At her first Olympic appearance in Beijing in 2008, elite distance runner Kara Goucher competed in the 5,000-meter and 10,000-meter events for team USA, taking ninth and 10th place, respectively. That same year, Goucher's record-breaking debut marathon earned her third place in the New York City race and the first spot on the podium for an American woman in more than a decade. After a year off from competition to celebrate the birth of her son (she ran up to and including the day he was born), Goucher is back in fighting shape and headed to London. There, she'll get a second shot at bronze, silver, glory and gold.
Get set. First timers be warned. The dwindling days before a big race are tougher than they seem. If you've been tapering, you've put a few weeks between you and your last long run -- a hiatus that can undermine a runner's confidence about the distance she's about to face. Experts lovingly call this "taper madness." To keep the mania at bay, focus on the final preparations that can help ensure you run the best race you have in you. With a week to go, prioritize proper hydration (including sports drinks to build up electrolyte stores) and meals that up your carb intake slightly. Two or three days before, take the time to lay out your running clothes, remembering to stick to duds battle-tested during training. Otherwise, you could end up with socks that slouch, a sports bra that scrunches or, worst of all, sneaks that just don't feel right. On half-marathon eve, pin your race bib to your top, lace your tracking chip into your shoes, and get your breakfast, fuel and water bottles organized. All of it will help to keep your mind occupied while reinforcing just how truly ready you are. When your alarm goes off, there will be nothing left to do but trust in your training and enjoy the glory of 13.1 miles you never thought you'd conquer. Have fun.
Cheer Sage on in her final few days of training @espnW: #runSAGE.