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Kara Goucher is one of the nation’s fastest female distance runners, and at this summer’s London Olympic Games, she represented Team USA in the women’s marathon.
But as a CU class of 2001 graduate, she also represented the University of Colorado.
Goucher was part of the Buffs’ track and cross-country teams during her collegiate career, earning two NCAA titles in outdoor track and one in cross-country.
She went on to excel professionally on the track in the 3,000, 5,000 and 10,000-meter distances, finishing top-10 in both the 10,000 and 5,000m races at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Goucher focused on longer distances in preparation for the London Games; in the Olympic women’s marathon, she finished 10th with a time of 2:26:07, just 16 seconds behind USA teammate Shalane Flanagan.
Goucher spoke with the CU Independent on Wednesday to discuss her performance in London and what it means to be part of the Buff family.
CUI: What were your goals going into the London Games? How did you feel about your performance after the race?
KG: It was my second Olympic team, and I felt like I didn’t perform to my best the first time around — I kind of got caught up in the hype of being at the Olympics and what not. So my goal was to run the best pace I was capable of running that day and enjoy and appreciate the experience more than anything else. I had hoped to place higher. I felt like I had trained and was ready for a top-seven finish, but I left it all out there, I had nothing left when I finished. I wasn’t necessarily happy with it, but I was satisfied.
CUI: What did you learn from the experience that might carry over into future races?
KG: I learned a lot about marathoning itself. I think I trained really hard for this, I put in a lot of mileage, and I learned that I just need more of that. I found out I just loved it — I got to lead the Olympic marathon for about 12 miles, and it was incredible. It didn’t end the way I wanted it, but I had so many great moments along the way that I can enjoy the experience and take away a lot of positives from it.
CUI: You were one of six CU athletes, both current students and alumni, who competed in London. What does it mean to you to be a part of the Buffs’ presence at the Olympics?
KG: Actually, when I was out running the marathon there was someone out there holding a CU flag. It’s great to be a part of something other than my sponsors, just being surrounded by this other community. I know Jenny Simpson so I paid attention to her race. I was hoping that she would get into the final [of the women’s 1,500m], but unfortunately it didn’t go her way … It’s just fun, you know, it gives you an extra kind of connection to those people. Being in the Olympics is awesome, and you have a connection to all the athletes, but just knowing that some of them went to CU and sat in the same lecture halls as you is great. You have a reason to root for them, you know? At the Bolder Boulder this year, the support I still get from CU, it amazes me, especially because I haven’t gone there for so long. It’s a really embracing community, and it’s really cool to be a part of that.
CUI: What does the rest of the season look like for you? What will be your biggest focus in training?
KG: My next big goal is the Boston Marathon next April, but it’s still far away, so I’m taking the fall to kind of work on speed. I’m hoping to get back on the track next year at the world championships, so I’m lowering my mileage and trying to get some speed back. In December I’ll have a meet in Australia to try to get the world championship qualifying time out of the way. Then come January, I’ll be focusing on the Boston Marathon.
CUI: What advice would you give CU’s two current Olympians and other student athletes about competing at a high level while being a student? Any tips on managing it all?
KG: Obviously it takes a lot of discipline. The skills they’re learning right now will help them later in life. In college you’re an adult, and to manage an athletic career and school at the same time you have to be responsible. I don’t have school anymore, but I have a son, and the things I used to balance myself in college I use with Colt now. The way you learn to have a full life and be the best athlete you can be, it really helps you in life. No problem seems so overwhelming when you break it down, because you’ve been learning to balance things your whole life.
Contact CU Independent Sports Editor Caryn Maconi at Caryn.firstname.lastname@example.org.