The all-but-officially retired runner is making his return to racing this weekend in Philadelphia.
Written by: Mario Fraioli
For the better part of the 10-year stretch from 1998 to 2008, Adam Goucher was one of the the main men in U.S. distance running. In 1999, a year after graduating from the University of Colorado as a four-time NCAA champion, Goucher showed incredible promise on the track, posting personal bests of 3:54.17 in the mile and 13:11.25 for 5,000 meters. The following year, he dominated the 4K and 12K races at the USA Cross Country Championships, winning both contests in convincing fashion and asserting himself as the future of American distance running.
Then Goucher got injured, starting a pattern that would end up plaguing him throughout the rest of his competitive career.
Despite developing a troublesome back injury in the spring of 2000, Goucher gutted his way to victory in the 5,000 meters at the Olympic Trials that summer. At the Olympic Games in Sydney two months after winning the Trials, he qualified for the 5000-meter final, finishing 13th, albeit in a world of pain.
The next four years proved to be a struggle. Unable to develop consistency in his training due to a variety of injuries, Goucher was unable to maintain the momentum he developed at the turn of the century. He failed to qualify for a second Olympic team in 2004, finishing a disappointing 19th in the 5,000 meters at the Olympic Trials. Injured and frustrated, he and his wife Kara moved from their longtime home base of Boulder, Colorado to Portland, Oregon to train under coach Alberto Salazar as members of Nike’sOregon Project.
The move paid off for the Gouchers, as Kara established herself as one of America’s most versatile all-around distance runners and Adam was able to avoid injury and re-find the form he had four years earlier. In February of 2006 he won another 4K title at the USA Cross Country Championships and went on to place 6th at Worlds–the highest placing by an American male in 20 years. That summer he ran the third fastest 2-mile ever by an American (8:12.7) and bettered his own 5,000-meter PR, running 13:10.00 in Heusden, Belgium.
In 2007, Goucher finished 11th in the 5,000 meters at the World Championships in Osaka, and went on to run a half marathon at the Great North Run that fall, posting a solid 1:03:17 clocking in his debut at the distance. Old injuries began to resurface, however, and Goucher had surgery at the end of the year to clean up a bum ankle. When the next Olympic Trials came around the following summer, Goucher again failed to qualify for the U.S. team, dropping out of the 5,000-meter final before placing seventh in the 10K.
At 33 years old, it appeared time had run out on Goucher. He dabbled in a a few more road races, but the results were sub-par by his standards. Injury and frustration resurfaced. His sponsor, Nike, didn’t renew his contract, and he no longer had a training group of like-minded professional athletes to call his own. By his own admission, he was “basically done with running”.
That was almost two years ago. Since then, Goucher hasn’t raced. He and Kara became parents last year to a son, Colton Mirko. He started a website, www.runtheedge.com, with his best friend, Tim Catalano. He started running with Kara to keep her company as she prepared for the Boston Marathon this past April. His mileage had creeped up to 100 miles per week, but there had been little to no talk of resuming a competitive running career.
All that changed after Boston. As Kara recovered from her fifth-place finish at Boston, Adam started working out on his own. He began upping the intensity of his workouts. He started thinking about stepping on a starting line again, and qualifying for the Olympic Trials Marathon–a distance the tried-and-true track runner has never contested during his competitive career.
This Sunday Goucher will return to racing when he steps on the starting line of Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon against a loaded elite field that will most certainly challenge the vaunted 60-minute mark.
His goal? Shake the rust off, and run fast enough (he’ll need to break 65 minutes) to qualify for next January’s Olympic Marathon Trials.
Competitor.com caught up with Goucher earlier this week to get his thoughts on this weekend’s race, talk about his recently released book, Running The Edge, and to get to the bottom of what recently reignited his running career.