Photos by Modcraft Studio

Kara Goucher is probably the most recognizable female distance runner in the country. Over her 20-year career she’s earned a reputation for being a gritty, stone-cold athlete with an unbeatable competitive drive. A member of the East Duluth high school cross country team in Minnesota at the young age of 12, it’s no surprise Goucher went on to become a two-time Olympian and 2007 World Championships silver medalist in the 10,000 meter.

But after a gut-wrenching loss at the 2016 US Olympic Marathon Trials, she turned her attention to flexing her mental muscles. Her new book, Strong: A Runner’s Guide to Boosting Confidence and Becoming the Best Version of You, is inspired by her personal experience on improving performance while conquering self-doubt.

Strong Girls Do Cry

After the 2016 qualifiers, it took months for Goucher to recover emotionally. But instead of quitting, she eventually allowed herself to cry it out, then pick herself up and move on.  “I felt so alive when I had the hope that it could be,” Goucher says. “It’s easier to protect yourself and not try anymore, but then you’re not really living.” This detour from expectation led Goucher to a profound discovery: being vulnerable and open is not a weakness, but a strength.

Confidence Journal

Goucher flexes her mental confidence so that come race-day, the nerves and self-doubt don’t have a shot. “I used to feel like an imposter on the start line; just a girl from Minnesota lining up at London. It starts to creep into my mind, ‘Well maybe I’m not good enough,’” Goucher says. She uses a confidence journal every night before bed and writes down one positive thing about herself. That way, the next time that little voice of self-doubt creeps in, she opens the journal and sees all her accomplishments. The practice of developing mental toughness prompted Goucher’s first book. Part autobiography, part workbook, the book covers techniques Goucher uses to bulk up mentally, along with psychologist insights, MD-approved tips, and real-life experiences from Goucher’s friends and fellow Olympians, Emma Coburn and Molly Huddle.

Power in Numbers

Along with her band of elite athlete girlfriends, Goucher runs a female-only retreat that equips women with mental, physical, and spiritual tools for life (FYI, Goucher is also a mother, wife, and amateur cook). Her 2018 Podium Retreat from September 20-23 marks the 5th years of workouts, lectures, lunches, runs, and quality wine chats developed to help women see just how strong they are. Hardcore runners and one-milers alike come from around the country to join a new sisterhood, where crying, weakness, and sub-10-minute miles are not only tolerated, but welcomed.


Age: 40
Height: 5’8’’
Career Highlights:  Competing in the 2008 Beijing Olympics (5,000 m and 10,000 m) 2012 London Olympics (Marathon)

Jahla Seppanen is a Denver-based sports and fitness writer.