American long-distance runner, Olympian Kara Goucher is used to running 135 miles a week, but these days it’s about 20 miles, and that’s in a good week. A few years ago, after multiple falls — one of them into oncoming traffic — and a loss of sensation in her left foot, Kara was diagnosed with Repetitive Movement Dystonia, a neurological movement disorder.
ALTRA, Kara’s shoe sponsor, has just released the ALTRA Paradigm 7 in a special colorway, along with a $50,000 donation to Dystonia research. $5 from every pair sold of Kara’s signature “Hope” color edition will benefit the Bachmann-Strauss Fellowship in Dystonia Research, a part of The Michael J. Fox Foundation whose mission is to grow the global base of researchers studying the movement disorder dystonia and symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
“I think when I see someone wearing the colorway I’ll probably freak out a little bit” said Kara. “It will be pretty cool to know someone cared enough to buy that color way and their money is going to go to help other people.”
Unafraid of a challenge, Kara is also the author of the recently published book, The Longest Race: Inside the Secret World of Abuse, Doping, and Deception on Nike’s Elite Running Team. Kara was the star witness who brought down Alberto Salazar, the now-disgraced Nike running coach who was the head of an elite team known as the Nike Oregon Project. What seemed like the opportunity of a lifetime, Kara revealed became for her and other female athletes, a culture of misogynistic abuse, and one that pushed the limits of anti-doping rules.
I had the opportunity to meet Kara a couple of weeks ago at a rooftop event at The Michael J. Fox Foundation hosted by ALTRA to celebrate the launch of her shoe. Kara put us all through a workout, one she does herself as an alternative to running. The routine included an arm series of exercises actually done with our shoes, one she uses to improve posture and body alignment. After the workout, we chatted a bit.
KARA GOUCHER: I used to run 135 miles a week. While I’ve been trying to find out what my limits are in running, I’ve been trying to find other workouts as well. I borrowed a friend’s bike but I’m not an equipment person. I hate swimming. I knew Kira Stokes from Instagram and she started sending me some workouts. On the days I couldn’t run I would do that. I would have that feeling of ‘Oh, I did something’. I would feel like I worked out. My goal today was to share a little bit of the Kira workout.
SOS: I loved the arm series with the sneakers!
KG: It’s a good arm and back workout. As a runner we can get really slouchy so it helps with form. When I was a competitive athlete I’d travel. Sometimes I’d have a gym, sometimes I wouldn’t. It was just something I could do in my hotel room, do with my sneakers. It keeps everything moving when you can’t access equipment.
SOS: What kind of limitations are you experiencing now?
KG: From the left knee down, I can’t really feel it anymore. With dystonia all your muscles fire up at once. I can’t feel my leg and I can’t tell if I’m hitting the ground or not. I would fall a lot. That’s what finally got me to go to the doctor. I fell into traffic. I do well with sensory feedback. Crunching gravel where I can hear it is much more comfortable for me that on the street.
SOS: What kind of distances are you running?
KG: The farthest I’ve run has been 9 miles. I was having an awesome day and took advantage of it. But I couldn’t run for 3 days after. Dystonia is a neurological disorder so if I’m tired or stressed its worse. It’s hard as an athlete for so many years. You plan every day. But now I never know what I’m going to get. I’ve given interviews and say, “I’m learning how to embrace whatever I’m given”, but inside I’m like what the F!
SOS: 9 miles… that’s not too shabby.
KG: Typically I run about 4 miles and I try to run like 5 days a week. If I catch a good day, I take advantage. If it’s a bad day I just stop.
SOS: I’ve had a lot of injuries and I know how frustrating it can be, but now I’m just so appreciative of getting outside and running, even if it’s just 2 miles.
KG: It is cheesy but I will say, I love my 4-mile runs. I appreciate them so much more than when I was running so much.
SOS: Well you put us through the paces – your paces — today. Thanks Kara!