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Kara Goucher Runs 68:04 Half-Marathon At Rock 'N' Roll Chicago As Final Berlin Tune-Up

Date: 
08/03/2009 - 10:57

rnrchicago_lg.giffrom LetsRun - Running on a beautiful day in Chicago, Kara Goucher made the most of her final major IAAF World Championship Marathon preparation with a 68:04 half-marathon performance.

The inaugural edition of the Chicago Rock 'n' Roll Half-Marathon (previously the Chicago Distance Classic) was certainly made memorable by an extremely fit Goucher who ran the 21st-fastest half-marathon in women's history, the 5th fastest half of 2009, the 2nd-fastest American half-marathon to Deena Kastor's 1:07:34, and won the entire race. That's right, Goucher beat all of the males in the race (although the race didn't offer any prize money so not a total shock).

Faced with decent distance running weather but great summer distance weather of temps in the mid 60s and with the humidity well over 50% (a little humid for a runner but the day itself in Chicago today is going to be gorgeous with sun and a high near 80), Goucher and her pace-maker set out to run negative splits on the mostly flat course. Goucher's mentor, Coach Alberto Salazar, said he hoped for something in the 69-minute range, and she reiterated that in her pre-race interview when she said, "I’m not going to go out at a (1:06-07) hard pace but I would love to chase some people trying to run that down.”

After some early miles in the 5:20 range, Goucher picked it up to pass 4 miles under 21:00. From there on out, every mile was between 5:05 and 5:20 as Goucher picked her way through the leading men. Her attempt at closing the race with huge negative splits never really materialized, perhaps due to a slight headwind noticed by commentators Todd Williams and Juli Henner, though Goucher's final miles were all around 5:10 or faster.

U.S. Track and Field Olympic Trials - Day Six As we'll mention in more detail below, Goucher lost her final carrot when the leading man veered off the course with a little under 5km to go in the race. Running without a bib the entire race while getting significant face-time on the "Kara Cam," it was determined definitively that the leader was a bandit as he could not give a name that matched any of the official race registrants. Note: the "Kara Cam" was set up exclusively to follow every step of Goucher's race with commentary by Williams and Henner, who did a fantastic job.

Now suddenly in the lead over the gently rolling terrain, Goucher was pumping for the finish line with noticeably more determination. Her splits revealed a sub-68:00 might be in the works, perhaps even a time approaching Deena Kastor's American record of 67:34. But it was not to be.

Immediately after the race, Goucher mentioned to Henner that her previous two weeks of training were 120-mile weeks, and that she felt the volume in her legs in the closing miles, deciding to cruise it in rather than push really hard. We certainly look at this performance as a positive sign as she appeared much more controlled than when she ran the Lisbon Half before Boston in 68:30. In that race Kara and Coach Salazar announced publicly that she was ready for a world-record assault (although both would claim they were either misquoted or misunderstood), and though she won comfortably, she came up far short of the ambitious time goal.

This time she had a more conservative race plan. Salazar was downplaying her Chicago time goals, while Goucher clearly had it in her head to take it easy the first few miles and then gradually pour it on to simulate a tactical race like most world championship marathons. From what we could see, it was "mission accomplished" for Goucher. She looked very comfortable running sub-5:20's, was able to negative split the final miles, and was fatigued yet not completely exhausted at the end of the race.

When asked about the world championship marathon in Berlin, Goucher said, "If I blow up at halfway, I blow up halfway. I didn't put my life on hold not to take a risk."

This quote reminds us of Kara's efforts at the Boston Marathon. With an incredibly slow pace almost the entire way, Goucher was content to sit back behind Colleen de Reuck, waiting until very late to assume the lead and set what was still a moderate pace at best. In the closing mile she was blown away by Kenyan Salina Kosgei and Ethiopian Dire Tune. Goucher had been willing to throw caution to the wind in Lisbon, but seemed more reluctant to let loose in Boston.

2009 Flora London Marathon Perhaps this time a more conservative tune-up effort will leave her more energy in reserve for a spectacular, bold performance in Berlin. She will likely need just that to medal for the second-straight world championships, considering the stiff competition she will face with the likes of world record holder Paula Radcliffe, 2009 Boston runner-up Tune and perhaps the best women's marathoner in the world over the past 2 years, Germany's Irina Mikitenko (right) to name a few.

When Goucher mentions, "putting her life on hold," she refers to her statements leading up to the Boston Marathon. One of her statements went like this, "I absolutely want to have a baby in the next year or so. I haven't wavered on that at all." This quote went to print on April 25, 2009, meaning Kara had hoped to take a break from competitive running after Boston in order to start a family. But Boston left a bitter taste in her mouth, not to mention tears in her eyes, so growing a family had to wait for Mom to take another crack at being the world's best.

Now the question is, will Goucher have a medal from Berlin to match her bronze from Osaka when the baby arrives? So far, so good.

Top-5 unusual happenings during the race broadcast:

1. Kara Goucher won the race overall. No male beat her. Pretty unusual but the race didn't offer prize money so not a total shock.
2. At 15km, Goucher was in second place to a man wearing red. This man, who identified himself to those on the "Kara-cam" truck as "John Jacobson", was running without a race bib. When asked by one of the tech guys on the truck if he was a bandit, Jacobson explained that his number fell off at the start. He had pins on his jersey but no number to make this seem feasible. When asked where his red chip was, he said he didn't know. This was a problem because every registered runner needed a chip to get a time and show up in the results. Given he was the race leader and was pulling away from Goucher, this was a good time to ask, "Are you a bandit?" Of course, Jacobson said, "no," that he had registered and so forth.
3. With about 4km to go, in a winding portion of the race, Jacobson bolted off the course. Goucher, not knowing Jacobson was a bandit, was really confused and started gesticulating as if to say, "which way should I go?" She chose the right way and soon figured out she was the leader on the course, male or female.
4. With about 3km to go, the guys on the truck start screaming at a photography motorcycle that had been right in front of Goucher almost the entire race. Because of the position of the truck and the narrow bike path at the end of the course, the motorcycle driver had got himself positioned literally one or two feet in front of Goucher and appeared to slow her down. All of this was going on in the background of the broadcast, and finally the crew member convinced the motorcycle to speed up and get away from Goucher and also to simply pull over.
5. Several times throughout the race Adam Goucher could be seen running alongside his wife, just off the course to one side or another. He may have run basically the entire race give or take an occasional short-cut.

Best Aspects Of The Race Coverage

1. Excellent commentary from Todd Williams and Juli Henner. Todd, we hope you get behind a microphone more often.
2. No commercials, no taking a break to watch other stuff.
3. Having only Kara in the race was pretty fascinating.
4. Listening to the other guys on the truck talk to "John Jacobson," and vice versa, was pretty classic.

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