BOSTON (17-Apr) -- Facing the assembled media at the Copley Plaza Hotel here today in advance of Monday's 113th Boston Marathon, Kara Goucher's girl-next-door smile never left her lips. The pressure she surely feels as one of the few American contenders for victory here in decades stayed well hidden behind her brown eyes. She projected the quiet confidence that only superior preparation brings to a marathoner.
"I don't have that feeling anymore," said the 2007 IAAF World Championships bronze medalist at 10,000m when asked about the jitters she felt before her marathon debut at the ING New York City Marathon last November. "I definitely feel more confident. I feel I have a legitimate chance."
Goucher, 30, ran the fastest-ever marathon debut by an American on New York's hilly and twisting course. Following world record holder Paula Radcliffe stride for stride through the first half of the race, Goucher overcame stomach problems, a dropped fluid bottle, and severe leg cramps in the second half to finish third in 2:25:53. Her effort made her the first American to reach the podium in New York since Anne Marie Letko in 1994. More importantly, it showed that she had made the transition from the track, where she was the 2008 USA Olympic Trials 5000m champion, to the marathon.
Under coach Alberto Salazar, Goucher said her preparations for Boston exceeded what she did for New York. "I'm ready to run the race of my life," she said, acknowledging that such an effort may not be good enough to win. "Anything can happen."
Goucher demonstrated excellent fitness last month, easily winning the Meia-Maratona Internacional de Lisboa in 1:08:30. However, she said that her effort there told her less about her shape than she had hoped. That's because based on her split for the last 1.1 km, it appears that the course was long by 100 to 150m. "It really didn't tell me much," she said looking puzzled. "I had to run the longest kilometer of my life."
While the course here is different from New York's, featuring a net downhill, there are many similarities in the racing conditions. As in New York, the elite women run in a separate, all-women's race without the benefit of pacemakers. Also like New York there are many hills and turns, huge crowds line the course, and it can be very windy. Athletes who run well in New York, tend to also perform well at Boston. Goucher, who has done ten training runs on the Boston course, feels all of this plays to her advantage.
"All I can compare it to is New York," Goucher said of the all-women's race. "It comes down to pure racing. The time doesn't matter."