UPDATE: Goucher’s Day

American Kara Goucher is still fine-tuning some details of racing 26.2 miles.

She came into Sunday’s World Track and Field Championships women’s marathon saying she was in the best shape of her life, yet was felled by a sour stomach. Fluids which she provided, to be placed at eight aid stations on the course in Berlin, didn’t sit well and she dropped from contention with fewer than eight miles remaining.

Xue Bai won on a warm morning in 2 hours, 25 minutes, 15 seconds for China’s first World Championships marathon gold medal. Goucher, from Portland, Ore., was 10th in 2:27:48, the highest finish by an American woman in the World Championships marathon since Linda Somers placed seventh in 1995.

“My legs felt great, and I felt really relaxed.  The pace felt comfortable, and it felt like practice,” Goucher told USA Track and Field.  “I had a lot of problems keeping my fluids down.  After the second fluid station, I started throwing up what I took in. I would start taking it, then a mile later, I’d throw up.

“I started to cramp with 13K to go, and then the field started to surge. It wasn’t there. I just wasn’t good enough today. I thought I hydrated myself well leading up to the race. When the field made their break, my body wouldn’t go.”

Bai, just 20 years old, ran her first marathon at age 14 and was in her 11th on Sunday. She broke away from Japan’s Yoshimi Ozaki over the last kilometer on a sunny, 70-degree day. Ozaki was second in 2:25:25 and Aselefech Mergia of Ethiopia was third in 2:25:32, while China’s Chunxiu Zhou, third in the 2008 Summer Olympics, was fourth in 2:25:39, meaning the top four runners were just 24 seconds apart. There were 60 finishers with the top three earning $60,000, $30,000 and $20,000.

Bai was in her fifth marathon in a year and third in 2009 (previously placing 13th in Nagoya and seventh in Dailan). The World Championships was her first marathon outside of Asia. The race was on a flat course with four 10-kilometer loops.

“After I won the Beijing Marathon in October 2008 I was not in very good shape but, from February this year, I started very good training,” Bai told the International Association of Athletics Federations Web site. “This is my third marathon this year, and my first two show very bad results, but those marathons were not really for competition reasons. They were mainly for tests or training reasons.”

Goucher, 31, was running her third marathon in 10 months, placing third in New York City in 2008 in 2:25:53 and third in Boston in 2009 in 2:32:25. While she ran with a lead group of 20-plus runners through the early stages, her stomach problems started with the second aid station, at about six miles, and then continued at nine miles, 12 miles and 15 miles. She managed to keep the leaders within sight, but was becoming dehydrated. She experienced similar stomach issues at the New York City Marathon.

“Not being able to keep fluids down definitely cost her, it was a hot day and after losing about two pounds of body fluid, your performance drops dramatically,” Adam Goucher, Kara’s husband and a former U.S. Olympian on the track, said in an e-mail from Berlin. “Kara said that with about 6½ miles to go, her lower back and hamstrings started cramping.

“Unfortunately, the marathon is full of unknowns. There’s no doubt Kara is in the best shape of her life, but in the end, all the stars still have to align.”

Patty Wheeler of Duluth, Kara’s mother, talked to her daughter after the race: “She said she was disappointed, but that she couldn’t have done anything more to be ready. She was calm and confident.”

Kara Goucher, raised in Duluth, now plans to take time off from serious racing, in order to start a family, but plans to participate in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London in the marathon. She ran 5,000 and 10,000 meters on the track in the 2008 Summer Games.

She was the top American on Sunday, but finished just five seconds head of teammate Desiree Davila of Rochester Hills, Mich., 11th in 2:27:53, a personal best by more than three minutes. Of the remaining Americans, Tera Moody of Boulder, Colo., was 28th in 2:36:39; Paige Higgins of Littleton, Colo., was 30th in 2:37:11; and Zoila Gomez of Alamosa, Colo., was 51st in 2:42:49.

China won the team title and the United States was fifth among nine teams, the best finish in American history.

“My only aim was to show a good performance and to do well in the World Cup with the team,” said Bai. “My next aim is to win the gold medal at the 2012 Olympics.”