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I’ve never been the type of person to be “star struck”.  I do not easily get swept away in fanciful tales of celebrities and their personal lives, nor do I tend to be the type of person who wants to collect autographs and memorabilia of famous individuals.  With that said, I do, however, greatly admire many people in our society that contribute greatness to the world in which we live.  Actors & actresses, authors, artists, musicians, historical figures and athletes are all among those who appear on this list. At the very top of my list is an amazingly humble and talented woman by the name of Kara Goucher.  I recently had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Kara, and, given the “backstory” of how this interview came about, it is unnecessary to state how ecstatic I was to have had this opportunity.  (read the “backstory” here!)

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous awaiting Kara’s call.  I mean, although it is pretty obvious by the way in which she carries herself that she is extremely down to Earth, who wouldn’t be freaking out a bit while waiting to interview their running idol?  However, the moment I answered her call and we began to chat, it was as if I was on the phone with a long, lost friend.

We delved right in, discussing Kara’s involvement with athletics in her early years.  She participated in a great deal of different sports growing up — softball, soccer, swimming, etc.  She described it as “a lot of okay” and expressed that running was the first time she was involved in a sport where she felt “kind of at home”.  For Kara, an extremely shy little girl, running is where she truly discovered herself.

I didn’t have to think about where I was planting my ski pole.  I didn’t have to think about where I was kicking the ball.  I just ran.

Kara got her first taste of running when she was six years old.  Her grandfather took her to an annual Mother’s Day race in her hometown of Duluth, Minnesota.  She did not, however, begin running competitively until she was 12 and ran on her Junior High School team.  It was then that she began to stand out as an athlete.  Knowing that she had the full support of her extremely close family, Kara always dreamed she would one day become an Olympian, but truly thought she might make it big as gymnast or “something more glitzy”.  She never really imagined that she would earn her living running professionally.

SHE’S “JUST A GIRL”…

I, of course, wanted to get the scoop on Kara as an athlete, but I also wanted to gain some insight to her as a person; as a successful woman and as an individual.  There are many interviews in circulation about her and most of them are hyper focused on her running career, and most recently, her journey to the 2012 Olympics in London.  All of this is extremely important to me as a runner, however, I truly wanted to share with readers a different side of Kara that many people may not know.  For instance, one of her favorite things to do, aside from hanging out with “her boys”, husband Adam and 2 year old son, Colt, is cooking for her family.  She LOVES trying out new recipes and is, in her own words, OBSESSED with a blog called Iowa Girl Eats! She thoroughly enjoys food, but if forced to choose one thing to eat the rest of her life, she would pick pizza.  Currently, her favorite pizza is one from Mellow Mushroom that is covered with tons of vegetables, olive oil, feta cheese, garlic and chicken!  She doesn’t usually stress out over her pre-race meals.  Before a marathon, she goes with something bland and easy to digest like rotisserie chicken, rice and sweet potatoes, but if it’s a shorter race, she just sticks to whatever she is craving.

Having grown up in a close family, as an adult, Kara is extremely family oriented and truly enjoys spending any downtime she has with her family and friends.  A perfect lazy day for Kara would consist of heading to Target or Ikea with Adam and Colt to find “super stuff you can’t live without”, then picking up dinner and heading home. Nearly every Thursday night, she has a standing date: Girl’s Night with her friends who know and love her outside of running.  They usually meet at Kara’s place to indulge in sushi, wine and good conversation about life!  As far as a perfect date night with Adam, it would be a nice dinner out enjoying each other’s company, then heading home early to curl up on the couch in sweats and watch a movie with a big bowl of candy!

Adam, Kara, and Colt enjoying some time together in Minnesota last month!

When it comes to clothing, her own personal sense of style isn’t necessarily decked out from head to toe in Nike gear 24/7 as you may think. Nevertheless, she does enjoy quite an awesome deal from them — Kara shared that she receives an “amazing” shipment from Nike twice a year that includes the latest and greatest casual and running clothes.  She is allotted 16 pairs of shoes annually and also has an additional budget to put toward items she many need.  She often sees the price tags on items and realizes, she has no idea how much running shorts, sports bras, shoes, and socks actually cost and “dreads the day when she has to purchase them.”

More often than not, Kara is styled for photo shoots and she likes to take the lead from these trendy outfits.  Her favorite place to shop?  H&M!  She enjoys shopping there because she can purchase many different and stylish options without breaking the bank.

As an avid music lover myself, I was curious to know what a typical playlist on Kara’s iPod would sound like. She is a self proclaimed top 40’s girl.  Anything that is heard on the radio is more than likely on her iPod.  She will typically go on iTunes, preview songs and then download 8-9 that she likes until she gets tired of them and needs something new.  In the past, Kara trained while listening to music all of the time, but since she began training with Shalane Flanagan on her morning runs, she usually reserves the use of her iPod for her afternoon runs, if at all.

SHE “LOVES RUNNING”…

Several people claim to have a Love/Hate relationship with running.  This is not the case for Kara.  She truly LOVES what she does. Sure, there are times when she does not necessarily feel like heading out to run 2 hours in the rain, but she puts it in perspective by reflecting on her goals, what she wants to accomplish, and then she goes out and gets it done.  When you are training close to 6 hours a day, it may seem that it would be difficult to keep that love alive, but Kara manages to do so and has a very positive and appreciative attitude toward her running.

I don’t feel like myself unless I have run.  My day is never complete, or even started, until I have gone for a run

A typical day of training in the life of Kara Goucher looks something like this:

Morning

  • 8:00 am – Leave the house
  • 8:30 am – 80 min to 2 hour run (sometimes a steady 6:15ish pace; other times 18-19 miles with a “tempo workout” mixed in.  Her coach, Jerry Schumacher, will bike along with her at times, but this fall, he has only been meeting her on Tuesdays and Thursdays.)
  • 10:00 am – 1 hour core session; planks, kettle bells, medicine balls, weights, etc.
  • 11:00 am-  Physical Therapy

Afternoon

  • Usually a 40-48 minute easy run followed by stretching.

Other than core work, Kara doesn’t really cross-train much.  She was doing quite a bit of aqua jogging following the London Olympic Games to recover from the tough marathon course. Early on, while training her body to become accustomed to the high mileage associated with an elite marathoner’s training regement, she would used her AlterG Anti-Gravity Treadmill frequently.  Now that her body can handle the 120-125 miles per week, she hasn’t really used it in almost an entire year.

IT RUNS IN THE FAMILY…

For Kara, being married to a world class runner certainly has it’s perks.  Although Adam is technically retired, he will occasionally run with her.  They ran together quite a bit while she was recuperating following the 2012 Olympics and previously, after the birth of their son, she ran almost exclusively with Adam while training for The Boston Marathon.  During her pregnancy, Kara was able to continue to run and a great deal of information regarding her training and experience as an expecting mother can be found in this wonderful article, Great Expectations, featured on the Runner’s World website.  I did speak briefly with Kara regarding her post pregnancy experiences and she shed some light on what it was like getting back into the swing of things.

I ran while I was pregnant, but for 9 months, I took it easy. I never pushed myself.  I always backed off when I felt tired so I had to remind myself of what it felt like to push through the pain and keep going when I was struggling. Colt was nearly nine months old before I overcame that hurdle and was able to really push again.

Kara really missed the routine of training the way she was accustomed to while she was carrying Colt, however, once he was born, aside from the issue of learning to train hard again, she experienced things that many women often do.  She was extremely tired, she nursed for 4 months, and she also experienced a great deal of guilt and anxiety when she would leave Colt to go for a run.  She attempted, only once, to run with him in a jogging stroller.  She found it to be so hard and frustrating, but because she didn’t want to be away from him, she actually convinced Adam to run with her, pushing Colt alongside in the stroller.  Kara giggled as she recalled a specific day in San Diego.  “I had a 2 hour run. And we were running hard! I can just remember poor Adam dodging people with the stroller!”

SHE’S AN OLYMPIAN… (TWICE!!!)

Everyone surely realizes that Kara represented the USA in the marathon just a few months ago at the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London.  People may not, however, so vividly recall her first Olympic experience in Beijing as a 5,000m and 10,000m athlete.

Kara and Kimberley Smith of New Zealand compete in the Women’s 10,000 meter final at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. Kara finished 10th. (Stu Forster/Getty Images)

When I asked her if she prefers to be on the track running shorter races or on the road, racing the marathon distance, she had mixed emotions.

The events are extremely different.  During the marathon, all of the attention is on you and you’re a rockstar because people wait around for hours on the course and you are among the first people they see.

She loves being on the track…the stadium, being under the lights and, as much as it evokes anxiety in many track athletes, she misses the last lap of a race.  She misses “hearing that bell and knowing everyone is pushing and giving their all.”  But, on the other hand, she loves the marathon distance because she is discovering as she competes more frequently at this distance, she doesn’t even truly know the event yet.  This is very exciting to her. “I am always extremely emotional after a marathon because you put so much into it.”  Below is a photo Kara shared with me.  Considering the number of times she is photographed while running, this picture is exceptionally special to her because she has deemed it as her all time favorite running photo of herself!

“This is my favorite picture of me running of all time. It was at the Olympic Trials Marathon last January. It was as I rounded the last corner with about 150 meters to go. I wasn’t going to win, or set a PR, but I was making the Olympic Team. After a very difficult year, a dream was coming true for me. It literally took my breath away and this picture captured that one moment. I love this picture because it reminds me of why I run and the power it has.”

 I asked Kara to try and summarize her most recent experience at the Olympics in London and she was completely charged as she spoke of it!

I LOVED it!  In Beijing, I put a lot of pressure on myself to medal and felt like I had failed everyone.  When I returned home, I told myself, if I ever have the privilege of representing my country at the Olympics again, I am going to enjoy it.  I was determined to soak it in!

And that is exactly what Kara did!  She and Shalane, her friend, training partner and fellow USA marathoner actually led the race for the first 12 miles.  “It was electrifying.  I literally had goosebumps…the hairs on my arms were standing on end.  I had never been a part of something so intense.  There were people shouting my name, and cheering so loudly! It was amazing!”  Kara began to experience some difficulty at mile 16, but she was determined to push through and finish strong.  Even when her body was cramping, she didn’t want to check out and feel sorry for herself.  She walked away with no regrets or negative feelings toward her performance.  She walked away knowing that she had given her all.

Kara and Shalane placing 10th and 11th at the 2012 Olympic Marathon

SHE IS “FAMOUS”…

As an incredibly humble and approachable individual, I wondered how it must feel for Kara to be famous.  “Famous is a funny term,” Kara laughed.  “People sometimes ask, can you go to the grocery store and I’m like, yes, I go to the grocery store and nothing happens.”  It’s only at certain running centered events where she feels the sensation of being “famous.”  “I am a dork!  My family sometimes laughs at me when people want my autograph.”

There are times I think, why would people care what I’m doing.  Like they are going to wake up one day and realize that I’m just a normal person.

The most rewarding part of her “fame”?  Knowing that she has inspired others and that there are so many people; thousands that she will never meet, but have touched her heart.  When she logged onto Facebook after she finished the marathon in London, she was literally in tears knowing that so many people were watching her at the Olympics.  “It feels so good having so many people behind me, believing in me and cheering me on!”

SHE IS INSPIRED…

Because she is a professional athlete, you may assume that Kara only inspires others in life.  This, however, is not the case for her.  She greatly admires professional athletes Allyson Felix (200m 2012 Olympic Gold Medalist), Chrissie Wellington (Four time World Ironman Champion), and Paula Radcliffe (Women’s Marathon World Record Holder).  She also finds inspiration in everyday life…from regular people like you and me.

A lot of things inspire me!  People doing things they didn’t know they were capable of is the best!

“Paula running a 2:15 marathon or my neighbor completing their first race.  I am just as inspired by people running their 1st marathon as I am people who are elites.  I love to see people living outside of boundaries; people not placing limits upon themselves.” When asked one piece of advice she would give to any aspiring athlete, she said, “Have patience.  It takes time to improve in all sports.  I started running when I was 12…I am now 34 and can say that I have gotten better every year.  I am blessed with the gift of patience and vision.  Don’t rush the journey!”

SHE IS AN ULTRARUNNER…???? 

Perhaps in the future, YES!  Kara shared with me that she never thought she would ever want to run an ultra distance race, but after reading the book Born to Run, she absolutely wants to complete one once she is finished competing at the professional level. Oddly enough, she expressed that she “doesn’t know if she can do it.” Well, Kara, I don’t really think you have anything to worry about.  And besides, I know of two girls who would be more than happy to help crew/pace you to a successful 100 mile experience! Right, Alexa!?