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Adam Goucher — February, 2013
Adam Goucher was a member of the 2000 United States Olympic team in the 5,000 meters and finished in 13th place at the Olympics after winning the 2000 Olympic Trials 5,000 meters. Adam missed making the 2004 and 2008 Olympic squads due to injuries that prevented top performances at the Olympic Trials. He qualified for the 2012 Olympic Marathon Trials with a 1:04:52 half marathon, but a knee injury and subsequent surgery led to his retirement from professional racing. Adam finished 6th in the 4k short course race at the 2006 IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Fukuoka, Japan after winning both the 4k and 12k U.S. titles. At the 2006 Prefontaine Classic, Goucher finished third in the 2-mile with a time of 8:12.7; the third fastest 2 mile ever run by an American. Adam is a 1998 graduate of the University of Colorado where, after three top ten finishes, he won the NCAA Cross Country title his senior year in 1998. He also won NCAA titles at 5,000 meters outdoors in 1998 and 3,000 meters indoors in 1997 and 1998. Additionally, Adam won ten Big 12 individual titles. He graduated from Doherty High School in Colorado Springs, Colorado where highlights included winning the Footlocker National High School Cross Country Championship in 1994 and three Colorado State Cross Country Championships in 1992, 1993 and 1994. His personal best times include: 1,500m - 3:36.54; mile – 3:54.17; 3,000m - 7:34.96; 2-mile – 8:12.73; 5,000m - 13:10.00 ; 10,000m – 27:59.41 and half marathon – 1:04:52. Adam was inducted into the University of Colorado Athletics Hall of Fame in 2006. With his college teammate, Tim Catalano, Adam is co-author of ‘Running the Edge’ and the duo travels the country giving motivational speeches to athletes of all ages. He resides in Portland, Oregon with his wife, Kara, of 12 years who is also a World Class distance runner. They have one son, Colton. Adam was kind enough to spend one and a half hours on the telephone in January, 2013.
GCR:It’s been over a year since you retired from competitive racing. How has the focus on supporting your wife, Kara’s running, being a father to your son, Colt, and helping other’s through the book, ‘Running the Edge,’ that you co-wrote with Tim Catalano helped ease the transition?
AGIt has eased the transition pretty significantly. When you have an idea of where you are going when one thing ends and something new is potentially beginning it makes things easier. I spent 13 years running professionally and the previous seven years of I was running in school so for 20 years running competitively was a big part of my life. When I got to the point where I knew it wasn’t going to happen anymore and I couldn’t run at the level that I needed to run at due to my injured knee it was time that enough was enough. I had fought back that last time before I retired and gave it that one last shot. I wanted to get that Olympic Trials qualifier in the half marathon, do the Olympic Trials marathon as my first marathon to see what I could do and I committed 100 percent to do that. But in the end after I got my qualifier I was done. I went into the race beat up with a sore knee and after that race I could hardly walk. Once I got an MRI done and they told me about the damage in my knee I knew that I was done and I accepted it. That made it a little bit easier to deal with because I gave it my all and I was content with the fact that I did give my all. Now it is time to find something else I can do well. The ‘Running the Edge’ book project, website and Facebook page were all done and ready so it was a good transition for me as I was able to take the daily energy from my running and to start focusing exclusively on the book and other opportunities which we were trying to develop.
GCR:I want to explore ‘Running the Edge’ in more depth, but first let’s hit on some highlights of your running career. So many of your outstanding performances were victories in cross country including at the Footlocker National prep meet, NCAA Championships and three U.S. titles. What was it that contributed to your success in cross country throughout your career?
AGI have a passion for cross country. I love it. I love being out and running through fields and up hills, down hills and around curves. It is more interesting to me than running around a track and it is something I really enjoy. Early on in my running career I didn’t like track that much. I could go on the track, run fast and be successful, but I didn’t like it as much as cross country. As I got further along in my career and into college I gained a true love for track as well and being out on the oval and competing. Maybe I am built for cross country as I am strong. I’m not a skinny waif, but I’m a solid muscular guy who can handle unbalanced ground and for whatever reasons I am good at it.
GCR:Did it give you extra incentive to win at all levels in cross country since there was one race rather than several in track and field where competitors were split up?
AGIt was definitely something I loved as everyone from all distance discipline in track came together in one race from competitors who focus in track season was from 800 meters to the 10k or half marathon. Everyone was there and I loved that idea of getting out there and competing like that.
GCR:At both the high school and college level you were very successful for a few years and capped both off with national championships your senior year. How rewarding was it to go out on top and was it worth the wait, especially in college where you were in the hunt all four years?
AGYes it was extremely gratifying. I went into my senior year of cross country and that was the final collegiate season for me. I did have one year of indoor track eligibility left, but I was graduating in December and everything was on the line as I did not plan to run indoor track. I was taking 21 credit hours and I wanted to be done at the end of 1998. I was second at the NCAA Cross Country Championships as a freshman and was three seconds off of the win, so naturally I thought I’d get it the next year. Then I had an injury that slowed me down during my sophomore year and I finished sixth at NCAAs. I redshirted the following year and so the next year I was geared and ready to go and I woke up the day we were leaving to go to NCAAs with a sore throat and congestion. I thought, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me.’ I gave it my all and didn’t have it that day but the entire season there is no reason to think that I wouldn’t have won it that year. I had won pre-Nationals and dominated. For three years I had come up short so in 1998 it was all or nothing. I knew it was my last shot and, quite frankly, I was not going to be denied. I was mentally ready and physically prepared. The story of my senior year was rough as we lost our second man, one of my best friends, in a bike accident after pre-Nationals that year and it was an extremely, extremely emotionally draining and painful year for my teammates and me. Going into Nationals there was so much riding on that line. Going in there, competing to the best of my abilities and coming out on top was a dream come true – one of my fondest, greatest memories of racing.
GCR:You are the only man ever to win the 4 km and 12 km titles at the same USA Cross Country Championships, which you accomplished in 2000. What does this say about your cross country prowess?
AGI was in such phenomenal shape that Coach Wetmore and I went in to definitely do the 4k, see how I recovered by the next day and he told me if I was excited about the 12k and wanted to do it that I could. I woke up the next day, went for a little jog, walked around and stretched and felt good. I was excited and wanted to give it a shot to see what I could do. It was a brutal course with mud and deep water. It was rough but it was awesome. I got an Achilles tendon injury about two and a half weeks later and people were giving me a hard time and saying it was stupid to run both races and that I pushed too hard. I kind of looked at it as I did run hard, but in the overall picture I just pushed and pushed and pushed as that was all I knew how to do. When something bothered me I pushed through it as I had the mentality that, even if something hurt, if I could still run I would run through it.
GCR:You won three NCAA track titles including the 3,000 meters indoor in 1997 and 1998 and the 5,000 meters outdoor in 1998. Do any of these three wins stand out for a particular reason such as a tough competitor or strong finish?
AGAll of them were very memorable. My first title was the indoor 3k and Tim Catalano tells a great story about that race that we talk about in some of our presentations on goal setting, being strong minded and saying things out loud. The day before I left for the race he asked me if I was ready and what my race plan was. I told him, ‘when the gun goes off I am going to take the lead, keep leading, keep leading and when anyone tries to pass me I’m not going to let them. He said, ‘that’s your plan?’ And I just answered affirmatively. That is exactly what I did. I knew one of the top runners was Ryan Wilson from Arkansas and that he and other top runners would just want to sit on me and try to outkick me so I was prepared for that. I knew that when they started to make their moves I needed to be ready. That was a great race. The following year I had run fast, was in great shape and there was a guy I had to race that some people ‘may have heard of’ named Bernard Lagat at Washington State who was a 3:53 or 3:55 miler and he had already run a prelim in the mile. He ran the 3,000 meters like he was thinking about me, ‘I’m just going to sit on this guy and outkick him.’ So I led as I pretty much always did. He tried to go around me with 200 meters to go and I fought him off. Then coming around the last turn with 50 meters to go to the finish he tried one last time and I completely shut him down. That is always a fun story for me to tell as here is a guy who a few years later became a 3:29 1,500 meter runner and I had outkicked him in a 3,000 meter race.
GCR:Though you were one of the USA’s top distance runners for over a decade, injuries limited you to only one Olympic team. But how amazing was it to make that 2000 Olympic team after returning from an injury and to win the Olympic Trials 5,000 meters?
AGIt was a testament at that point as that race defined me as a competitor and as a person. It showed me and everyone else that despite the setbacks and despite the time off I had fight in me, wouldn’t give in and would fight to the end. I knew that if I ran a smart race, didn’t get caught up in pace changing and took my time to work my way up through the pack that I had a great shot at making the team. But I didn’t know for sure. So I let the race unfold until I hit a point where it was like an out-of-body experience. I was running and my body was like a machine. I pushed myself to a limit on that day which I was never able to equal before or since. On one hand it was great as I found my ultimate limit but on the other hand it broke me. For three weeks afterward I was in a chronic fatigue syndrome and had no idea what was wrong with me. I’d go out for an easy run at 8:30 to 9:00 pace per mile and my pulse was 185. That was a race where I was so far beyond the edge and so far beyond my physical capabilities. It epitomized mind over matter. It was mental all of the way and my body didn’t have a choice. But I paid the price. The funniest thing for me is when I watch the post-race videos as I am so incoherent. I couldn’t talk because I was breathing so hard, I wasn’t answering the questions and then I was talking about things that weren’t asked. It’s embarrassing to watch. Finally the interviewer went on to talk to other competitors as I was so exhausted and he couldn’t get any responses from me. It was the greatest race and achievement of my life and one of the worst things that happened to me as well as it reinforced my bad training decisions that I could always push through anything. It was a positive outcome but it set me up for a pattern of injuries that lasted for another ten years of my not being patient and not being smart about what I needed to do to run strong and consistent.
GCR:When we review a running career the emphasis is usually on championships and times. With personal bests ranging from a 3:54 mile to a 13:10 5,000 meters and a sub-28:00 10k along with your national championships at all levels, the only thing missing is a medal on the world stage. Do you look back and think, ‘I’m happy as I gave it my all,’ or would a medal have been the capstone?
AGI look back at my career, look in the mirror and look myself in the eye and know that I did give it my all and did everything I could to be the best I could be physically. I couldn’t have tried any harder. Could I have been smarter with my training and my body when things started to break down and with my recovery? Yes. When I look at my times and the things I did as an athlete it was good but I feel personally that I could have gotten more out of myself and that is what is disappointing as an athlete. I struggle with it as I know that I gave it everything but I know that I could have been much faster and that I could have contended for a medal. The closest I got was in the 2006 Cross Country World Championships when I was eight seconds off of the win. I look at my times and they are pathetic compared to times being run now. I thought for sure I would be a sub-13:00 5k guy. I knew I would be. Bob Kennedy was ‘the guy’ when I came out and I thought, ‘that’s me – I know I can get there.’ I look at the past and I had a lot of great outcomes and memories but I wish that I could have gotten everything out of myself. But I am much more at peace with that in my life now than I was a year and a half ago.
GCR:So many runners, their friends and family and track fans tend to focus on the outcome while Jack Fultz, 1976 Boston Marathon champ and sports psychologist, suggests that we focus on the process and then the outcomes will fall where they should be. What are your thoughts on this concept?
AGIt is absolutely correct and I agree one hundred percent. There is so much more to a successful race, running fast times and placing high than just being out there on a specific day and having those outcomes. The process is so important and if you haven’t prepared correctly and done what is necessary to run PRs or to run faster, you are not going to. That process takes time and there is a mentality in runners to push hard, find the limits and to ride that line. Sometimes we need to back off and I think it would have been true for me to give 95% instead of 100% in some workouts and maybe I could have been more successful and had better outcomes. The process would have been there and I wouldn’t have been on the sideline dealing with injuries. If I gave five percent less of perceived effort would that have given me the edge to stay healthy and achieve more? I believe it would have. The key elements to run fast and place high are consistency and staying healthy. As long as you stay healthy, recover and come back repeatedly without injuries and major setbacks you will be successful.
GCR:Did you participate in multiple sports as a youngster and what inspired you to run?
AGI ran track in junior high school and didn’t have the opportunity to run at the high school level until my sophomore year. In eighth and ninth grade in junior high I played basketball, played football and ran track. I high jumped, hurdled, long jumped and I ran the mile. I did everything but never really trained. I can’t even remember what type of training I did to run the mile in junior high school, but in Colorado Springs, which is at 5,400 feet in altitude, I ran a 4:40 mile in ninth grade. I wasn’t doing any type of training that a distance runner would do. When I got into my sophomore year I wasn’t going to be a cross country runner. I was going to sign up for football and was in the cafeteria in line waiting to sign up for football. The line was really long and I had to get to my job so I bailed out of line and went to work. That day people were in my ear saying that maybe I should try cross country, especially my mom and my sisters. They were telling me that I had this ‘mile thing’ down and was running pretty well and that I never knew what I might do. I kept saying things like, ‘Yea, but I’m going to play football.’ But that night I kind of wavered a little bit and I got talked into giving it a shot. My mom and my sisters told me I should try it and that if I hated it I could go back to football the next year. So I thought, ‘I’ll give it a shot- why not?’
GCR:You went from a novice runner at age 14 to Colorado State Cross Country champ as a high school sophomore only three months later. How did you improve so rapidly?
AGI went in out for the cross country team and I had a brilliant high school coach who was very smart with training. I ran 35 miles a week at most and it was never year around. I went from never training to running consistently week after week to getting up to 30 to 35 miles a week. At that amount of running there is also a talent level that comes into play. I believe that when a runner is young and doesn’t put in a lot of miles talent will still take you far. I think that is what happened as I just rode my talent. Race by race I started figuring out what to do. I was competitive, had fun and loved it. By happenstance, my teammate that year was Eric Mack who was the favorite to win State. Every meet I got a little closer to him until we were two or three meets out from state and I was finishing just a second or so behind him. At the meet before State when I finished right behind him I thought I could have beat him that day. Then I had a problem going through my head and I talked to my mom about it as I thought I could beat him but didn’t know if I should try because he was a senior and the favorite. I didn’t know what to do.
GCR:What was your race plan for your first Colorado State Cross Country Championship and how did that race play out?
AGGoing into the State meet on that day I didn’t know what I was going to do. I felt like the opportunity was there and that if I was running and felt great then so be it. But part of me was still torn and I was thinking that if I had the chance to win should I do it or let Eric win. That’s what was going through my head. That day at State three months after I stared organized training it came down to Eric and me. I think he was a little threatened as there was this young kid coming in and he was the favorite to win. During the race he started cutting me off and giving me elbows and I got a little bit mad. Finally I thought, ‘Forget this,’ and I just ran. And that’s it as I ran away from him. I don’t know how much I beat him by – ten or twelve seconds – and the rest is history. I didn’t know much about running or the history of running. I barely knew any Olympic history. I’d never heard of Frank Shorter or Steve Prefontaine. I didn’t know any of this stuff. It was the beginning of a lifelong passion and love and fun. I had the opportunity to do what I love.
GCR:Your season didn’t end there, but you ran post-State meets. Was this just icing on the cake for a young man who was just getting into the sport of running?
AGI didn’t even know about other races. A week later Coach Judy told me she was planning a senior trip and that the seniors on the team were going to a cross country meet called the Kinney Cross Country Championships and if you placed in the top eight you qualify for nationals. She told me it was supposed to be a senior trip, but that she felt like I should run since I just won State. She told me I would run against other state champions and get good experience so I said, ‘Okay.’ I ended up going and made it to Nationals where I finished in 13th place. That is the end of the story that takes me from a complete novice just stumbling upon running to some great initial success.
GCR:One quote I especially like in ‘Running the Edge’ is that ‘Running is more than a sport – it is an identity.’ When did you notice you had developed this as a part of your character?
AGIt was still in the future. I was starting to develop it, but both of my sisters who were older than me were quick to knock me down if I even thought about getting a big head or getting cocky. They would still treat me like a punk little brother and keep me grounded. My identity as a runner was starting though as I was realizing that I was pretty good at it.
GCR:There are ‘Six Mirrors’ that you and Tim have us look into in your book. You may not have realized it at the time, but by your senior year in high school how much did the first three mirrors of ‘Initiative,’ ‘Responsibility’ and ‘Determination’ drive you toward your goals?
AGThey absolutely did so for me. Those characteristics were a part of me and, as I developed as a runner, they helped me to progress and to push to win races no matter who I was racing against.
GCR:How exciting and rewarding was it to win the 1993 Footlocker National Cross Country Championship and what are some of your key memories of your race preparation, racing strategy and how you felt afterward?
AGThe year before when I was a junior I struggled a bit. I finished ninth in the Midwest Regional, but one of the guys ahead of me was a Canadian and wasn’t able to go so I sneaked into the top eight to make it to the championships. I went in and thought I had to run hard and lead. I went out and made some big mistakes. I came in 15th place which I thought was a complete failure since my first year I finished 13th. At that point I was pretty crushed and Joe Falcon, who was one of the elite athletes, came up to me and told me I would have bad races and make mistakes but that the key was to learn from them. He said that from this point on if I want to be back the next year and make an impact I had to think about where I went wrong and that I could come back and do it better the next year. I put things in perspective, took that to heart and started thinking that I was coming back the next year, was going to do things right and win. I went to a summer camp before my senior year which was helpful. My high school Coach Julie had always taught us to visualize and to set realistic goals so I did that each year in my regimen as I thought about what I wanted to accomplish. I knew going in to my senior year what I wanted to do so I started a visualization process every day and every night. I had goals printed out and tacked to my wall right above my bed. I had goal sheets in my locker and on my textbooks. Everything I saw day in and day out said, ‘I will win Footlocker.’ It’s interesting as I imagined myself running in the race against competition I thought I knew even though back then information wasn’t as easily accessible on the internet. I went off of the athletes I thought would be there and visualized running in a pack because I knew the course. There was a hill and I knew that when I hit it the second time that is when I would be making my move because at that point you are about 800 meters out. I told myself to get to that hill, run hard up the hill and stride out. The race unfolded exactly as I imagined with Meb Keflegzhigi, Bob Keino and several other runners up front. There was a group and one guy fell off, then another and then another until it came down to Meb and me. I got to that hill the second time and even though it was his home course, I just wasn’t going to be denied. I was ready for it, got to the top of the hill and strided out. I gapped him good and in the next 600 meters I put 11 seconds on him to win. It was so exhilarating because I wanted it so badly and it was my ultimate goal at that time. I had so many big goals that year and it topped off my cross country season. It was amazing. I was so excited and happy and it was a lot of fun.
GCR:What are the main things your coach did to contribute to your success?
AGAs I mentioned, Coach Judy helped with visualizing and goals. Those were keys to my improvement, but the best thing she allowed me to do was to develop into the athlete that I had potential to become. She didn’t believe in high mileage and wanted me to run what I could run and to be successful off of that even though it was relatively low mileage.
GCR:Did your coach focus more on race tempo sessions, speed work, hills or a combination through your high school running?
AGWe didn’t really do hills. I don’t think we did any real threshold work, tempo runs or repeat miles. We did a lot of fartlek and we did repeat 800s on fields. Each year as I got faster and faster my workouts progressed, but we were just talking the other day over lunch, and my longest run in high school was one 10-mile run. We weren’t focused on lots of intense speed work either. It was just a good combination of getting the leg turnover. She wanted me to go on to college and to really continue to develop. She allowed me to achieve great things while in high school on a relatively manageable low mileage program and it was good for me.
GCR:Did you consider other college choices or was it a foregone conclusion that you were going to Colorado?
AGI visited Arkansas, Wisconsin and Colorado and talked with other coaches, but my top choices came down to Wisconsin and Colorado. Honestly, Coach Wetmore had me as he was so intriguing and when I talked with him I felt like this was the guy who could really take me to the next level. He was so captivating. I would talk to him and there were no limits for me. He was smart knowing I was coming from such a low mileage training plan and he discussed how he would use progression into a higher mileage program and how he could develop me. I like to tell a story about how I was indecisive between Wisconsin and Colorado even though I was favoring Colorado and Coach Wetmore. I was with a good friend of mine at the time and I said, ‘I’m going to flip a coin – ‘heads’ is Colorado and ‘tails’ is Wisconsin.’ So I flipped it and it was heads so I was going to Colorado. Then I said, ‘maybe I should do two out of three?’ For the fun of it I flipped it again, it was heads and obviously I was going to Colorado. So I have fun with it and tell people I flipped a coin, because I did. But even if it ended up on tails I still would have gone to Colorado – there is no doubt about it.
GCR:How was the transition to college life, racing at a higher level and to Coach Mark Wetmore’s training regimen?
AGI took to it well. Coach Wetmore was very smart with me and in the summer leading to my freshman year he told me not to think about mileage or necessarily how many days a week I ran, but he asked me to run 300 minutes a week and to break it up however I liked. Then he moved me up slowly to 400 minutes a week and then to 450 minutes. He set my training volume by total time spent running each week which was primarily what concerned him. I wasn’t thinking about miles – I just broke the minutes down over seven days. He might tell me to run a little more than usual on Wednesday and my longest run on Sunday and that is how we did it. By the time I got to the University of Colorado late that summer I was running probably about 60 to 65 miles a week and was handling it very well. So that is how he had me progress. During my freshman year I maxed out at about 70 or 75 miles a week.
GCR:Did your training mileage gradually increase during college and what were some of the elements of training Coach Wetmore added to challenge you and take your performances to new heights?
AGIt went up a little bit but we found out for me that I had a great engine. Coach Wetmore would describe it as a Ferrari engine in VW chassis. I had to be careful because I could push myself so hard mentally that my body would break. He was really cautious with me and what I could do while staying healthy. The most mileage I ever did was my senior year when I was a 90 mile a week guy. If I tried to go above that something would break or I’d have an injury that would set me back so that mileage was a good spot for me. What helped me in college was that I got into training with a group of very, very talented athletes like Alan Culpepper and I was running with people on a daily basis instead of going out and running by myself. I would have people to run with and push me so I was learning about training and what was a medium day, easy day or an up-tempo or hard day. I learned from them how to pace myself on different days. I also implemented longer runs. On Wednesday we did a medium length run so it was 12 to 13 miles early on and up to 15 or 17 miles by my senior year. Our long runs on the weekend were typically 20 or 21 miles.
GCR:After your college days you were plagued by a series of injuries that kept you from consistent training and continual improvement. In retrospect were you having trouble with the fourth mirror of ‘Adaptability’ and trying to bully your way to success?
AGI struggled with that all of the time because I had the mentality that to take it to the next level I had to always be riding that line. I had to be pushing so hard. When you are pushing so hard day in and day out something is always hurt, something is always sore, something is always a little bit not right. I just figured that was part of what I do. For me I wasn’t good with figuring out when I had a legitimate injury and needed to back off. Instead I would just say, ‘I’m alright,’ and push through it and the next thing you know it would turn into an injury that took me out for a couple of weeks. If I had just backed off I may have missed a day or two and been fine without missing two weeks. I was my own worst enemy. A lot of runners deal with that.
GCR:After a disappointing 2004 Olympic Trials and the aforementioned injuries you switched coaches to Alberto Salazar and moved to Oregon. Was it just the right time for a new voice, different methods and a change of scenery?
AGYes, it was and looking back it was our own fault. When I say ‘we,’ I am talking about both Kara and me as we were both NCAA champions and ran fast times in college. We were both running well off of the bat professionally, but Kara was struggling with some injuries and she needed something different. I was also struggling and the thought process of change started with Kara wanting to go in another direction and to look for a coach that could focus more on her and we couldn’t find that person. Quite honestly, after I ran so badly, I also thought that maybe it was time for a change. We didn’t realize it fully in Boulder, but we lacked the professionalism in what we were doing. We looked at our lives, still lived lives like college students and didn’t focus enough on our career and our specialty. We didn’t look at running as our job. It shouldn’t have been about getting up, doing a 10-mile run and being done for the day. And that is kind of the mentality we had. We didn’t even do double workouts a day that much. Our bodies were broken so when we arrived in Oregon we worked with Justin Whitaker who was a chiropractor and he was so good at putting us back together. What we struggled with in Boulder is that we didn’t have the help we needed as professional athletes. If something bothered us and we were hurting we didn’t know where to go or who to see. In Portland we had a massage therapist, a chiropractor or if something was really hurting and we couldn’t run we would get an MRI that day and wouldn’t beat around the bush and wait a week. There was urgency and we learned professionalism. When we came to Oregon we would run in the morning and then go into an hour and a half of core and weights and stretching. We started at 9:00 a.m. and it would be 12:30 or almost 1:00 p.m. by the time we were done. Then we would eat lunch and go for another run in the late afternoon. Since Kara and I rarely doubled in Colorado, adding that extra mileage strengthened us. It was good to see other methods and what others were doing. I wish I could have learned those things and had the support staff in Boulder. I never in my wildest dreams thought I would leave Coach Wetmore. I started with him and thought I would end with him and that is the way it was going to be. Looking back, I wish that I hadn’t gone to Alberto. I wish that never happened. I wish I could have just gone to Oregon and learned how to be a professional athlete because that is what we were lacking.
GCR:You rebounded in 2005 with some great performances including a 13:10 5,000 meters, 8:12 2-mile and sixth place at the Cross Country World Championships. Was it the good health and professionalism that mainly contributed to your turnaround?
AGIt’s inevitable that if you can stay healthy and have the talent you will run well. The talent I had didn’t just disappear; I was just in a physical rut. I needed a change and so did Kara, but I wish I could go back and had never gone there.
GCR:Did the fifth mirror of ‘Integrity’ and seeing yourself as you really are come into play during this time period?
AGYes it was there as I had to ask myself the question, ‘Am I all in or not?’ If I was going to do this and call myself a professional athlete and try to get the most out of myself, was I going to put in the work? I had to have the integrity to say I’m going to do that. I had to hold myself accountable and have the integrity to look myself in the mirror and know that I didn’t shortchange myself by only going halfway.
GCR:The sixth and final mirror deals with ‘Person-Ability.’ You mentioned earlier about running with your teammates at Colorado. How important is it to have teammates and partners to train with and for camaraderie during racing season, especially when you are in Europe for an extended period in the summer?
AGHaving teammates and having kindred spirits going through what I was going through, whether or not we were at the same level or paces was huge. It made all of the difference in the world to have them there. We were each other’s support team. We helped each other get through day to day. In college I think that I took that for granted. I was so focused on what I wanted to do and what I wanted to achieve that I could have done better on my ‘Person-Ability.’ I was just too rigid and when I look back I wish I had been a bit different, but in the end it is what it is, though it is something I could have worked on. That is what we talk about in the book. To be a complete person and a compete athlete you have to hold yourself accountable in these areas and once you do you can really take the next steps as an athlete and as a person. I believe that is what is important. Being good at what you do as an athlete and how fast you are is wonderful, but at the end of the day what is important is the positive impact you have on others. It is essential to be a person who gives back to the community of sport and that is why I enjoy what I am doing now so much.
GCR:In ‘Running the Edge’ there is an emphasis on taking the great lessons we learn from the ‘Six Mirrors’ and using them in our education, career, friendships, family life and other passions. Has this plan helped you in your life to focus on and realize continual improvement?
AGOh yes – absolutely. When Tim and I started writing the book and doing our brainstorming sessions, writing outlines and talking through things chapter by chapter it really forced both of us to reflect on our lives and our careers and what we were doing. It was so positive for me and for Tim.
GCR:How did the process of Tim and you writing ‘Running the Edge’ help you to realize your real self and work to close the gap between it and your ideal self?
AGI think that anyone who takes the time to do the comparison and looks at the mirrors will find out where they really are. I was thinking, ‘I’m living to the fullest. I’m the man I want to be – the friend, the employee or whatever.’ If we take the time to step back and see if we are doing everything we can to do our best and to achieve the most we can, then we have to ask, ‘Am I?’ When we ask that hard question and look ourselves in the eye in the mirror we can start asking ourselves where we want to go and what is our ultimate goal. We can evaluate how far we are from a goal and if we our doing what it takes to get there. The majority of people are floating through and living life day-to-day and it is an easy routine. But if we step back and ask, ‘Could I be doing better?’ – That is the key. To recognize that we can and to actually work to improve ourselves is hard to do, but is very important at the same time.
GCR:What is the common thread possessed by top runners, other top athletes and those who succeed in many walks of life that makes us avoid at any costs what you call ‘The Curse of Normal and the Chains of Average?’ Is this innate, learned or a combination of both?
AGThat’s a good question. I think that it’s almost a societal thing in some ways – that what you see is what you get. What I mean is that you surround yourself with friends and you tend to live your life in a normal routine of getting up going to work, coming home, seeing your family and doing it all over again. It becomes normal and we have to ask, ‘Am I living my life that way?’ Most people are. So I don’t know the answer to the question but it may be instilled in people when they are young. It is good to try to instill this attitude in children when they are very young so that they have an attitude of excellence, being the best they can be and giving it their all. I think that people are told to do that but how many people are actually living that way? It is easy to fall back into the old routines and to let it slide by. The hard part is to tell yourself that you are not going to allow yourself to fall into that way of life.
GCR:There are thousands of us who consider ourselves to be runners. What is the difference between a ‘runner’ and a ‘distance maven?
AGTo be a distance maven you are giving it your all and trying to be the best runner you can be – not just by saying it, but by actually going through the processes we talk about. A runner who wants to be a real distance maven looks into the six mirrors and lives it. Everybody can ask themselves, ’Am I doing the right training?’ and ‘Should I be doing more?’ But you have to be able to find where you are and where you want to be so that you can strive to be your best. The challenge is for you aim to be the best runner you can be. It doesn’t mean that you achieve a certain outcome and then you are a distance maven. It is a sliding scale that is constantly moving back and forth. You might achieve the point where you feel you are a distance maven, but then parts will slip again because that is human nature. There are times of greatness and times of struggle which is natural. To be a distance maven means that you keep working on going through the process. A distance maven continues to go through the process and the activity of continually closing the gap between where one is currently and where one wants to be as a runner and as a person. When you reach the point of being a distance maven it is still a constant battle to stay a distance maven.
GCR:Let’s switch gears and get your thoughts on some ‘favorites’ in your running. First, with your success at races from 1,500 meters through 10,000 meters and all points in between, what was your favorite distance to race and why?
AGI really liked racing the mile as I was on that edge and running fast the entire way. I liked it because competitively so much happened so quickly. When I would race an 800 meters it was insane because it felt like I was running all out for one lap and then all out for another lap. But in a mile I was riding the line where so much was continually happening. In the 5,000 meters I had great success and a lot happens but not as quickly. I loved the 3,000 meters also as it was a lot of fun.
GCR:Secondly, you raced well indoors, outdoors and in cross country. What did you like best about each?
AGIndoors I loved running on 200 meter banked tracks. Even in a 5,000 meter race indoors I felt like I was flying. Outdoors… hmmm… (Laughing) what did I love about outdoor track? That is what most runners are used to and I did enjoy being out on the oval to race. Cross country was great as I just love running on grass fields, up hills, through mud or dirt and hopping obstacles. It brought so many other elements into running and I loved cruising through hillsides and on trails. It was so much fun.
GCR:Finally, who were some of your favorite competitors from high school, college or at the professional level for their toughness or ability to push you to another level?
AGThat’s another good question. Early on in high school at the State level I liked racing Tom Reese on the track and he is now one of my best friends. Tom and I raced the mile and in cross country. He was a tough competitor and someone I looked forward to competing against. Meb Keflezhigi was fun to race against starting in high school at the Footlocker cross country and throughout college. Meb was always fun to race and to run against. In college there were so many great competitors as each year there was someone new. As a pro, early in my career, I always enjoyed toeing the line against Bob Kennedy. He was ‘the guy.’ He was ‘the man.’ I loved being able to step on the line and to see what I could do against him. More times than not I got my butt kicked, but at other times things went my way, it was awesome and it was fun.
GCR:You have had so many great races and competitions during your career in the U.S. and abroad. Do any we didn’t talk about jump to the forefront of your thoughts because of your tactics, a big kick or other factors?
AGOf course, some we have talked about like in high school the State Championships in cross country and the Footlocker race my senior year were huge for me. In college the NCAA win in cross country my senior year was big. The Olympic Trials in 2000 was a milestone as were the Cross Country World Championships in 2006 when I came in sixth place. Additionally, the Zurich 5,000 meters when I ran 13:11 in 1999 and the Prefontaine Classic in 1999 when I ran 3:54 in the mile. Those were races where I was on the edge.
GCR:What is your current fitness regimen and what are your goals for the future in terms of fitness and the possibility of Masters age group competition?
AGCurrently I can’t run the way I want to as I need to have micro fracture surgery on one knee. First and foremost I need to get that done and start the recovery process which usually takes a lengthy period of time Right now I can go out and run five or six miles at most and things hurt. I also ride the elliptical trainer a lot and I feel it is the best cross training tool I’ve come across for runners. It still allows me to push myself since I can’t when running. So I am lucky to have the elliptical trainer to help me to stay fit. I want to be able to run without my knee hurting or my feet hurting so I can enjoy running the way that I used to. I would like to get back to where I can run five to ten miles a day and do so enjoyably.
GCR:What is some quick advice for younger runners to improve consistency, minimize injuries and reach their potential? When you speak to younger runners what are the points that you hope stick with them?
AGThe point I emphasize is that they must learn to be smart. The best thing I can offer is that runners began to learn the line between tough and stupid. Runners need to push hard and to be strong but understand that when things start to hurt and when things get off track to not push through it. That is where I made my biggest mistakes and that will allow more success on their behalf.
GCR:With ‘Running the Edge’ you and Tim are helping others strive toward reaching their potential in running and life. How rewarding is it to help others succeed compared to your own personal accomplishments?
AGI’m blessed and am lucky with what I’m doing now. I absolutely love it. It is important for me to be able to give back and to offer up my ideas and insights to help other people. I love talking with people, helping to get them excited about their running and accomplishing their goals and then hearing about how they accomplished their goals. I do the same kind of thing with Kara, but it is on another level when it is people I don’t know. It is a lot of fun for me and is very rewarding when we’re out there giving talks and people come up to Tim and me and tell us how the book and our talks have impacted their running and life.
GCR:How much fun is it helping your wife, Kara, to ‘Run the Edge’ as she competes as one of the world’s best marathon racers and how exciting are the prospects of raising your son, Colt, to ‘Live the Edge’ in all he does in life?
AGIt is very exciting. My main job and goal is making sure that Kara is getting what she needs out of her training and doing everything she possibly can. Sometimes I may not agree with her assigned workouts, but I need to stay positive with what she is doing and help her through. It is very much a team effort and it is what Kara and I both did when I was running professionally. It has been a team effort as she could understand what I was going through, I understood what she was going through and we were able to help each other. Now with Colt, as he grows, working with him to be a good person and to focus on what life is really about is joyful. Raising a child at times is scary, but it is exciting.
GCR:When people think about Adam Goucher, what do you hope comes to mind?
AGAt the end of the day the most important thing to me is my legacy as a husband and as a father and as a human being. That is more important than anything I did out there running and on the track. If I can look myself in the mirror and know that I did everything I could and gave it my all that’s all I can ask of myself. To give back to my family and be the man they expect me to be is very important to me.
GCR:Lastly, what are the major lessons you have learned during your life from the discipline of running, racing success, adversity you have encountered and writing ‘Running the Edge’ that you would like to share with my readers?
AGI think that honestly from everything I have learned in writing the book and from what I’m doing now the most important thing for me at this point is to make sure that I am living my life to the fullest and that I’m not slacking off in areas where I shouldn’t be. It is easy for people to fall into those ruts and it is for me as well where we aren’t living life to the fullest or being the best that we can be. Awareness is the key. Awareness is the perfect word. Pay attention to what you are doing while you are doing it and focus on what needs to change to make you better.
 Inside Stuff
Hobbies/InterestsI’m Just starting to get into rock climbing. I also enjoy riding/working-out on the ElliptiGo, home building projects, spending time with my family and, of course, hanging out and playing with Colt
NicknamesEveryone always called me ‘Gouch’
Favorite moviesI’m an action guy – I like movies like ‘The Bourne Identity’ and Jason Statham movies
Favorite TV showsRight now we’re big on watching ‘Modern Family,’ ‘Happy Endings’ and ‘How I Met Your Mother’
TV Reality Show DreamKara and I watch them sometimes, but I’m not really into them. We used to watch ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ all of the time and if I had the skills to go on there, that would be fun. I don’t watch ‘Survivor’ much, but something like that would be kind of fun to do
Favorite musicI’m an alternative rock kind of guy though I’m pretty all inclusive when it comes to music
Favorite books‘The Power of One’ and ‘Long Lasting’
First carA 1978 Toyota Celica that was about three different colors – gold, rust and a mixture of gold and rust – it was beat to hell
Current carIt’s a lot better than my first car. Now I drive an Audi 84 Avant with the sport back
First JobI had a newspaper route that I shared with my sisters. After that I worked at a feed store pitching hay bales and doing other manual labor – that was my first real job
FamilyMy entire family is my biggest supporter, is amazing and sees me through it all. My mom and my sisters, their husbands, Kara’s mom and sisters and grandparents – they are my closest family and have seen me at my top and my bottom and I’m lucky to have them
PetsI have two cats that I’ve had for 12 years and 11 years. They are Simba and Ellie
Favorite breakfastI like oatmeal with raisins, brown sugar and cinnamon
Favorite mealAnything my wife, Kara, makes. She is an amazing cook and I love everything she prepares
Favorite beveragesMy favorite sport replenishment drink is Nune. I like white wine, red wine and beer. I don’t have beer every night, but I definitely enjoy a glass of wine
First running memoryWe had field day in elementary school. I’d run the 100 yard dash. We did it every year so I remember it all of the way back to first grade. That was the only time we really ran except when we were having fun on the playground
Running heroesAs I mentioned I didn’t have heroes when I started, but once I got into the sport I was intrigued with and inspired by Steve Prefontaine and Frank Shorter. I admired what they both did
Greatest running momentsThe 2000 Olympic Trials despite what it cost me. My NCAA Championships were big, but especially winning the 1998 NCAA Cross Country Championship as it was the end cap on my college career – it was perfect
Worst running momentThe 2008 Olympic Trials where I knew I wasn’t going to make the team and I was in the 10k, running hard and didn’t have enough. I was just watching the action up front, getting gapped and wasn’t able to close the gap between the top three guys and where I was. It was pretty bad
Childhood dreamsI wanted to be an astronaut. I wanted to be flying up and floating around in space
Funny memoriesEarly on with Colt in his first month or month-and-a-half I had just changed him, he was completely naked and I was carrying him. Kara and her mom were there and thought I was crazy to be carrying him like that. I was telling them I had just changed him so I was fine and then he peed all over me down the whole front of me. I was saying, ‘You’ve got to be kidding.’ I knew I shouldn’t do that, but I did anyway as I was confident he wouldn’t pee and then he did. I think most parents have a story like that
Embarrassing moment 
Favorite places to travelI like coming back to Colorado from Portland and going to Duluth, where Kara is from, because in both places I’m home. Fun places that we’ve been include Mexico – we just went down to the Mayan Riviera and had a blast down there. In Europe I love Italy