How Kara Goucher Finds Time For Family, Marathon Training And Herself

Kara Goucher made her debut at the 2008 New York City Marathon, where she placed third and ran the fastest time ever by an American woman (2:25:53). AP Photo/Kathy Willens

Most parents understand how having kids -- and the germs that come with them -- ups your chances of catching colds more frequently. That doesn't change, even if you're an Olympic long-distance runner.

Kara Goucher woke up the day before her racing return at the Rock 'n' Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon Sept. 21 with the cold her 4-year-old son, Colton -- or "Colt," as she calls him -- had a few days before.

Having the cold "made me a little more uncomfortable running the race, but that's part of being a mom," says Goucher, 36. "I was there to execute and I got the job done."

Goucher, of Boulder, Colo., placed sixth in a time of 1:11:40 in her first race since June 2013; she broke a foot later that summer and suffered a sacral stress fracture (a small break in the sacrum bone at the base of the spine, which connects to the pelvis) earlier this year. "I checked all the boxes and did everything I set out to do in the race," she says, "so now it's keep moving forward, keep moving up."

Goucher is focused on her Nov. 2 return to the New York City Marathon, the race she debuted at in 2008, when she placed third and ran the fastest time ever by an American woman (2:25:53). It's the first time she'll be competing in the race since then, and the first time since having her son four years ago. She's aiming for a time that historically places well and would be an Olympic qualifying time, such as 2 hours 28 minutes, to keep her in the mix with the other American runners. While she's likely to be hyped up as a favorite, Goucher says she's running NYC to "reestablish myself as one of the best runners in the world." Her goals are to be among the top American women and finish as high as possible.

"I can't control what happens around me and I'm not ready to go 2:20 on that course, so I'll be running my own race and my splits," she says. "I think 2:28 on the New York course after the difficulties I've had would be a big step in the right direction."

Goucher's ultimate goal is to make the Olympic marathon team again (she finished 11th at the London Games) and she says there's a lot of time to make that a reality, even while balancing time with her son.

She shared eight ideas for how to juggle training and family, as well how to find a few moments of "me time" in your schedule.

1. Give yourself time to get your pre-baby body back

"Getting back in shape was harder than I thought it would be," Goucher says. "From losing the weight, to being able to pushing myself to work out, to the speed coming around. It took about a year, but, in the scheme of my career, that's not that bad. I ran 2:24:52 in the Boston Marathon when Colt wasn't even 7 months old yet."

2. Your body can change for the better after pregnancy

"I ran throughout my pregnancy, but I was surprised how strong my legs were after having my son," Goucher says. "I was surprised at how a 20-mile run wasn't that bad. The speed took a while to come back, but my legs actually felt stronger after I gave birth than they ever had previously in my career. I felt like they could handle more pounding and mileage and they didn't get tired as quickly."

3. Your schedule with a child is totally different -- and that's OK

Before Colt, Goucher's life with her husband, Adam (a retired professional runner), was built around running and resting. "We'd sleep in, go to practice, get a massage, get lunch, take a nap, wake up again, run again and have a late dinner," she says. "When Colt came into the picture, obviously that went out window." While her son was a great sleeper as a newborn, getting up for early morning feedings and not being able to nap herself was tough for Goucher to adjust to. "You just have to figure everything out and that can be really hard the first year."

4. Take people up on their offers to help

When your neighbor or friend offers to watch your child for half an hour, take advantage of it, Goucher advises. They won't offer if they don't mean it, and if they regret it, they won't offer again, she says. "Give yourself a little sanity for 30 minutes and get your workout in or do what you have to do. You'll feel so much better. Give yourself a little break. It's important that we all get a little break."

5. Set yourself up for opportunities to exercise

"It's tough to find the time to exercise, and for a lot of women it's hard to justify it to themselves," Goucher says. "I know it's not easy, but it's important." One of Goucher's doctors told her that she'd pop her daughters in from of the TV in the basement and run on the treadmill while they were watching a movie. Goucher says one of the reasons she signed up at her neighborhood gym was because it has a childcare area. Jogging strollers can get you out of the house to exercise with your kids. "Exercise makes you a better person and certainly will make you be a better mom," she says.

6. You may feel guilty now, but you'll feel happier later

While the mornings are Goucher's training time, she acknowledges she's felt guilty leaving her son, especially when he was very young. "But I know I'm a better person, a better mom, a better wife and just a happier person in general when I'm working towards something for myself," she says.

7. Make exercise a family affair on the weekends

"Running is my job so I don't run with Colt," Goucher says. "But sometimes my husband will accompany me on a run and push him in the stroller next to me. Other times, he'll bike next to me with Colt on the back of his bike." In Philly, Adam and Colt rode ahead of Goucher and cheered her on throughout the course. Normally she never hears Colt, but this time she could hear him repeating her husband's advice, like "Put your head down and relax" or "Look ahead, Mommy, you can catch those girls!" It was really cute -- but also slightly distracting, she says.

8. Carve out time for socializing with friends

"I'm not very good at making time for myself, but I try to work on it," Goucher says. " I try to go meet friends for brunch or dinner every couple of weeks and go out for dinner with my husband. I really like to read, so I try to go to bed earlier some nights so I have time for that. Try to get out with your friends."