Kara Goucher is a long-distance runner, Olympian, author, and mother. Her journey has taught her the power of self-belief paired with the support of others. In her new book, “The Longest Race,” and through her advocacy for women’s rights, she encourages us all to rise above doubt and pressure to become our most authentic selves.
In part one of this incredible conversation, Kara shares her experiences in life and sport with me and my co-host Travis Macy. Kara has represented the USA at the Beijing and London Olympics and finished third at the Boston Marathon. Despite facing challenges in pregnancy and athletics, she has persevered and now advocates for women’s rights in the male-dominated world of sports, and offers opportunities for men to join the conversation.
Ready to hear the next leg of Kara’s journey?
You can find part two of our conversation on the Travis Macy Show, where Kara offers insights into battling imposter syndrome, the thrill of winning a medal, and how to embrace autonomy and joy in running while holding the weight of expectations. Plus, Kara shares advice for parents navigating disordered eating and body image with young athletes.
Check out the Travis Macy Show for compelling conversations with interesting people about endurance sport, ultra mindset, exciting adventure, optimized performance, Alzheimer’s resilience, organ donation, good reading, and more.
Kara Goucher’s Key Takeaways
- Kara’s New Book “The Longest Race” and what she learned from writing
- Camaraderie and competition in sport and relationships
- Pregnancy, motherhood and endurance sports
- Overcoming the pressure to be one of the guys
- Autonomy and joy in running while holding the weight of expectations
- Championing women’s rights in sports
- The interplay between self-belief and support from others
- Navigating disordered eating and body image at home
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Listen to Part 1 with Kara Goucher
Listen to Part 2 with Kara Goucher
Part 1: Episode Chapters
- What have you learned about yourself through writing? 0:01
- The importance of camaraderie and support. 2:05
- What’s been really cool to see in the women’s mountain biking scene? 6:28
- The impact of competition on their marriage. 8:39
- Parenting the transition to having a baby. 13:42
- How she decided to take a break from running. 19:05
- How she became an advocate for women’s rights. 23:38
- What can men do to support women? 30:32
Sonya Looney 0:01
Kara Travis and I are so excited to get to talk to you. I’m excited to be here.
Well, I think we all were just talking about Boulder and how we’ve all lived there at the same time. How are you finding living there now
Kara Goucher 0:14
I love living in Boulder, I, you know, we move back here for my running were in, we moved back here in January 2014, when I was trying to make a third Olympic team, and we didn’t know if we would stay long term or not. But we clicked we quickly like fell back into our own routines. And it’s so nice to have the sun and it’s easy to get everywhere, and there’s running out your door. And so we love it. And I don’t really see us leaving. So we really like it here.
Sonya Looney 0:46
Well, I really enjoyed reading your book, and I’m sure it took an immense amount of courage to write that and to find your voice. And the first question that I wanted to ask is, What if What have you learned about yourself through the process of writing the book,
Kara Goucher 0:59
that I hadn’t dealt with a lot of stuff that I needed to? I think writing the book was something I wanted to do. It’s interesting, I was listening to Travis talk to Steve Magnus earlier and he was talking about how so many other people were telling his story. And that was really my motivation. I was so tired of other people talking about me, people who had never met me people who are like, revered in the writing community in the running community. And that was really my, my purpose was like, I I’m gonna go insane unless I’m finally able to tell my story. But I think I worked on it for almost four years. And during that time, I realized there was a lot of things that I hadn’t really, truly dealt with and healed from. And so it Yeah, I ended up in therapy, but not in a bad way. Just like, you know, you’re kind of opening up Pandora’s box, you’re feeling things you’ve never really felt. And so I think for me, the biggest thing was I learned like, wow, I thought I had dealt with all that stuff. But I really truly hadn’t tonight and the book kind of forced me to do that.
Travis Macy 1:59
Good for you Kara. Congratulations on the book. I mean, it’s, it’s awesome. We both enjoyed it. Here you are. It’s been like two months since it hit shelves. I’m sure that you’ve been crazy and busy and traveling. And I told my mom as I came on, we’re going to talk with Kara. She’s like, Oh, Kara I heard her on NPR. And so anyway, even my mom listened to you, Kara. So when you go on therapy, you know I’m I’m a big fan of it pretty soon. I know Kara, you have a podcast you and Dez Linden. Listen, I listen to some of that preparing. Congratulations. It’s really good stuff. Pretty soon you’re gonna be doing podcasts with your therapist, because that’s what I’ve done, you know, a couple years into this podcasting thing. I’m like, Man, this like Stacey, she has so much good stuff. I gotta like, get her on here. So anyway, that’s your
Kara Goucher 2:49
it is funny, isn’t it? Like I’ll say stuff. Like when I’m doing an interview that literally is Claudia, my therapist, like literally, I’m like, and then I’ll say something, I’ll go well, I like actually stole that from someone else who drilled it into my head and helped me.
Travis Macy 3:04
So much wisdom. And you’re like, well, um, yeah, I don’t know. Someone said that. To me yesterday. Like was was correct, right. Anyway, that’s how I Yeah, I’m just we’re saying that all three of us lived in Boulder at the same time. I bet there was a time in probably 2005 Kara Goucher is running down the Boulder Creek path. And she almost gets hit by this crazy mountain biker named Sonya Looney, you know, and it I was up. It was what I was doing. I was probably running the trails or something. But that time, but yeah, lots of lots of good memories. Lots of I want to say, Kara. Thanks to you and Adam, for the role you played at CU in the late 90s. During the running with the buffaloes era, this was, you know, this famous book, or at least in the running, you know, lore by Chris Lear. And it talked about you guys and especially Adam was like, the main character, and I graduated from high school, and I read that it was like, I could run with the buffaloes, I’m gonna go and try out, you know, and I did. So anyway, thanks for, you know, creating an important step in my life as a as a kid back then.
Kara Goucher 4:09
Well, you’re welcome. I’m not even sure if I’m in that book. I was on the team. But it was obviously focused on the men’s team and Adam, and, you know, those are just great memories. I had such a great college experience. And so yeah, I feel lucky to have had the experience I had.
Sonya Looney 4:28
So Kara, I wanted to ask you in the book, there’s a through line of female camaraderie and the racers supporting one another. And that isn’t the case in a lot of sports. So where do you think that comes from?
Kara Goucher 4:39
I think I was lucky to have that early on. My high school teammates were so invested in my happiness and my success and me running as, as best as I could. And not just because it helped the team like they actually cared about me. And so I think having that experience early on, really made me constantly try to seek that out and I I’m so glad I had that experience because I did have experience with women that weren’t, you know, awesome that were a little bit more competitive or just difficult. But I knew it could exist, I knew it existed. And so I feel like I was always sort of seeking that. And I was lucky to have it a few times throughout my career, but I learned so much from from other women and having other women support me and just what we can do together when we actually work together versus just one person by themselves. I think that’s when the really powerful stuff happens. Conversation shift, things change. And yeah, I think it all started in Duluth, with my sisters, and then my my teammates.
Sonya Looney 5:42
This is something I’ve thought about a lot of making the pie bigger instead of protecting your sliver of the pie. And that can be really hard sometimes, like there can be people that you’re helping that surpass you, and they’re achieving the dream that you wanted for yourself. But that shouldn’t take away from you. And competition could be a zero sum game where you think, oh, everybody’s going to just take what’s mine. So you’ve mentioned that you have bumped up against maybe that that kind of feeling or that kind of vibe from somebody else. So what do you do when you’re in that situation so that you can be open and make the pie?
Kara Goucher 6:13
Yeah, well, to be fair, I didn’t always feel that way. I felt a lot of times in my career that I had to protect my piece of the pie, like, hey, there’s not very much pie, I need to and I have a slice and I don’t really want to share this. So I think it came with more experience. And as I got older, and then again, reflecting back on my beginnings. I think for me what’s been really cool to see like obviously, I come from the distance running background, marathoning and track and what’s happened in the US women’s side over the last decade has been unbelievable achievement after unbelievable achievement after unbelievable achievement. But what has been really cool to see is that Emma Coburn’s World Championship win didn’t take away from Jenny Simpsons, and does lindens Boston win didn’t take away from Schilling plan against New York win. And so I think that’s what I really love is that we’re starting to see that lots of people can be successful and someone else’s success, it does not diminish what you did, or the role you’ve played or anything about your career, it just means that lots of people get to be successful. And I think that’s been a shift that we’ve seen, you know, used to kind of be like, oh, there’s Deena, you know, or whether there’s Kara or their chalet. And now it’s kind of like, I mean, if you told me right now named the top five marathoners in the US female side, I would be like, I need to think. And I think that’s a good thing, because it shows that we can all be successful together.
Sonya Looney 7:38
I found that with women’s mountain biking as well. And thanks for saying that you haven’t always felt that way. I also have not always felt that way. And it’s something that I’ve really had to work on. And it is so cool to see what happens and the snowball effect of realizing that somebody’s win doesn’t take away.
Kara Goucher 7:53
Yeah. And you know, I think it’s, it’s hard at first, right? Like, you’ve worked so hard for this thing. And maybe someone accomplishes that before you or you don’t accomplish that. And they do and you feel like ah, that’s not fair, or what what did I do wrong? But again, I don’t know if it’s age or what. But you just I’ve gotten to this point where it’s like, let’s just celebrate everybody, you know, like, how cool is it that all sorts of people are smashing their dreams, like that’s good that invites more people in and that means the next generation is going to be even bigger.
Sonya Looney 8:25
Yeah, that makes me think about in your book, you talked about Adam and how you both were at the Nike Oregon project, and you started surpassing him rapidly in your career, and he had to move more of into a supporting role. How was that on your marriage? Because I imagine that between two competitive people that must been really, yeah,
Kara Goucher 8:44
it was really hard. Because for a lot of reasons, one of which was just like the dynamic shifted overnight, right? Like he was the breadwinner, and I was his little wife, and I carried his spikes, and I got into the races that he chose to run and not the other way around. And then all of a sudden, I was making the money. And I was on the magazine. So that of course is hard. I don’t care who you are. It’s just weird. But I think he felt other things were also happening. Like he felt like his career was kind of ending or going away. He didn’t want while mine was ascending. And so that obviously we already were in a different place. I was like, I don’t want to go anywhere. I’m successful here. He was like, I don’t think this is the right place for me. So it was really challenging. And I’m trying to think how long we’ve been married. We’ll have been married 23 years this September. And I think that that is what dedication looks like, like Adam is my favorite person. And I trust him more than anyone. And that doesn’t mean that it’s always been smooth sailing. I would say 2008 was an extremely, extremely difficult year for us as a married couple, as we sort of navigated what does this look like? What does it mean? How do we show support of each other when we aren’t achieving our own success or you know, whatever it was that was probably the most challenging year of our life as a married couple But we’ve had challenges since like, we’re like any other married couple, we you know, there’s challenges that arise. But we’re just, we both really respect each other. And I think that’s really important is that we always keep that respect. And so there were hard times, but we we were committed together to
Travis Macy 10:16
start inspiring to hear that. Thank you for sharing that. I want to ask one follow up question about Adam. Because, you know, again, I read running with buffaloes. And then I had a two year period where I was on the team at CU, you and Adam, were kind of around you had graduated, you were young pro runners, you’re kind of maybe partial assistant coaches. And sometimes Adam would come out and run with us with the men’s team for a workout or a long run or whatever. And like, during those two years, if you would ask me, like, who is the coolest person on the planet? I mean, it was probably Adam Boucher, because like, here’s, you know, he’s the older guy, he’s the Pro, like, the when he was there for the run, it’s like the level rose. And all of a sudden, you’re like, oh, man, I gotta like, run fast and be cool. And, and whatever. And he also, you know, by I don’t know, Adam, that very well, at all, it obviously haven’t, you know, talked to him much in the last 20 years. But, like, naturally, he’s a pretty intense guy. He’s, like, super competitive. And at least at that time, that’s how, you know, he ran in a in a, you know, I don’t know if angry is the right word. But I mean, you know, he was like, you know, that hard charger kind of guy. And I just, I kind of want to double click on that, that, you know, roles within a family, I went through a few years that were really hard for me where my wife’s career was, was growing at a faster rate she was working out in the home, I was working at home, and we had two young kids. And just because of like, the logistics, you know, this isn’t what we planned. It’s not what we intended. But like, Who is the person who is available to like, keep kids alive during the day, and it was me, that for me was was very hard. It wasn’t something I anticipated. And it was really, really hard. I was able, you know, over the years to embrace it a little more, and my kids got older, and you know, now they go to school during the day. So that made it easier how it seems to be reading between the lines again, in your new book, The longest race, so which listeners gotta buy it’s available wherever books are sold. Boulder bookstore, they have like, you know, boom, huge poster right in the front, go get it there. How did you know? Was that tough for Adam? Was he able to embrace it a little more? You know, and in hindsight, it was like, oh, that’s, you know, I put in the work and I’m proud proud to do on that.
Kara Goucher 12:39
Of being like, of what part his career or like, yeah, I
Travis Macy 12:43
guess, maybe the parenting part and or was that on or not? What I guess I can imagine you’re you’re, you know, running as a pro. You’re you’re traveling, you’re training. I think he was coaching you some at times, which is great, and maybe tough.
Kara Goucher 13:00
Yeah, he actually would pace me a lot. He never officially coached me. And even my coaches would be like, you’re so hard on Adam, but not unlike Arlen the other pacer I had. And it would be like, if we’re doing quarters, and he was out two seconds fast, I’d get so mad. Or if we were three seconds slow, I’d get so mad because for him, he can just switch it real quick. But for me now, I’m like, you know, whatever. And but it was true. It was Salazar actually that said you are really hard on him. And so it was kind of like, this isn’t the best situation. You know, like I Why am I mad at you? It’s because I’m frustrated that the pace isn’t perfect. And because you’re my husband, I can say it if you’re anyone else. I’m not gonna say anything. I’m just gonna say thanks for coming. Thanks for helping me, you know. So I think all those things were hard, but good to learn. And I think it was interesting to hear you talk about the parenting side, like Adam wanted to be a father so badly, and I wanted to be a mother so badly. And we had we had talked it through with with our coach, and we thought we would do it right after the Olympics. And then I decided to run the marathon. And then that went well, and it kept getting pushed off. And, you know, I think Adam worried like, I was never going to have this baby even though I wanted it very, very badly myself. So when finally I felt like I was ready, you know, we went through fertility treatment, I got pregnant. And I first our plan was that Adam would take care of Colton, when I went to practice and that Adam would train in the afternoon or very late morning when I got back. But it very, it became clear pretty quickly that he even though he wanted to be there, and he loved being with our son, he still needed his own time and his own place where he felt like he was progressing towards his own goals. And so when Cole was about three months old, that’s when we hired a nanny, which we originally hadn’t thought we would do that but it just became important that Adam was able to have the mornings whether it was like for his business run the year around the edge at the time or if it was his own running. He was trying to make him not necessarily come back but he was trying to get back and healthy. It just he needed that time and it needed to be structured in a way that where it was important not like, oh, sorry, I was late. It’s 1230. If I’d be back by 10, and now you get to go. So what we did is we had a nanny in the morning. And then when we got back, she left and in the afternoon we traded runs, but that was no big deal. You know? Good. Good for you guys for being intentional. But you have to be able to admit it. Yeah, the time, you have to, like be able to talk to each other. Right? Like, you have to be able to say, this is what I thought it was gonna be. I love our child, and I love everything. But like, I don’t I feel like I’m losing myself. I mean, I think we hear women say that a lot. But I happens to dads too. And he had to be able to say that like, Hey, I this isn’t, this doesn’t feel the way I thought it was gonna feel. And it really needs some help. And it ended up being great, because then we got to spend more time together.
Travis Macy 15:47
The other good book run, running the edge right by Adam Gaucho. Right? And I think Tim Catalino great book. That’s a book that I often recommend, especially to younger runners, I think it’s kind of the audience in mind is more of the high school or collegiate runner. It’s really good, a lot, a lot of good, good Rutter geek mindset stuff in there, for sure.
Kara Goucher 16:08
Good, thank you. It is good.
Sonya Looney 16:12
There’s so many different things that we could talk about, but you just talked about pregnancy. And I wanted to ask you about this. Because whenever you’re a professional athlete, especially at the level that you were running at, there’s, it seems like there’s never a good time to have a baby. And like you said, you can keep putting it off forever. So how did you decide now is the time to have it. And also you can’t control necessarily when you’re going to get pregnant, too. So how did you think about all that? So I
Kara Goucher 16:36
thought I would do it after an Olympic Games, because that was my childhood dream. But then I became intrigued with the marathon. So I thought, you know, I had talked to my coach about this with Adam, that I’ll run the Beijing Olympics, I’ll run the New York City Marathon in November, and then, you know, I’ll I’ll try and like you said, you don’t know, I knew I was gonna have to go through fertility treatment, maybe it would take one time, maybe it would take a lot more, you know. But then after I read New York, I felt like I had discovered this new thing that I loved so much. And it was like, I don’t know, I don’t know if I want to be done right now. And I’m not done. But I don’t know if I want to take a break from this right now. And so I decided to run the Boston Marathon. And then it was like, That’s it, I’m gonna run the Boston Marathon, then I’m gonna go through fertility treatment, well, then, you know, the Boston Marathon didn’t go quite how I wanted. And I thought maybe I could have a shot at redemption at World Championships. So I guess I ran a marathon in November, April, and then in August, or maybe it was September? No, it was in August. And I got done with that race. And it didn’t go how I wanted. And I remember, Adam was like, expecting me to say, I’m just gonna run New York, and then I’ll take a break. But instead, I was like, I’m done. I’m hitting my head against the wall, trying to force something to happen. Obviously, this isn’t the time where I’m going to win a major or World Championship like I need, like, I can’t do this. And I’m not even really enjoying it. Because I’m so focused on what I think will make people believe I’m a great marathoner that I’m not even really like enjoying the process anymore. And so it just came to a point. But there’s never a good time, right? You know, you’re a mom, there’s never a perfect time. And it really is sort of a feeling. And at that time, I felt like my team wanted me to keep going, like, we need to master this marathon thing before you go away for a year. But finally, I just I just knew, and I, you know, the start of the fertility cycle, when you’re in treatment is to take estrogen and I had brought it to Berlin, I didn’t know if I would take it. And I mean, immediately after the race, when I got back to my hotel room, I just took it, it was just like my I knew in my gut, this is the time. But of course, I still had like this six month period, like if I can’t get pregnant in the six months, and it’s going to have to wait until after London. So it’s very complicated, way more complicated. And like dialed in. I think the most people realize, I mean, what about with you? Like, did you plan the time? Like, were you looking at a calendar thinking this is a good opportunity to do that? Or was it? Did you just go, oh, my gosh, I’m pregnant?
Sonya Looney 19:05
No, it was definitely something that I thought about. And in fact, I didn’t want kids. Whenever I first got married to my husband. And over, I told him that and over time, it was something that I realized, well, maybe I do kind of want this. And it was three years before we even had before we even started trying to get pregnant that I thought, okay, in three years, because there’s all these things that I want to do. And I even I don’t recommend this, but I said yes to everything in those years. So I went full, like full gas to the point of burning myself out. And after I felt so burnt out. I thought now I’m ready for a break. And I knew I needed to swing the balance, so far out of balance to know that I would want to slow down a little bit to try to have kids but it was stressful because you just again you don’t know when you’re gonna get pregnant. And if people are inviting you to erase at six months away, you don’t know if you can say yes or not because you don’t know what your future is. But you also don’t want to tell I didn’t want to tell people that I was Oh yeah,
Kara Goucher 19:57
I didn’t want to tell people either. I mean, like everyone knew My closest environment knew and I was still going to the track and working out. But you know, I remember Alberto told the media before the Boston Marathon that that would be my last marathon because I was trying to have a baby, which didn’t even end up being true. But I felt like that’s my decision to tell. And and just like you said, like, what if you don’t get pregnant, you don’t want people like discounting you for a year? It’s tricky. I think that it is shifting a little bit where we’re talking about it more, we’re accepting that people can have children and still be high level athletes. And, and there isn’t so much like taboo around it or worrying around it as as at least that I experienced. But these are those are the conversations that need to happen. Just like you said, I don’t I you know, we’re talking about a race in six months. I really want to be there. There’s possibility I won’t. But you don’t you shouldn’t have to say that. Right. Like you should say, Yeah, I think I can do that. And then if you get pregnant, you’re like, Nah, I can’t do that. But I yeah, it’s just it’s complicated. It’s really complicated. And it’s been interesting for me to see this last crop, like, there was the Tokyo Olympics. And then there are World Champs in the US last summer. And then all of a sudden, all these women were pregnant, like Brenda Martinez. Le St. Pierre. Que grace, I know, I’m forgetting someone else, Molly Hudnall. Had a baby like a year and a half earlier. Like it was just like this group of women that were the best in the United States all when I’m going to take a break. I’ll be back. I’ll see you when I’m ready to be back. It was really cool to see them embrace that and just go for it.
Sonya Looney 21:36
Yeah, I feel like that’s happened in mountain biking as well. And you like I was really grateful for the stuff that you had put out there and Lauren Fleshman. Because there wasn’t really many examples of people doing that. And I think you said this counting you for a year. But I think that people will discount you forever, even after you have the kid because they think well, you have kids now. So now you can’t perform or you can’t be the way that you were. But But I want to get back to your story because you continue training through your pregnancy. Can you talk about that experience and like how not
Travis Macy 22:07
to write because you have a very compelling story as also national athletes.
Kara Goucher 22:15
And I think it’s important to hear both stories, because they’re two different sports. But it sounds like you had a similar experience. So I everybody at Nike knew I wanted to have a baby. Everybody knew everyone was involved in my business. And, but there was no language about pregnancy or maternity in my contract. And, and I remember, when I graduated from CU, I went to Nike for a visit. And I remember Adam was my fiancee at the time. We weren’t married yet. But I remember he asked in this meeting, like, Well, what happens if she gets pregnant? And I remember being so mad at him being like, why would you say that I, again, we’re talking about the pie. I’m like, Don’t eff up my piece of the pie. But he was just way ahead of his time, because he was like, well, you’re gonna run for a long time, and that at some point, you’re gonna want to have a baby. So there was no pregnancy in the contract and Nike contract I had. And my coach Alberto Salazar went to John Capriati, who was in charge of all the contracts and he said, what’s gonna happen to Kara’s contract, he said, don’t even go there. Just tell her to stay relevant, do all the appearances she needs to do so? It started great. Like, I kept my pregnancy a secret from the public. Nike announced it through on the New York Times sports section on Mother’s Day. So it’s all like one week away from me and halfway through my pregnancy, but then it was like I was doing photoshoots. And I was being loved and and everything was so great. So I thought like, Oh, this is amazing. This is how it should be. And then I just stopped getting paid. Like I wasn’t even notified and get an email or a phone call. And actually, it’s my financial advisor that was that called and said, Carrie, you haven’t been paid. I said, What in your audio? Right? Right. So what I find
Travis Macy 23:58
there’s picture tears, Kara, pregnant, oh, Nike runner up on billboards. And they’re saying medical disability
Kara Goucher 24:04
everywhere. Yes, yes. And so I thought something has to be wrong. Like I’ve appended on my end of the deal. I’m not I’m like, I don’t understand what’s happening here. But I was essentially told that I was suspended and they didn’t know for how long and it you know, that they paid me to race not to. And so I started, you know, behind the scenes meeting with people meeting with lawyers meeting with a Nike lawyer who, you know, on one hand told me that they paid me to run I have no value outside of that, on the other hand, emailed me later saying his daughter would look up to me, it was just so confusing, you know, and at the end, I did go after I had called, there was still no resolution, I was still not being paid. I had been told I was gonna get that they were doing the right thing by reducing an 18 month, no pay suspension to 12 months, and I was like, pissed. I was like, That is not the right thing. So I actually went all the way to Mark Parker, who I had a really ship with I had flown with him on the Nike Jet A couple times he was the CEO at the time, thinking like, I’m desperate, I have to go to him because he’s going to fix this situation. And in the end, he didn’t. He said, I trust my crew, and everyone feels like what they’re offering you is fair. But I felt like I was going crazy. Like, literally, I felt like I was going crazy. Like every every one that I was talking to wanted to interview me and wanted to shoot me and talk about this motherhood story. But then I was being told every day that I had no value until I got back to high level competition. So it was super crazy. In the end, I got a lawyer and it I got it reduced to six months, but I had to add a year to my contract. And I was I was bitter about it from that day on and I will admit it, I was like I wouldn’t I will never resign with this company.
Sonya Looney 25:52
Yeah, I can’t tell you how many times I was listening to your book on audiobook on my bike ride last week, and how many times I got goosebumps or even like choked up it tears and anger, just so much outrage as to some of these things that you’ve had to endure in your life and how much courage it took to speak out about these things. And how speaking out about these things, is going to change the world. And it already is changing the world and helping others find their voice totally
Kara Goucher 26:18
like when I first I would just say little things here and there about what happened during my pregnancy and no one it would be printed, but nothing would really come from it. And it wasn’t until the seamen Tanya decided to do the basic, basically dream maternity video with the New York Times. And then I was there was an article that ran with it. And I offered my story and with that, and like overnight, it started this huge conversation. But at that point, it was still 5050 Like some people were like you think you should get paid to sit around and eat bonbons and other people were like, what, what year is it? How are these women not getting paid. But then a week later, Alice and Felix join the conversation. And that’s when I really learned the power of women building on each other. Because when Alison Felix said that it was like overnight companies were rewriting their contracts people, you know, I got amendments from the brands I worked with, not well, because they already had protection. But from the other brands I worked with, I got amendments to my contract. And it took, I think it took three or four months. But eventually Nike amended their contract, as well. And that’s when I really learned like, the more voices you have, it’s easy to call one or two people bitter or spoiled, or whatever you want to say. But the more women that line up, and especially someone like Allyson Felix who’s just so revered. The more people that stand up, it’s like, it’s undeniable, this is wrong. You know, this is really, really wrong. And how did we ever think this was okay? I mean, I was told, you’re not getting paid because of your medical condition, they would never use the word pregnancy or child or, you know, it was always your medical condition that kept you out. So it was wild. But what was your experience? Like? I saw a little sneak peek of a video where you talked a little bit about it. But what was your experience? Like?
Sonya Looney 28:04
Yeah, I don’t want to dominate the podcast talking about myself, because I want this to be about you. So I’ll share just quickly. So my contracts were really different than yours. Like, I have lots of individual smaller contracts that I go, and I seek out myself. And I didn’t have any contracts. That was mid contract when I announced my pregnancy, but I have to renegotiate my contracts every one to two years. And I really did not want to tell anybody that I was pregnant, I had said to my husband, I just wish I could just be pregnant. And just nobody ever know. Because I don’t want to face the music, what’s going to happen. And I had been managing myself as an athlete for I don’t even know how long probably like eight years or six years, and people just suddenly were evaporated, like people wouldn’t even respond to my emails for months at a time. And I’d be laying awake at night anxious, like, I don’t even know why, like, I want the respect of just even a response. And many sponsors didn’t renew. And I also wasn’t able to replace those sponsors. So that was very frustrating. And it gets even more complicated because I had my son, march 2020. So I had my baby in the middle of a pandemic. And then the border was closed and 2021 in Canada where I live. So I couldn’t come back to the states to race when everybody else was racing. So, you know, my story is not a happy ending, I still have a greatly reduced amount of sponsorships. And it’s embarrassing to admit this, but I’ve been trying to say it out loud more is I haven’t had a bike sponsor since I first became pregnant and I know that I bring a lot of value. So that’s it’s been really challenging. And also reminding myself that it’s not just this is not just about me, like there is a crop of mountain biking mountain bike females who are having babies and they are getting support. So I’m happy to see that. And I can be sad for myself at the same time without Yeah,
Kara Goucher 29:43
that makes me sad to hear though because I’m talking about 12 years ago, and you’re talking about three years ago and that makes me feel like the work we did and track and field it should have it should have trickled onward and it sounds to me like it hasn’t so I don’t know that bums me out. I’m sorry to hear that.
Travis Macy 30:02
Let me ask you both this. It’s getting better, though, you know, most men probably know how to start a pregnancy. A lot of men though, wouldn’t see like this, like this. I hate the term like women’s issue like, this is not a women’s issue. This is like, it’s, it’s important to everyone, right? You know, like, you’re many men like women, many most men have women who are friends or family or, you know, I think about my daughter and like, What world do I want her to live in? Either of you? what can men do here? And and especially, like, from the perspective of a male athlete, you know, would it be like a male athlete saying, you know, I’m not going to sign with this company, unless I see that the women’s contracts, you know, have certain stipulations in there, you know, that are in supportive to, you know, pregnant athletes, what do you what do you think? Any, any thoughts on that, and anything that you’ve seen men do to just make things better?
Kara Goucher 31:04
I think just, I mean, you can say that you can say, show me your maternity protection. But I think even just having you as an ally, like sharing the stories, like the fact that you’re having me talk about this on your podcast, elevating Sanyo story like that, that’s another way that you can help is just like elevating the story that’s there and saying, This is wrong, you know, and rallying your troops around it, so that, you know, your friends are like, Wow, that’s crazy. That’s not fair. You know, in my own personal experience, like I had to run the Boston Marathon to start getting paid again, basically. And Adam started getting up for the four o’clock feeding, even though he was still trying to make his own successes and athlete but he said, Hey, this is more important right? Now you need to be able to sleep from midnight till eight or whatever it was, I’m going to do that, and, and then even having my back when I would talk to a race, and I would say, well, I need a second hotel room and an A third plane ticket, because my husband is my comfort person. And the night before I need him to be with me. And they need someone else to be there with my child. And you know, I got a lot of like, well, can’t you just leave them at home? And it was like, No, he like he hadn’t, like, how’s he gonna eat? How’s it gonna be alive, you know, like, I need him to come actually. So just that kind of stuff. And Adam was always really supportive, like kicking off emails being like, we need this extra hotel room and plane ticket, or we just can’t come. So just like having that support makes a huge difference to
Sonya Looney 32:31
you, and also the dynamic of power. And Kara, this is definitely in your book, like there are mostly men in in places of power, making decisions and making decisions on women’s behalf. So that is something that men can do is working to change the narrative around the fact that women are powerful, and women can still be pregnant and have babies and continue to be powerful, and that we need to support women not not take away because we think they’re going to be less than if they have kiss
Kara Goucher 32:58
i the roadblocks that I faced. They shocked me. Because the story that was being told is like women can do anything you can make the Olympic team and have a baby is an amazing, you’re a mom and an athlete. But yet it was roadblock after roadblock after roadblock like no your son can’t be in our daycare. No, we can’t give you another ticket. No, you know, and it was just it made it so much harder than it needed to be. And there that the story was relatable to so many people and so many people were listening. And so yeah, when I looked back at that I do feel sad for myself, because I felt very, very trapped. And I felt like I had to just keep pursuing. I felt like you said something. I felt like it was bigger than me. I felt like well, I can’t fail now. Because then they’re going to be able to say we’ll see what happens. So I have to just keep marching forward and I have to get the job done. Because I feel like I you know, if I don’t, then I’m going to be the person they use it as an excuse the next time next time someone wants to have a baby.
Sonya Looney 34:02
I feel like I have a one in three year olds I carry I carry that around with me every time I line up for race and I know some of my other friends with babies also are carrying that around. That’s crazy.
Kara Goucher 34:11
It shouldn’t be like that. Yeah.
Sonya Looney 34:15
So I think we should change gears here a little bit. I mentioned you were around lots of guys. Nike, Oregon project was completely male dominated you were the only female there and you mentioned the pressure to be one of the guys and also having to under sexual abuse under that under that thinking well, like you know all the guys are on draped in the massage. So I guess that’s okay for me. What would you say to people who are feeling that pressure to be one of the guys because there’s many women who are in male dominated organizations really
Kara Goucher 34:43
hard? And I think one of the things that this book has helped me relate to so many women is not just in running obviously, right? It’s like the world we live in. And they could see themselves even though they’re not runners or they’re not athletes they could see themselves and what I was saying like I don’t necessarily even know like who I was some of the time back then because I just wanted to fit in. I didn’t want to ruffle any feathers, I didn’t want to be left out of anything. So I would hear the comments, I would hear the jokes, I would just laugh it off. I think one thing when I, you know, like, part of like healing from all this is being forgiving. And reminding myself, you know, like, for instance, when I didn’t say anything to Alberta, when we were alone together, get a massage, like I was trying to survive. And I give myself grace that I like, in that moment, my choices were very, very limited. And I did what I had to do to be safe and to get through it. But looking back, I tried to give myself a lot of grace, too. But I will say I always had a pain in my stomach of like, Oh, I hate this. I hate that. They’re talking about me like this, I hate that these jokes are going off on me, I hate that I pretend like I don’t care. And so you have intuition for a reason. And I think I as athletes, we bury a lot of things because we nothing can get in the way of what our goal is. But I wish I hadn’t buried my intuition so much. And when you have those feelings are those little alarm bells. They’re there for a reason. And they’re telling you this is this is not acceptable. This is not right. You’re like, this isn’t where you want to be.
Sonya Looney 36:17
Yeah, I think a lot of people can relate to the fact of being in a room with people saying lots of things I’ve been in that situation many times where people are saying inappropriate things about you and your body. And you’re like, I don’t even know what to do here. Like, and
Kara Goucher 36:29
that’s the thing is like, now I’m 44. And I just don’t care. And I’d be like, shut up, I can’t believe you know, did you really just say that, but I would have never have said that back then. Because again, as we were talking about the pie earlier, like I’m in this ecosystem, and I’m constantly reminded of how lucky I am to be here. And so this is the price you have to pay to make it this is the price you have to pay to have that piece of the pie. But the reality is, that’s not true. And that’s an if it is then that situation is completely unhealthy. And those people are inappropriate, but I just couldn’t see that for myself, I felt like this is just what it takes, like, if you want to go to the top, you just have to, you have to deal with,
Travis Macy 37:09
you have intuition for a reason. I like that. And that’s powerful. And for I can guarantee that, you know, I don’t know exactly what was happened, or the locker room talk or whatever. But I can guarantee some of the men there, they had that intuition as well, like this joke, this comment this whatever, you know, this is not okay. And, you know, the man was courage is the one who said something, and whether that speaking up boldly in front of the whole group, whether it’s talking with, you know, the peer or the coach afterwards, one on one, whether it’s, you know, reporting it to the HR or, or coming in talking to you as an ally, like, hey, this isn’t okay, like, you know, how can we address this together? Like, that’s a that’s a huge role and in generating change, you know, and I mean, I would venture to say, like, maybe most of the people weren’t comfortable for, you know, usually it’s like, hey, there’s someone who’s kind of leading the way and oh, this is, this is funny, or like, it’s getting me attention or whatever. You know, that doesn’t mean that, that, that people like it and the, you know, the triumph of evil occurs when when good people do do nothing like it really comes down to the bystanders.
Kara Goucher 38:22
Yeah, and I, I’m not mad at any of my old teammates or anything, I just because I think most of them were uncomfortable. I think you’re 100%, right, there’s certain lock, we can call it locker room talk. That’s just funny, you’re living with people, things are gonna happen. You’re good things, you laugh about things. But there also then is this line that’s crossed, where it’s very inappropriate, and it is just very uncomfortable. And I do think that a lot of my teammates felt that I remember being at the track. And Albert Alberta was talking about the change in the size of my breasts throughout the workout. I was in nursing and my son, and he was trying to get actually Steve Magnus to like, join in and, and joke. And Steve was like, horrified. And you know, and he didn’t say stop, but he didn’t join in. And that was a step right? There was a step because everyone else was like, oh, yeah, that’s crazy. You know, because they were uncomfortable, too. But so sometimes it’s even just not joining in is a statement in itself. Yeah.