The 36-year-old is excited to return to racing this weekend at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon.
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PHILADELPHIA — Fiercely competitive, Kara Goucher has always run to win.
The two-time Olympian, 36, has typically raced on instinct, running with the lead group in most races, and waiting to strike for a top placing at the end. That’s the approach which put her on the podium at the 2007 IAAF World Championships where she won the bronze medal at 10,000m.
But after a slow return to racing after suffering a sacral fracture earlier this year, Goucher said that she would be taking a more controlled and methodical approach to her two key races this fall, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Half-Marathon here on Sunday, and the TCS New York City Marathon on November 2nd. Under coach Mark Wetmore, who trained her when she ran for the University of Colorado as Kara Grgas-Wheeler, Goucher said she is rebuilding steadily with the hope of making her third Olympic team in 2016, and even lowering her 10,000m personal best of 30:55.16 set back in 2008.
“It humbles you. It takes all the wind out of our sails,” Goucher told an audience of recreational runners about her injuries. “I’m so grateful to be healthy and to be here.” She looked at the audience and said, “I think we all struggle.”
Answering questions from moderator John Bingham, Goucher said that in order to get back to her best level of racing, she needed to put aside her hyper-competitive drive and focus on hitting even splits at a controlled pace. She said her husband, Olympian Adam Goucher, and Coach Wetmore would be out on the course to make sure she stuck to that plan.
“This isn’t about winning on Sunday,” said Goucher who hinted that her previously announced time goal of 71 to 72 minutes might be a little conservative. She continued: “If I win on Sunday it’s because I rolled everybody up. If it’s going to go out quick, that’s not the right strategy for me.”
Running hard from the gun will be tempting for Goucher. Her energy system is particularly well suited to the half-marathon distance, where she has a sizzling personal best of 66:57—the fastest ever by an American, but not the U.S. record because it was run on a slightly aided course. Moreover, she has run three of the five fastest half-marathons by American women (Olympic bronze medalist Deena Kastor, who is also racing here in Philadelphia, has the other two).
Goucher said that her by-the-watch approach would also extend to the marathon in New York. She called the field assembled by the New York Road Runners “sensational,” but asserted that she would remain cautious, especially because the New York course is so difficult.
“My goal will be to run an extremely solid race,” she said. “I’ll be consistent through the half then get my carnage,” passing other women who are faltering in the race’s hilly last 10 kilometers, which include the hills of Central Park. “New York bites you in the butt if you go out to hard,” she intoned.
Goucher made her marathon debut in New York in 2008 after finishing 10th at the Olympic Games 10,000m. She ran the still standing U.S. debut record of 2:25:53, finishing third to Paula Radcliffe of Great Britain (2:23:56) and Lyudmila Petrova of Russia (2:25:43). She said today that she would not be looking to better her 2008 performance in November, but hoped to run in the 2:28 range and walk off of the course stronger and injury free.
“I’m really going to run my own race, both on Sunday and at the New York City Marathon,” she said.
Before dozens of fans lined up to get her autograph and to pose with Goucher for pictures, she took a few questions from the audience. One person asked if she had any mantras she repeated to keep her motivated. She smiled and looked at the audience.
“Right now, my whole thing is (repeating) that I’m not done,” she said.