Pacemaker

Need another reason to get excited about the resurgence of American distance running? After struggles with injuries, Kara Goucher, a 30-year-old former NCAA cross-country champ, finished third in the New York City Marathon last November. Her time of 2:25:53 was the fastest debut for an American woman ever. As a follow-up, she's set her sights on the sport's most fabled event, this month's Boston Marathon, last won by an American in 1985.

Kara Goucher     Photo: courtesy of Nike

OUTSIDE: Nice work in November. So what's the strategy for winning at Boston?
GOUCHER: In New York, I felt like I had to be up front, like right on [eventual winner] Paula Radcliffe's shoulder. I even stepped on her a couple of times, and she scolded me. I felt like I had to throw my elbows up there and be like "I'm here. Take me seriously." But for Boston, I'm not going to do that. I think people will take me seriously.

You have this cheerful Midwest friendliness. Does that go away when you race?
I'm really competitive. The things that go through my head when I'm racing are just awful.

Like?
Like Why are you here? This is mine. Go away. Meaner than that, too. I'm not that person, but I'm in this competitive mode where I'm not going to let anyone stand in my way.

The New York Post called you the Julia Roberts of running. Fair?
It was funny. I think they also compared me and my husband [middle-distance Olympian Adam Goucher] to the Beckhams. But I don't think Victoria Beckham is on her knees for days, scrubbing the grout out of her new shower floor, you know?

So what should folks do if they see you run by?
Honk and pump the little fist, and then I'll give them a little fist back, like "Yeah, go. Go, us!"

Like a little Obama fist?Yeah, give me a little power. But don't whistle. Please don't whistle.

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