Friday, April 15, 2011

It All Comes Down to One Word

Kara Goucher.

What does that name mean to you?

It may not mean much to you *yet* but I can’t think of her without tears coming to my eyes, my throat tightening, and I can barely manage to keep myself from jumping up, doing a major fist pump and yelling, “Yeah!”

Why?

Let me tell you a little story about Kara Goucher.

Kara runs for a living.

Running for a living really isn’t that different than writing for a living. It’s a solitary endeavor, with alot of hard work and alot of torturous moments. It’s a profession where you may bust your butt and still not make it where you want to be due to factors outside your control. It’s a profession where very few people make enough to live on, and most have day jobs. It’s a profession full of heartbreak and pain and not nearly enough glory to make up for all the pain. But runners do it anyway because it’s in their blood and they have no choice but to follow their soul. Are they crazy? Yeah, probably, much like writers are crazy.

Kara Goucher was a star when she was in college. NCAA champion, the Next Big Thing.

Then she got hurt.

Started training again.

Got hurt.

Had surgery.

Got hurt again… more surgery… started running… got hurt… and again… and again…

It was as if some great power had it out for Kara, as if she was destined to never make it as a runner. She could never get the break she needed, and time was passing her by.

Three years ago, Kara had to make a choice. It was time to change coaches, and she had to decide whether to keep fighting or accept the harsh hand fate had dealt her.

She could have quit. Many probably thought she should. Many others weren’t even thinking about her one way or another, because she was basically off the map by this point.

But Kara didn’t quit. Why? Because Kara believed she could still do it. She still had dreams, and she wasn’t ready to give up. So Kara switched coaches and dug in yet again.

Then something amazing happened. Kara got healthy. Kara was able to train. Kara finally had her chance.

At the Track & Field World Championships in Japan (as big as the Olympics if you’re a runner) Kara Goucher got a chance to compete for her country, making the US team for only the second time in her career.

I was watching her race, and the commentators ignored Kara for the first 28 minutes of the 32 minute race even though she was running up front. And then finally, one of them noticed her and said, “Wow, that would be shocking if Kara Goucher won a medal” and then proceeded to call her by the name of the Big Name American in the race before correcting himself.

Then, as the race rushed to its conclusion, they announcers used the word “shocking” four more times to describe the possibility of Kara medaling.

You could totally hear what they weren’t saying, that Kara might be up front now, but she’d NEVER be on the stand at the end. It just wouldn’t happen.

Then they were two hundred meters from the finish, and Kara was in third.

Then they were fifty meters from the finish and Kara was in third.

And then she was crossing the finish line, and she’d placed third.

The bronze medal at the World Championships. Kara Goucher.

SHOCKING.
 


But Kara didn’t just win the bronze medal, Kara made history. Kara won the bronze medal in the 10,000 meter race… THE FIRST AMERICAN WOMAN TO EVER MEDAL IN THAT EVENT.

EVER.

Do you realize what the odds of that are? Even the best American women ever hadn’t managed to win a medal in the history of the event, so how could this woman who had barely been noticed for the last few years possibly even entertain the idea of medaling? How could she have run that race, believing she could win and then pulling it off, after an entire career of falling short?

I’ll tell you why she won.

Because she believed in herself.

All along, through all those injury plagued years and those surgeries and those races where she kept getting slower instead of faster, when she watched others have the successes she wanted so badly, when people dismissed her talent and her future, Kara never stopped believing in herself.

In her post race interview, she said that there were only three people in the world who believed she had a chance to medal: herself, her husband and her coach.


But that was all it took.

She believed. Despite all the obstacles in her path, she never stopped believing and she accomplished the impossible.

Some of you may have noticed that I dedicated my May book to Kara Goucher, because even then, before she made history, she inspired me daily with her belief in herself, her perseverance against all odds.

Kara, you were always my inspiration, but now… you give me strength, you give me courage and you give me hope. You are what I think of when times get tough, when I feel like I can’t get through whatever I’m going through.

Kara Goucher, you make me believe.

***
Although, I originally wrote that blog two years ago,there's a very important reason why I re-posted that today.

On Monday, Kara is going for a new record. Kara is going to try to become the first American woman to win the Boston Marathon since 1985 (and trying for her own first marathon victory, after coming in a heart-breaking third at Boston in 2009, after leading until the last 1/2 mile).

But as is Kara's way, she has given herself another challenge. No, not another injury to overcome. Kara gave birth six months ago. That's right. Right in the middle of a her career finally taking off, Kara took a break to have a baby, because starting a family meant more to her than finally getting that big win. Not every runner can successfully come back to world class level after taking time off to have a baby. Kara knew that, but Kara knew what she wanted, and she wasn't going to let anyone tell her she couldn't do it.

Her little boy just turned six months old a couple weeks ago, and his mom has been running her heart out for the last six months, trying to get in shape for the race of her life., even when she had to spend days in the hospital when her baby had surgery, even while breast feeding, even through the sleepless nights every new mom has. A marathoner (and any runner), never knows how many races she has left. Monday, Kara is going for it, and she's going for it as a mom.

Kara, you, go girl. I'll be rooting for you every step of the way.

*If you want to follow Kara, she blogs at http://karagoucher.competitor.com/*


6 comments:

Steph from fangswandsandfairydust.com said...

What an amazing person. So driven and dedicated. Thanks for sharing her story. Steph from Fangs, Wands and Fairy Dust

Stephanie Rowe said...

Steph, the cool thing is that in addition to being inspiring, Kara is also one of the most lovely human beings on the planet.

Sharon S. said...

great role model for girls everywhere :)

Stephanie Rowe said...

Hi Sharon--I got your email and I'm sorry I haven't replied! Crazy week, but I haven't forgotten! Hugs!

Angie Fox said...

Wow. What a cool story. That brought tears to my eyes. Go Kara!

Skylar Masey said...

I've been a fan of Kara for years. My sister got me in to running, and we'll be watching on Monday and rooting for Kara to finish 1st! In fact, my sister and I posed outside the Nike store in Myrtle Beach after running our first half marathon together. Though it was officially snowed out, we still ran our 13.1 to earn our medals as part of the "renegade runners". So we were feeling just as victorious as Kara in Osaka so we copied her pose...and thought Just Run! If you want to see the pic, check out my Skylar Masey facebook page :0)