Kara Goucher should have signed a note for Brittney Roth’s cross country coach. The high school senior, who is aiming to make it to state in cross country and track this year, skipped her team practice today for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet Kara Goucher, one of the most accomplished distance runners of this generation.
Kara stopped by Akron Children’s Hospital while in town to receive the Ambassador Award from the Akron Marathon Charitable Corporation and plans to run the half marathon Saturday at a comfortable pace.
Brittney, of Port Washington, Ohio, and a member of the Indian Valley cross country and track teams, has been treated by Dr. Michelle Burke, a sports medicine physician in Akron Children’s Sports Medicine Center. So she could relate to the ups and downs of a sport that Kara has seen for more than two decades. She took in every word that Kara offered her on topics such as training, avoiding injuries, nutrition, and even how to select a college when you are planning to be a student athlete.
Kara burst onto the running scene competing for the University of Colorado and was a three-time NCAA champion. In 2007, her bronze in the IAFF World Outdoor Championships was the first ever American medal won in the 10,000 meter distance.
Later in 2007, Kara increased her distance and not only won the Great North Run half marathon in Newcastle, England, but recorded the women’s fastest-ever half marathon debut in the world. In 2008, Kara turned in another history-making performance at the New York Marathon racing her way to the fastest marathon debut ever by an American woman, the fastest time ever by an American at the event, and the first time in 14 years that an American woman placed in the top three in New York. She has competed in two Olympics, competing for the United States in the 5,000 and 10,000 meter distances in 2008 and the marathon in 2012.
Kara made headlines again this summer in an emotional ceremony in London when her bronze medal from the 2007 World Championship was upgraded to silver after the silver medalist was barred from the sport for doping. She plans to continue to be an anti-doping voice for her sport.
Brittney, 17, and Kara, 39, compared notes about their running-related injuries. Both have dealt with iron deficiencies, common in female athletes.
“You have good seasons and bad seasons,” Kara told Brittney. “Sometimes it’s nice to keep running but step back a bit. I am enjoying being an ambassador for the sport of running right now.”
On the topic on college, Kara advised Brittney to consider the long-term progress of the team she is considering, rather than look at any one season’s success.
“Also look at the coach and how he or she handles runners’ injuries. Coaches can expect a lot but you also want them to see you for who you are. [Not running excessive miles] doesn’t mean you are weaker,” she said. “And look at your teammates. Those girls will be your family for four years.”
Brittney asked Kara about nutrition, what she eats and doesn’t eat. Kara said other than bacon (which she doesn’t really like) there are few things she doesn’t eat.
“I eat a lot of vegetables, fish, chicken, a little red meat,” she said. “I like ice cream a lot and chocolate! Nothing is off limits.”
Dr. Burke said many of the young athletes she sees ask her about supplements and extra protein.
“I warn them about supplements,” she said. “They are not FDA regulated. If you want more protein, I say, ‘Go have a burger or more peanut butter.’”
Too many female runners – especially those in college – worry excessively about their weight, said Kara.
This, in turn, said Dr. Burke, can lead to depression, anxiety and something called the female athlete triad, a cycle of disordered eating, stop of menstruation, bone loss and then fractures.
Kara, who is in Akron with her husband, Adam, also an accomplished runner, and soon-to-be-7-year-old son, Colt, said she now has the perspective of keeping life and sport in balance. There’s a lot of noise, a lot of advice, but it comes down to knowing yourself and your body.
“Feeling good while running – that’s what matters,” Kara told Brittney before they departed.