BOSTON — Kara Goucher looks at her performances in the 5,000 and 10,000 meters runs at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and her inaugural appearance at the Boston Marathon two years ago as sharing a common theme.
Goucher was considered among the medal contenders at the Summer Games, but placed a still-respectable ninth in the 5K and tenth in the 10K.
All hopes were for the former University of Colorado All-American to become the first U.S. runner in 24 years to win at Boston in 2009. Goucher hung with the leaders and gave it her best effort, but didn’t have that extra gear the last mile and took third overall.
“Beijing and Boston were similar,” she said. “I wanted a medal and that’s all I wanted. When I realized I wasn’t going to get it, it just blew up. That’s what happened at Boston. I couldn’t stick to my race plan.”
She’ll have to wait another year and a half for another chance at the Olympics, but Goucher will get a second shot at Boston this Monday. Just six and a half months after giving birth to her first child, she feels confident enough that she can make things happen from Hopkinton to Copley Square for the 115th edition of the storied race.
“It’s going really well,” said Goucher, during the John Hancock elite athlete press conference Friday morning at the Fairmont Copley Hotel. “I put in a lot more miles than the last time. I feel a lot calmer. I feel better about my chances.”
The 32-year-old runner attributes most of the calming effect from motherhood and her newborn son, Colt.
“It’s great. It’s definitely different because life isn’t just about my running, it’s about what Colt needs and my running comes second, but it’s awesome. It makes everything better,” she said. “I used to think about running all day long and now I think about running just when I’m running. So I think it’s made me a much more relaxed person.”
Goucher is among a strong field that features 21 runners that have cracked the 2:30 mark and eight that have run 2:25 or faster. Last year’s champion Teyba Erkesso of Ethiopia is back to defend her title. Also among the elite contingent that are considered legitimate contenders for the laurel wreath are past Boston winners Salina Kosgei of Kenya (2009), Ethiopia’s Dire Tune (2008) and former Providence College All-American and New Zealand native Kim Smith.
Goucher, who had a sterling debut to the 26.2-mile distance in 2008, placing third at the ING New York City Marathon with her best of 2:25:53, has put in the necessary weekly miles to excel at Boston, peaking at 120 miles as early as a week ago. Even during her pregnancy, she rarely missed a beat, training right up to the day of giving birth to Colt on Sept. 25.
“I did all the core work through my pregnancy,” she said. “I was running the day I went into labor.”
Under head coach and 1982 Boston winner Alberto Salazar, Goucher began her hard-core training just before Christmas. Over the last few months the results have paid dividends.
In her return to competition on Jan. 17 after nearly a year layoff, she finished second at the P.F. Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon, running 1:14:02. Goucher got her biggest confidence-booster for Boston on March 20 by placing third overall at the New York City Half Marathon with a fast 1:09:03 clocking.
“I knew I was back in shape. That (race) was really good for me to see the results have paid off,” she said. “I kind of felt that all the sacrifices and time away from my son was working and going to pay off.”
Goucher admits she’ll be eyeing a win on Patriots Day and honestly believes that the birth of her son hasn’t slow down her preparation for that goal.
“I feel like I’m stronger than I’ve ever been,” she said. “I know (Colt’s) only six and a half months old and if you would have asked me that question three months ago I would have given you this fake answer like ‘I feel great’ behind a fake smile, but I really feel great. Things are going awesome and my training, the best it’s ever been. I think it made me stronger.”.