Goucher Runs Sunday

     Live coverage of the World Championships marathons in Berlin are on Universal Sports.com here. Saturday’s men’s marathon is 4:45 a.m. CDT and Sunday’s women’s marathon is 4:15 a.m. That’s early.

London in 2012 is the finish line.

Berlin in 2009 is a trial run.

American Kara Goucher takes another step in her marathon career at 4:15 a.m. (Duluth time) Sunday in the women’s World Track and Field Championships race in Berlin. Her third 26.2-mile race in 10 months is viewed as vital preparation for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.

“The World Championships is about who I believe I can become, over time, with more experience,” Goucher recently wrote by e-mail from Europe to the News Tribune. “I am here to execute a plan and learn more about the marathon.

“Of course, I would love to get a medal and do well for the United States, but it is just another experience I feel I need to get to my overall dream, to be in the hunt for the Olympic gold medal in 2012.”

This is the fourth straight year Goucher has represented the United States – she was third at 3,000 meters on the track in the 2006 IAAF World Cup in Athens; bronze medalist at 10,000 meters in the 2007 World Championships in Osaka, Japan; and 10th at 10,000 meters and ninth at 5,000 in the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing.

The Duluth-raised runner has been third in her two marathons, 2008 at New York City and 2009 at Boston. She led the Boston Marathon over much of the final five miles only to be outkicked in the last half-mile and finish nine seconds behind. That didn’t set well with Goucher and her plans to start a family with husband, Adam, were put on hold until after Berlin.

“I feel much more prepared, mentally and physically, that I did for New York and Boston,” Goucher wrote. “I have always known that with each marathon and each experience I would get better and better. I don’t think the best marathon of my life will take place Aug. 23rd, but I think it will be the best so far.

“I have handled the work load much better this time around and physically I’m at a new point of strength. Mentally I feel good, too. I haven’t put the pressure on myself to perform the way I did in Boston. I’m here to get the most out of myself, but I don’t feel like I have to win to be successful.”

Goucher, 31, a Portland, Ore., resident, had an impressive tune up three weeks ago by finishing first overall in a field of 14,400 in the inaugural Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago Half-Marathon in 1 hour, 8 minutes, 5 seconds. Her marathon best is 2:25:53 at New York.

Sunday’s field has been lessened through attrition. Out are England’s world record holder Paula Radcliffe, Germany’s Irina Mikitenko, and Japan’s Yoko Shibui and Tomo Morimoto.

In the race are Kenya’s Salina Kosgei and Ethiopia’s Dire Tune, who finished ahead of Goucher at Boston, and China’s Zhou Chunxiu, the 2008 Olympic bronze medalist.

When Tune was asked for a marathon prediction she told the International Association of Athletics Federation Web site: “I think it will be one, two, three for Ethiopia. That is how confident I am about our chances.”

Runner’s World executive editor and 1968 Boston Marathon winner Amby Burfoot follows distance running as closely as anyone in America and says he’s intrigued by Sunday’s marathon. He wrore on the Runner’s World Web site that Goucher appears well-prepared by Nike Oregon Project coach Alberto Salazar:

“Goucher is incredibly fit and has a real chance of medaling, in fact, I think she has a chance of winning and I don’t often say that about Americans in world-class marathons. I think she’s in about 2:22 shape now and that could be enough to get the job done in Berlin.”

Sunday, the final day of the World Championships, is expected to be sunny with temperature to reach into the mid-70s. The women’s marathon starts at 11:15 a.m. Berlin time. Goucher says she’s not focusing on time, but performance. She’ll likely race from the front, monitor her body and take fluids at the eight aid stations from water bottles personalized by her mom, Patty Wheeler of Duluth.

The only U.S. woman to earn a World Championships marathon medal was Marianne Dickerson, second in the inaugural race in 1983, one year after placing third in the 1982 Grandma’s Marathon. America’s Joan Benoit won the inaugural Summer Olympics race in 1984 in Los Angeles.

“My plan is quite simple, whether it’s a 2:18 race or 2:35. I will run with the lead pack as long as possible. I am committed to believe in my finish and to not doubt my abilities to close hard.  If all goes well, it will be 26 miles of mindless running and then kicking like crazy,” said Goucher. “I’m having the time of my life with my running. Chicago was great and I can’t wait to see what I can do in Berlin.”

The men’s marathon, which includes Matt Gabrielson, 31, of Minneapolis, is at 4:45 a.m. Saturday.