Thursday, March 4, 2010

Kara Crush

Don't tell my husband. I have a crush on someone else.
It's a romance à la Hollywood. At first, I found the object of my crush annoying. Overtime, my admiration for that person grew. Then came the moment that made me feel close. In the denouement, I let my feelings known. The (happy) End.

My crush is Kara Goucher, the top-ranked American runner, who finished third in her first attempt at a marathon in New York City in 2008. I watched her on television, running right behind the world's champions in a distance that was new to her and being cheered by a public that welcomed back home the Queens-born athlete. On TV, Kara was keeping up with the U.K. champion Paula Radcliffe on the Queensboro Bridge. That image got stuck in my memory, partly because I was there a year earlier, on that same bridge, about to come up First Avenue, where my then boyfriend -- now husband -- and my father were waiting to cheer me. Now there was Kara with her black necklace and black sleeves, looking beautiful after running 16 miles (26 km) at a grueling pace. My husband, like all men who've laid eyes on the good-looking athlete, was smitten. I was annoyed.

 (Kara Goucher at the 2009 Boston Marathon. Author: Stewart Dawson.)

Six months later, Kara was under a lot of pressure at the start of the Boston Marathon. She had graduated from being a surprise third in her New York debut to a favorite in Boston. An entire nation -- or at least its runners -- dreamed of an American victory on Patriot's Day. The last American female winner in Boston was Lisa Larsen Weidenback in 1985, when Kara was 7. When Kara came third, she cried. She was disappointed. But she had started her career on 1,500 meters, 5,000 meters and 10,000 meters, and that day she proved she wasn't a one-time marathon wonder. I was in awe.

I became infatuated after reading the cover story in the March 2010 issue of Runner's World magazine. In it, Kara Goucher candidly talks about her crises of confidence and setbacks, including being beaten by her sister -- who's about four years younger -- at a high-school race and having to walk during her first 10k race. I could relate to her fears and her insecurity. She didn't sound fake in a way a Hollywood actress might say in an interview she's insecure about her body (yeah, right). ``Everyone has their weakness,'' she said in the article. ``Mine is confidence.'' The fact that she has to overcome mental demons makes her an even greater champion. According to the article, she's now taking some time off to start a family. Whenever she comes back, I'll be a fan.

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