Kara Goucher Interview, from USATF Press conference

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Kara Goucher is leading the way in U.S. women's distance running. From her gutty bronze medal in Osaka, to her fine 8:34.55 for 3,000 meters, 14:55 for 5,000 meters-both personal bests, to her defeat of Paula Radcliffe this past weekend at the Great North Half Marathon. In a wonderful interview conducted by USA Track & Field, you, our readers, get to see a little more of this exciting distance runner!

USATF on Wednesday hosted a media teleconference with Kara Goucher, The 2007 World Outdoor Championships bronze medalist in the women's 10,000m who on Sunday won the Great North Half Marathon in England.

Q: Tell us about your race this weekend.

A: It was something that was proposed to me to go run there after Osaka. My coach and I talked about it, and he said 'I think you should do it. You're prepared and there are no expectations.' I came back to Portland for 7 days after I ran in Berlin. I did a long run, and I did a 9-mile tempo run. Heading into the race we thought I could handle 5:10 [mile pace], and then I kind of kept running.

Q: How far was your longest race prior to Sunday?

A: 10k was the longest.

Q: How did you find the distance?

A: I felt really comfortable and really relaxed. I felt like we were running fast - it wasn't easy by any means. But I felt like my body was handling it, until the last two miles. The last kilometer was really, really hard. This is only my third road race. I ran the Providence 5k in 2005 and I ran the Tufts 10k last year. This by far was the most exciting. There were people everywhere, and they were cheering so loud, even though they did call me Paula [Radcliffe] the whole race.

Q: Can you track your path from growing up in Duluth to Colorado.

A: I started running in the 7th grade, back in Minnesota. I was kind of in Carrie Tollefson's shadow, to be honest. I won quite a few state titles, but I was second more than first. I went to the University of Colorado and loved it there. I struggled a lot with injuries the last three years, but I've been in Portland the last 3 years. I didn't go home to Minnesota for Christmas this year, for the first time. Adam and I decided to fly everybody out here so we wouldn't have to train in the cold. That turned out to be a good decision.

Q: What instrument did you play in band, when you were young?

A: French horn. I played at my senior high graduation, and that's the last time I played.

Q: It's been an unbelievable year for you. What sticks out as the best of all of them? How are you dealing with all of this?

A: It's hard to pick a favorite moment. Running in Boulder [at the USA Cross Country Championships], I wish I would have won there. But just running there was so great. At U.S. nationals [the AT&T USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships] I ran a very conservative race, but I made my first World team and was so emotional. Then it was Osaka, and that was great ... it kind of hasn't sunk in because I've been going, going, going. It's been a little bit overwhelming, but all in a good way.

Q: The main thing, to most observers, is the medal in Osaka. As you lined up, what were your thoughts about your prospects? Did you think you could medal?

A: I had thought about it, my husband and I had talked about it and my coach and I had talked about it. My husband was like, 'your workouts have been amazing, I've never seen you work so hard in all the time I've known you. You really can get a medal, don't limit yourself.' On the bus ride over to the meet, my coach said 'look, you're in the best shape of your life. On paper, you're ninth, but really you're fifth or sixth. And if you put yourself in that position, you could get a medal. Other people mess up.' That night I was really, really focused on not letting the lead pack getting away. I wasn't really thinking about it [a medal] until the last lap, and I thought, 'I'm going to get this.'

Q: Does this change how you and race directors perceive yourself?

A: So far, nothing has changed, to be honest. But for myself, Adam and I did 'Keeping Up With the Gouchers' earlier this year. The first thing I said on there is I think people would be shocked at how big my goals are. Not just to get there [World Championships or Olympics], but I've always wanted to do something memorable. I've always had really, really big goals and expectations for myself. I still can't believe it happened, it still surprises me. This weekend I couldn't believe that I was running with Paula Radcliffe. But in my mind, nothing has changed.

Q: Do you know what your next plans are?

A: I'm not running for a while, I'm taking a break and kind of letting my body have a rest. Because I've been running so well, it's been really hard not to see my family. We're going to go out and see Adam's family as well.

Q: Can you tell us what was going through your head the last couple of kilometers at the half-marathon?

A: At 3 miles to go, I had no idea that Paula and I, there was such a big gap between us. With 3 miles to go, I thought oh my gosh, I might beat Paula Radcliffe, this is crazy. With two miles to go ... it was a really long finish, a 1600m straight-away. I honestly thought she was going to fly by me at any moment. I just thought, don't look back, don't look back, don't let her know how hard you're hurting. I thought this is the last race of the year, keep your arms down and relax and resist my body's urge to stop ... I stared at Paula for the first 5 miles, then I stared at the lead car the rest of the way. I was completely unaware of anything. I was sitting in an interview afterwards, and I realized we were on the ocean and it was so beautiful.

Q: Where do you live and train? In Portland or a suburb?

A: I live in Portland, between downtown and Beaverton. I train pretty much all my track sessions at the Nike track in Beaverton. I do my long runs either from Nike, around the trails, or down at Leif Ericson or Wildwood. I do all of my lifting and drills at Nike.

Q: Is Nike a Disneyland for runners?

A: It is amazing. Adam and I constantly remind ourselves how lucky we are to train there. There is a two-mile wood-chip trail, and there is a grass field that's perfectly manicured. [Running on] It keeps me healthy. It has an amazing weight facility. It's really a beautiful place and we are so lucky to have access to it.

Q: Any thoughts of running a marathon?

A: I have to say the half-marathon is really hard. The thought of going twice as far right now, No thanks, at least right now. But there's' definitely a part of me that's intrigued now. If I could put the time in and the mileage in ... I feel like I could have handled those last two miles better. But a marathon, I'm still definitely not ready to do it.

Q: What was your strategy to prepare for Osaka?

A: We went to Osaka 10 days before my race. What we decided not to do was go to Europe prior to World Outdoors. We thought it would be too hard to carry a peak, to be as sharp as you need to be in those races, we didn't think we could hold that peak and still run fast in Osaka. In the end, obviously it was a great decision. In Osaka, I felt fresh and great. I'm glad we decided to do that.

Q: Why has this year been so successful for you?

A: Last year was a really big, breakthrough year for me. It was the first time I was healthy for a few months in a row, from March on. So last year was the first time I'd run really fast. And I haven't had an injury since then. I haven't had an injury for a year and a half. Since I started running in the 7th grade, this is the longest I've gone without an injury. So psychologically, I've been able to start to believe again. Because I'm healthy, I'm able to do the workouts I need to. Because I do the workouts, I have the confidence I need to start to think the way I need to.

Q: How big of an influence was training with Alberto Salazar?

A: I could never even express how much Alberto has helped me be a happier person in general, let alone with my running. Alberto didn't give up on me. He said 'you have to be able to get healthy. The body is a miraculous thing.' I never had to earn his respect. He just believed in me and coached me. He didn't baby me, he asked a lot out of me. He made me work hard and believe. He's so positive, he opened my eyes to what's possible. I could never thank him enough.

Q: Do you see yourself as a trailblazer for women's distance running?

A: I guess I don't see myself that way. If I can inspire someone, that's great. I love running for the U.S. It's so exciting for me. I just hope I can keep getting better. I don't feel like I've reached the end of my potential. This year has been so amazing, it's awesome. But I feel like I can run faster and run smarter races. I feel I can do more.


For more information on USA Track & Field, please click: http://www.usatf.org

For more info on Nike running, try: http://www.nike.com/runningwww.nike.com/running

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