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Kara’s Boston Run

April 22, 2009

Did you happen to see any of the coverage of Monday’s Boston Marathon?

I did. I was following a few friends and acquaintances running the 113th running of the nation’s oldest marathon, and of course, like most American runners, I was waiting with bated breath to see if Ryan Hall and Kara Goucher could be the first Americans in decades to get olive wreaths on Boylston Street.

It didn’t look so good for Ryan on the Newton Hills, but he pulled it out, reeled some runners in, and finished a highly respectable 3rd. No, he didn’t win it, but he did earn a spot on the podium by, as he said in his post-race press conference, just running his own race and keeping the leaders in his sights. He also expressed that, at 26, he thinks he’s “still young” (ya think?)and that he feels he still has a lot to learn. Though he’s run five marathons (London in 07 and 08, the Olympic Trials and Beijing, and now Boston), he said he felt like he had plenty to learn about racing 26.2, and he can’t wait to get back to work and keep improving. He’s an interesting interview–I keep remembering how a Runner’s World article once referred to his accent as a “California patois” and it’s a good description. I’ll come back to his post-race reactions in a minute.

The women’s race developed painfully slowly for the first 19 miles. It was Kara who decided, at that point, that there were too many people in the lead pack–eight, by her estimation. She took it upon herself to “shake things up” and leave only “the true contenders” in the lead pack. She looked good, but with only 800 meters to go Kenyan Salina Kosgei and Ethiopian Dire Tune started a sprint race that Kara could not respond to. Kosgei won by a one-second margin over Tune; Kara was nine seconds behind.

Failing to break the tape crushed Kara, and she was distraught as the media surrounded her and well-meaning fans shouted encouragement. At her post-race press conference her voice broke when the question was asked, “In retrospect, do you think you should have taken the lead at the 20-mile mark?” With a noticeable quiver in her voice, Kara answered, “Well, I think I’ll be thinking about that one for a long time.”

In this more informal interview with Flotrack Kara appears more relaxed and at peace with her amazing third-place finish. She mentions trying to convince her coach Alberto Salazar to let her run the London Marathon six days later–an insane idea that yielded to reason the very next day. Play the video and then come back.

Kara Goucher after 2009 Boston Marathon | 2009 Boston Marathon on Flotrack

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Okay. Here’s what I think about Kara’s postrace reaction.

She wanted to win one “for everybody,” she says several times, both in her postrace interview and in the Niketown interview also available at Flotrack.

Kara, you don’t owe us anything. You’re an incredible runner, not just because your face is amazingly cute but because your form is beautiful and effortless, and because you’re a hard worker who doesn’t take anything for granted. I think one of the reasons we relate to runners like you, who weep when they get third place in only their second marathon–on an incredibly tough course–is that, internally, we all want desperately to win. We know the feeling. We clutch our medals, thinking Yay! I ran my marathon in 4:30. We’re so pleased with ourselves–for about a week. And then we get that itch, and pretty soon we’re training again, even to tweak that down to 4:25 we’d be happy. So we get it, the drive and desire to win–but we still think you’re amazing on the podium in third place, and we know one day you’ll have a gold medal around your neck. We’re willing to wait and train with you. Patience.

Now, about Ryan.

I’m happy that he had a good race, and I’m even happier with how he reacted to it. Of course he wanted to win, but he didn’t. He did what Little G taught me to do years ago: on days when you don’t perform at your best, take the run as a learning experience. No race is wasted when you use every effort to learn something.

And I think Ryan is a great ambassador for Christ. Run well, Ryan.

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