as long as possible. I knew it would be a more aggressive race with Paula running, which scared me a little bit. But might as well jump in.”

She continues, “Paula was so tough, and she just hammered us with about 8 miles to go, and I caved. I got broken and slipped back into 4th or 5th, and then I had to recoup and I pulled it together and tried to stride out to secure 3rd.”

Goucher brought a lot of confidence to her debut: “I knew I could handle the hills, I knew I could handle the course, I knew I could handle the pace and it was really just getting my feet wet and getting after it.”

Still, she admits, “I doubted myself a little bit here and there. I wasn’t sure how I was going to handle it. When I hit 23 miles, I was like, ‘Wow! This is the farthest I’ve ever run, because I’ve never gone that far before.’ When I finished the race I was in so much pain.”

While the pain sunk in, realization of her lofty status had not. “It definitely hasn’t hit me yet that I ran faster than Deena,” Goucher admits. “She has set the standard for American distance running.”

With a career well stocked with track and harrier laurels, Goucher nonetheless says, “This has been the greatest athletic experience in my life.

“I love running the 5 and 10, and I have no intention of not running them anymore. But I think I do feel that I’m a lot more comfortable in the marathon.”

She concludes, “It was a learning experience, and I will go away much more prepared next time. I know I can do a lot better. I think I need to train more. “I think my stomach needs to toughen up because I wasn’t able to get in any liquids after 10 miles, and I think that cost me a lot over the final 5 miles. But as much as I was hurting the last 5 miles, it was awesome, so I’ll be back for sure.” ◻︎