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If you have been following my blog for a while, you know I am occasionally blessed with the opportunity to interview professional runners and Olympic athletes. I have shared with you thoughts from some pretty incredible athletes, but I have come to really look forward to what has become an annual interview with 2-time Olympic athlete Kara Goucher. Kara has had an incredible journey these past few years, with high highs and low lows, but through it all has carried herself with class and a seemingly fathomless fount of strength.
So to carry on the yearly tradition, I reached out to Kara to ask her about her past year, her current health, her future running plans, and her thoughts on some more wide-reaching issues facing the athletic community and country as a whole. Please enjoy and be sure to leave some love and questions for Kara in the comments below.
It’s been a while since we last spoke. How have you been? How was the rest of your 2016?
2016 was a rough year for me career wise but great family wise. After missing the Olympic Marathon Team by one spot, I set my sights on making the Olympic Team in the 10,000 meters. Unfortunately in April I tweaked my knee, and by May I knew I would not be able to be competitive enough to have a shot at the team. I had one surgery and then another and it was a long and slow recovery…the longest recovery I have ever had in my 26 years of running. It was quite a challenge and mentally it was very difficult. But I am healthy now and defying even my own surgeons odds! I am very happy to be moving forward!
As for my family 2016 was an awesome year. We took a lot of small trips and adventures and spent some good quality time together. I spent a good chunk of time in Minnesota in the summer – something I haven’t been able to do in many years.
I also got to spend a lot more time with the companies that I work with: Oiselle, Skechers Performance, Nuun, Zensah, and Addaday. It was really rewarding to have good quality time with them and to strengthen our relationships.
Sounds like you are coming into 2017 in a good place. Where would you say you are physically and mentally as you ramp up your training for the year ahead?
I would say that I am as healthy as I’ve been and mentally inspired as I have ever been. Now I just need to make sure the fitness is truly there before I go out and start chasing goals.
Speaking of goals, what does this year look like for you racing-wise? How is your schedule shaping up?
I am hoping to return to more racing this year. I have missed racing on a more regular basis and am hoping to get back into that rhythm. As for an actual schedule, right now I am taking it week by week and seeing how my fitness progresses. I have a few races in mind that I am aiming for, but I am not ready to commit quite yet.
Once you are back into the flow of things, do you have any bucket-list running goals you are still looking forward to achieving?
Absolutely. This is not necessarily a comprehensive list, but these come to mind right away:
- Run a flat and fast marathon
- Do at least one more big race on the track
- Make one more world championship track team
I am also looking towards greatly increasing my distance and entering the world of ultra distances. I am hopeful and excited to see where my body can take me!
Several notable American runners have announced their retirement lately…Lauren Fleshman, Nick Symmonds, Meb Keflezighi. Has the thought of retirement ever crossed your mind?
I can’t imagine announcing a retirement. I love competing and chasing goals. As long as my body holds up, I will continue to chase new goals that I am passionate about. Maybe in 2020 I won’t be trying to make the Olympic Team (or maybe I will…), but I am sure that I will still be working toward some sort of running goal.
My career has become more purposeful and I don’t really see that passion ending. I totally understand why other people want to move on and pursue other opportunities. Sometimes I think there is something wrong with me because I just love running and racing and the preparation of it all so much. I still love it, and if my body allows, I want to keep doing it.
2016 saw a lot of talk about doping scandals, and out of that was born the Clean Sport Collective. What progress has the movement made, and what are the big goals moving forward?
While I am not on the Clean Sport Collective Board, I was able to sit in on a meeting about a month ago. The first step of the movement was awareness and getting people behind a common goal. The next stage will be to fund-raise so that the Clean Support Collective can actually help clean the sport up.
The initiative has noble goals, including raising money for more doping tests at races that cannot afford it, educating youth athletes on how to to stay clean, helping former convicted athletes get the help they need to promote positive change in their lives, and getting more companies to take the pledge and make a huge difference on how we view doping in sport culture.
Fellow Oiselle teammate Lauren Fleshman was recently appointed to the USATF Athletes Advisory Committee. Given her outspoken criticism of the USATF in the past, what do you feel this says about the climate at USATF and how much of a positive impact do you feel she can have for athletes’ rights?
I think that Lauren, along with others including Phoebe Wright, will be able to create real change while serving on the committee. There is no doubt that USATF has some flaws, but complaining on social media (as I have done myself) rarely gets things done. Having a go-getter like Lauren on the committee who is dedicated to fighting for athletes rights is vitally important. As a former elite athlete who competed at the highest level, she understands what athlete frustrations are. I look forward to her rattling some cages in the future with the goal of helping athletes.
Lastly, let’s talk the changing climate in our country with our new federal administration. January 21 saw the women’s march on Washington (and around the country) with a monumental turn out to address women’s health and rights issues. What are your thoughts on the direction the new administration is taking in regards to these issues and others?
I believe in protecting human rights and fighting for those who need our help. I often remind myself of how lucky and privileged I am to have the life I do. That being said, I am worried about people who don’t have the same privileges. I am worried about women losing their rights and access the vital health care, as well as being worried about the environment and our national parks. I am hopeful, though, that as a country we can all band together and come to common ground and not forget to be compassionate.
Any closing thoughts you would like to share?
I feel really lucky to still be able to live in the running world and connect with so many people. Running has been the greatest friend I have ever had. This summer I thought that I might lose that friendship, and I was devastated. But the running community rallied around me and helped me to get my life back. I am just so humbled and grateful for all the opportunities running has afforded me.
Read previous interviews with Kara featured on this site and follow Kara’s journey from 2014 until now.