Yesterday evening I took advantage of Nike’s generous offer to listen to and meet Olympians Kara Goucher and Bernard Lagat. How could I not? Kara is not only my favorite female elite, and my girl crush, but she’s also my running muse. I conjure up images of her zooming around the track at the Trials when I need a boost in my own workouts. (I hope I haven’t just freaked any of you out. Or you Kara, if you’re reading.) And Bernard, well, he’s the sweetest–I remember how down-to-earth he was on the podium at the Fifth Avenue Mile last September, what a classy second place.
Coach Ramon (it was excellent to catch up with him) led us on a 40-minute run from the New York Running Company store (at Third Avenue and 63rd Street; this new location is gorgeous) over the Queensborough Bridge and back. It was strange to be there with a massive group, but not unpleasant. I was scheduled to run 3 for recovery (after Tuesday’s hills and Wednesday’s tempo my legs were feeling a bit battered), so I turned around before the rest of the gang.
Once I was back at the store and headed to bag check, I caught a glimpse of Kara. She was wearing jeans, black books, and a cropped, olive green satin bomber jacket over a drapey scarf and a bright blue Nike track jacket. I kid you not: my ears started to ring. Then I saw Bernard, who was already chatting with one of us regular runners. And then–bonus!–I noticed Alberto Salazar, hovering in the background. Wow, that man is a legend (and Kara’s coach).
I stood around nervously. I am embarrassed (and disappointed) to admit that despite the gentle prodding of both my TNT buddy SA and Ramon, I could not work up the guts to go say hello to Kara or Bernard. My mind went completely blank–I couldn’t think of a single possible thing to say to them besides “I’m a fan,” which would have been tragic for everyone involved.
So instead I sat and listened to the Q&A, as rapt as a 5-year old at story time in the library. What they eat, how they train, what events they’ve got coming up, long-term goals, all the standard questions. At one point Kara took a teeny jab at Bernard when she pointed out that her husband Adam was a much stronger runner when the two men competed against each other in college (we all laughed, even Bernard). Then they opened it up for questions, and once again I froze. I’m starting to reconsider if it’s such a good idea to keep her on my dinner date list (you know the game, “If you could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?”), since probably I’d get her across the table from me at Del Posto and have nothing to say. (Actually I don’t think that’s true; I’m much better one on one than speaking in front of a group.)
Much of what she told us about her training for the NYRR Women’s Mile and the Boston Marathon she’d said just a day earlier to Runner’s World. But it was still cool to hear this chick casually throw out that she’s running 95 miles a week now and is going to boost that volume to 105 for several weeks leading into the marathon. Then, she said something that was reassuring to me, a mere mortal: her longest run in her marathon training will be no more than 23 miles. I’ve got a 22-miler scheduled for four weeks out from London. She wrapped up with another encouraging tidbit: no matter how fast you are, or how talented you are, running hurts. Whether you’re having a difficult training run or the race of your life, it hurts because you push yourself, period. Those are words I can fall back on during my pace runs, Nike Speed workouts, and Mile 25 of London. Thanks, KG!
Then we all cued up to get 8 ½ x 11″ photos (provided by Nike) signed by the athletes. I met Bernard first, and he obliged me with a quick photo. I wished him luck at the Wannamaker, told him I’d seen him at the Fifth Avenue Mile last year. He was super-cool, he gives off a great vibe. Then, there I was standing in front of Kara. I moved fast–I introduced myself, asked her for a photo, and then told her how the image of her running at the Trials occassionally motivates me during my workouts. In that moment, any cool credentials I may have earned over the years were immediately revoked. Star-struck: so not cool. But to her credit, Kara looked me in the eye, smiled and said, “That means so much to me to hear.” Who knows if she meant it; SA thinks she did. Chances are good, maybe. (How’s that for an equivocation?)
I walked to Second Avenue and 60th Street to get the Q60 bus home, replaying the evening over in my head. Nice! And I still have the Millrose Games tomorrow! Seated on the bus, I pulled my signed photos out of my bag, where I’d placed them carefully in a hard plastic folder. “To TK, Always Believe! Kara Goucher.” Surely that’s what she wrote for everyone, but I don’t care. I’ll believe anyway.