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Exclusive Interview: Kara Goucher Fires Back

Smack talk escalates between Olympian Kara Goucher and editor Mario Fraioli ahead of Phoenix Showdown.

Smack talk escalates between Olympian and editor ahead of Phoenix Showdown.

Interview by: Matt Fitzgerald

It started innocently enough—with superstar runner Kara Goucher going out of her way in a recent blog post to challenge completely unknown former Division II athlete Mario Fraioli to a head-to-head race-within-a-race at the P. F. Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Half Marathon in Phoenix on January 16th. Then Mario used the power of his WordPress publishing access to accept Kara’s challenge and escalate the smack talk. Now, with this exclusive interview, Kara gets the next word in a nasty verbal prelude to perhaps the greatest sporting battle of the sexes since Billie Jean King vs. Bobby Riggs in 1973. And as you’ll see, Kara isn’t backing down.

Competitor: There was quite an outpouring of support for you after you called out Mario on your blog. Did you see the comments?

Kara Goucher: Yeah, everyone’s like, “You go, girl!” “Your smack talk has come a long way!”

Do you feel sorry for Mario that everyone’s rooting for you and no one’s rooting for him?

I do not feel sorry for him at all. I need that support. I just had a baby! C’mon!

Mario kind of raised the level of trash talk with his response to your call-out. How do you feel about that?

I felt like maybe I should rewrite mine a little bit harsher. Maybe the goal should be seeing him cry. Or having my son see him cry.

Does Mario’s challenge add to your level of motivation for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Half Marathon?

It actually makes it a little more interesting. I mean, realistically, I’m just trying to get my feet under me and get going again. But it gives me a little more motivation over those last 5 kilometers. Like, “I want to kick his ass so bad!” So yeah, it gives me a little more motivation to have a good return to racing and it gives me something else to think about besides just completing it.

Have you tweaked your training at all to better your chances of beating Mario?

It’s funny, after I read his rebuttal I bombed out of a workout. And I was seriously thinking, “Is Mario getting in my head? What’s going on here?”

But you can tell him that my days of being excited about running a 34.9-second 200 are long gone. I’m down in the 33’s. One bad workout means nothing.

Does Alberto know about your showdown with Mario?

I’ve tried to keep it back a little bit because Alberto is the kind of coach who would adjust my training to make sure I kick this guy’s ass. So I haven’t told him about it quite yet, but eventually I will.

When Alberto finds out about Mario will he obsessively research his background and talk to his former coaches and see if he can dig up his old lactate threshold test results?

Absolutely. He’ll have the whole makeup of his physiology printed out and he’ll have a target on his back by the time he’s done.

Now, realistically, Mario has more speed than you’ll ever have. He’s a 4:09 miler, and—

That’s a little harsh, Matt! Jeez!

Well, a 4:09 mile by a woman would be a world record.

Okay, fair enough.

I didn’t mean to insult you. My point is, Mario has a lot of speed. Given that speed is his advantage, whereas your advantage is stamina, what is your actual strategy to beat Mario?

I honestly think that at the end of 13 miles, for the final 0.1, there’s no way he’s going to be able to find that 4:09 mile speed. He’s going to be so tired. But me? I’m going to be able to find my 33-second 200. So he’s going to get floored by a 33-second 200. Even though he might have more speed, he’ll be done.

So your strategy is to wear him down and take the snap out of his legs?

There will be no snap. After six and a half miles the snap will be gone.

Inevitably you’re going to have to meet Mario before the race in Phoenix. Do you think that’s going to be awkward?

Probably not. Because I’ll bring Colt and he’ll fawn over Colt and that will make him feel bad that he wants to beat me. I’ll use Colt as a decoy.

You obviously don’t know Mario.

Why, does he not like kids?

I don’t think he’s the type to fawn over babies.


Anyway, if it comes down to a sprint finish—You know enough guy runners to know that some of us consider it bad form to give a 100 percent effort to outkick a female competitor to the finish. Are you counting on that, or are you giving Mario full permission to put everything he’s got into trying to outkick you if it comes to that?

I’m giving him full permission. I don’t want any favors. Whatever he has, he has. I mean, I know he has more speed, but I do not think it’s going to be there. I think he’s going to go for that 4:09 speed and he’s going to get blown away by a girl who has run 4:05 in the 1500.

Lastly, are you familiar with the expression “getting chicked”, and if so, do you find it offensive?

I had never heard of that expression until I heard Josh Cox talk about getting chicked by Deena [Kastor]. And then I heard people talk about me chicking the whole field in Chicago. So, I’d never heard that expression until within the last year. I actually think it’s really funny. So no, it’s not offensive, and Mario is going to know what it’s like to get chicked on January 16th!


Check out Matt’s latest book, RUN: The Mind-Body Method of Running by Feel.