The Day I Became a Marathoner
As I write this I am looking forward to a weekend with the Nissan Innovation for Endurance program as part of the ING New York City Marathon. I can't help but reflect on how I got started marathoning. Four years ago, I ran my first marathon, placing third at the 2008 New York City Marathon. I covered the course in 2:25:53, and set the record for the fastest American female marathon debut of all time.
It seemed as if I had always been destined to be a marathoner, but in truth it was witnessing a single act of female athleticism that turned me into a marathoner. I grew up in Duluth, Minnesota, where Grandma's Marathon weekend is a part of life. I looked forward to marathon weekend every summer. I volunteered handing out water, cheered on family and friends, and enjoyed the energy of the weekend. But I had no desire to run the marathon myself; it looked difficult and painful. I had no interest to race farther than my 3200-meter distance in high school. In college I moved up to the 5000-meter distance, but still had no yearning to go farther.
As a professional I moved up again, running the 10,000 meters, but felt certain that was as far as I'd go. When I won the bronze medal at the 2007 World Championships in the 10,000 meters, it got the attention of some meet directors. First I was invited by Matt Turnbull to run the prestigious Great North Run in England. It was a half-marathon — and I had never racedfarther than 10,000 meters — but it gave me the opportunity to race against the greatestfemale marathoner of all time, Paula Radcliffe.
I won the race in a time of 66:57, which still stands as the fastest female half-marathon debut of all time. But even this promising showing in the half-marathon didn't make me want to run the marathon. I was even more sure after the soreness that followed the half that a full marathon was out of the question!
But then I was invited by Mary Wittenberg of the New York Road Runners to come out5 weeks later and ride in the women's press truck and take in the New York City Marathon. This would be the event that would finally change the way I viewed the marathon. The race quickly became a two-woman race between Paula Radcliffe and Gete Wami. I was captivated by what was happening in front of me. Mile after mile, minute after minute, these women battled it out. I could not believe how hard they were running, how focused they were, and just how long they were out there competing! I'll admit that I was completely intimidated by what I was witnessing, but I was also completely drawn to it. I had never personally witnessed such strong female athletic performances in all of my life. On the one hand I didn't think it was something that I would ever be strong enough to do; on the other, I desperately wanted to be as tough as Paula and Gete. That day changed my career forever. I had to know if I could run a marathon. I had to know if I was tough enough to take on this challenge.
A year later, I lined up at the start of the ING New York City Marathon, the race that had inspired me to become a marathoner myself. Pushing through self-doubt and pain, I finished that marathon. It forever changed the way I viewed myself and I realized that the marathonwas the event I was born to run. Life has a funny way of taking you to the place where you're supposed to be; watching Paula and Gete inspired me to find myself.
What event or race has inspired you to follow your true path as a runner?
—Kara Goucher, Elite Marathoner