Attacking

I watched the Boston Marathon yesterday. I’d never done that before, and, truth be known, I have no interest in ever racing there myself. Marathons don’t appeal to me. Nonetheless, the race was fascinating—and heart-rending. I’d watched Kara Goucher race before, so I knew who she was. I’d seen videos of her talking about her disappointment after the Olympics, etc., and I’d caught myself wondering if she really has what it takes. By her comments, I’d imagine she’s asked that question too. Still, yesterday, I was a die-hard Goucher fan, and when she crossed the finish line, met her husband and immediately started bawling, I felt a little destroyed with her—as much as you can as an almost indifferent spectator, I suppose.

For 20 miles, or the better part of 90 minutes, she’d held strong with the main group while Colleen de Reuck and others went to the front and hammered. The problem was that at 20 miles there was still a large group of women at the front. Someone needed to string the race out or there would be a bunch sprint at the finish line. Unfortunately, Kara decided she would be that someone. She went to the front and really hacked it out for the next five miles.

Now, I’m no expert, as we’ve already established. In particular, I’m no expert on running, but I think the rules for attacking are the same in distance running as they are in road cycling. You attack hard and then look behind you to see who, if anyone, is still there. When the men’s winner attacked, no one was there. He was out on a flyer alone and basically forced everyone to run solo, which, of course, is pretty tough to do. When Kara went to the front, the lead group began shedding runners left and right. One by one, they dropped off, but two very important runners stayed with her. And when that happens, the rules dictate, you have to share the workload.

Nonetheless, Kara stayed at the front for the next five miles, pushing the pace and splintering the group. For a moment, it even looked as though she’d shed the eventual winner.

But a little after mile 24, the other two girls kicked it up another notch and Kara started to struggle to stay in contact. She lost some ground around a corner and then started running solo. For a little bit, it looked like she’d regain contact with the leaders, but in the finishing kick that became an impossibility. At the post-race press conference, it became clear that Kara Goucher is her own worst critic. She sounded pretty disappointed at her finish.

But, of course, I don’t think she should feel so down about it. Why not? She ran those two girls, a Kenyan and an Ethiopian (who’d won the race the year before) into the ground. The girl who won wasn’t the one dolling out the punishment—that was Kara Goucher. In fact, she pushed them so hard that the girl who came in second, Dire Tune, collapsed at the finish and got hauled off on a stretcher. Even more important than that, however, she gave the race its most exciting finish for years. I’m not certain, but I’m willing to bet more people paid attention to Boston this year because of Kara Goucher than any year previously. In fact, I think you’d be hard-pressed to find an American who knows the name of the winner, but there are probably plenty of Americans who recognize Kara. Furthermore, if she decides to keep marathon training, I think Goucher has a shot at taking that race (and maybe the NY marathon) out in the next couple of years. She’s young, and this is far from the end of the road.

Anyway, Flotrack posted Kara’s last long workout on their website today, and it’s a pretty cool vid. I figured I’d embed it, but it’s not jiving with Spaces. So here’s the LINK.

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