Q&A: Adam Goucher Talks Running With The Buffaloes, His Greatest Running Memories, & the Stress of Becoming a Whistleblower Against Alberto Salazar & NOP
By Jonathan Gault
November 29, 2018
This week, LetsRun.com has been celebrating the 20th anniversary of Adam Goucher‘s win at the 1998 NCAA Cross Country Championships by catching up with some of the key figures from that season, famously detailed in the classic book Running With The Buffaloes. On Tuesday, we published a lengthy Q&A with the book’s author, Chris Lear (LRC Running With The Buffaloes At 20: Author Chris Lear Reflects On The Running Cult Classic In An In-Depth Interview), and on Wednesday we published a piece with updates on the seven runners who ran for Colorado at NCAAs that year (LRC Where Are They Now? Catching Up With the Members of the 1998 University of Colorado XC Team 20 Years After Running With The Buffaloes).
In the latter piece, we asked each member of the team to email their response, but Goucher preferred to do a phone interview. We ended up going longer than anticipated, and rather than leave most of it on the cutting room floor, we decided to publish the interview in its entirety here (a shorter version of this interview appears in the article where we caught up with the rest of the 1998 CU team). In addition to sharing his memories of Running With The Buffaloes and his professional running career, Goucher also opened up about the struggles he and his wife, two-time Olympian Kara, have faced after they went to USADA as whistleblowers to share their concerns about unethical behavior by Alberto Salazar, their former coach with the Nike Oregon Project.
Where do you live now?
I live in Boulder, Colorado
What do you do for a living?
I own my own company. I own a company called Run The Edge. Started it back in 2011. I self-published a book with my best buddy Tim Catalano called Running the Edge, that was when I was still in Portland, Oregon. And we wrote the book, it was very successful, did a lot of motivational speaking, corporations and high schools and just a lot of travel around talking and doing a lot of speaking. Through the years it’s progressed a little bit and what we really do now is create online fitness challenges. 2019 will be our fifth year of what we call Run The Year. It’s an online challenge where you run/walk 2,019 miles in the year 2019. And we have it set up so people can do it with a team of up to four people to break up the miles to help people get out there and share the miles and accomplish something together. So we’re going into our fifth year of that and we have a couple other challenges as well but that’s our big one. We have over 40,000 people doing it this year and almost every year we’ve had right around 40,000, a little bit more. It’s a lot of fun. We have an online tracker that syncs up with everyone’s Fitbit, your Garmin, your Strava, your online tracker, Apple Watch. So yeah, that’s what I do.
And is that like a nonprofit? How are you making money? Are you selling training plans? How exactly does it work in terms of making money?
No, it’s not a nonprofit. We have three packages people can choose from: we have a Basic, a Deluxe, and a Get It All. $25 is a Basic and that gives you access to an online tracker, the community, the challenges that we have throughout the year that we put on for people, we call them resets or restarts, just to get people back into it. A Deluxe is the finisher medal and we always have some sort of log or book or poster or something fun. Most of the time it’s a little poster you can hang up, fun ways of tracking your mileage throughout the year, and of course the mileage tracker, private Facebook group, all that stuff. That’s $35. And then the Get It All is all of that plus a T-shirt, which is $55 [total], and that’s for the year. Our goal, honestly, is just getting people out there and inspiring, helping people to get motivated to get out the door just to start being healthy. Our community, we have a really big community, very positive. We’ve had over 15, 16 people since we’ve started that have lost over 100 pounds just by walking and then moving into running. We’ve got one guy that’s lost nearly 200 pounds. So we run the gamut. They just walk for fitness or they just run for fitness. It’s pretty cool, very cool.
What has your running career been like since you left Colorado?
Well I started running professionally right out of college and was successful. I made World Championship teams (1999, 2001), made the 2000 Olympics in the 5k. I struggled just like I did in college with injuries and stuff would slow me down. End of 2004, my wife Kara and I moved to Oregon, we were both Nike athletes at the time, and we were training out there with the Oregon Project. We were there for nine years and had more World Championship teams (2007), I set some PRs after I left Colorado — like [the state of] Colorado. World Champ teams and that was kind of where my career ended was in Oregon when I was in Portland a the end of 2011, beginning of 2012.
(Editor’s note: Goucher’s lifetime pbs are 3:36.64 for 1500, 3:54.17 for the mile, 7:34.96 for 3000, 13:10.00 for 5000, 27:59.31 for 10,000, and 63:17 for the half marathon).
I had a knee injury toward the end of 2010, like a torn meniscus, so I had surgery and did that and then nearly a year later, it was almost exactly a year later, I had basically bone-on-bone and a hole in my cartilage. So there was really not much I could do with it at the time. And there was some experimental treatment but the recovery was pretty massive and Kara was prepping for the 2012 Olympic Marathon Trials and we had an 18-month-old child so it was not something I could have gotten into. That’s kind of it for me. I had surgery at that point, they cleaned stuff up and I was kind of like, “All right, I’m done.”
I focus more on Run the Edge [now]. I can’t run the way I would like to run because of the knee. I can do about 20-25 miles a week right now and that’s kind of where I’m at. I’ve had to do a lot of other things to keep me in shape since I can’t run the way I want to. That’s kind of it. It was a career full of ups and downs — very big highs and very low lows at times, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.
What was your biggest personal highlight from your running career?
That’s tough, I don’t know if I could pick just one. Winning [NCAA] cross in ’98 was arguably one of the top experiences of my life, or top running experience. That was just something that I wanted for so long. Obviously making the Olympic team was amazing and then after some struggles, I came back in ’06 and I finished 6th in the world at short-course cross country, right out of the win, like eight seconds back. Those are three of my top memories and experiences, but there’s so many. Those would have to be it, the highlights.
Apart from your professional running career and Run The Edge, anything else notable from the last 20 years that you feel is important that we should know or that you want to share?
I was lucky enough to marry the love of my life, Kara, who most people know in the running world. We were married over nine years before we had our son Colt. When I look at some of the top accomplishments of my life, those are two of them right there. Having Kara and Colt, they’re the most important things that I’ve ever had in my life. I’m blessed and I’m very lucky to have that.
It’s been really interesting. We’ve led a very interesting, fun life. As you get older and your body starts breaking down, you’re kind of like, “Enough’s enough.” Watching Kara still pushing through and definitely getting to the end of her career, it’s exciting. It’s just like everything, running has been the focal point of our lives since college. I think we’re really lucky because Kara and I were able to travel the world together, compete overseas, compete all over the world. We got to experience a lot before we started a family and now we’re parents and it’s just awesome. Life’s awesome.
What did Running With The Buffaloes mean to you in 1998 when it was being written and when it was first published?
I thought it was a great idea. Chris, the previous year, him and I were out on a run out in Redwoods [State Park in California]. He was telling me about this idea he had to write a book and he was hoping he could get Mark to let him follow the team. I was like, that would be so awesome, to have someone there to document what our season was like. It was a lot of fun, having another friend there. He became very close with everyone on the team. It was pretty amazing, and to have that documentation, essentially, of my senior year in cross, it’s so awesome to have that.
I look at it like, there was no social media. Communicating with people around country, around the world, that are competitors, that are people, that are fans, whatever, was much tougher then. I kind of look at it as that book was so well-written and it was such an amazing year. The stories within that book are just awesome. And I think what it did was, for myself especially, is it kept me relevant in a time where there wasn’t social media, there wasn’t really any way to push out the messages and people get to know you more via your social media and all that. To this day, I still have young high school kids come up and going, Wow, I read Running with the Buffaloes, I can’t believe I’m meeting you. [Without] that book, I just don’t think that would be the case. It’s just amazing. It’s really a lot of fun to be able to open up that book and just slip back into memories. Everything in there that I experienced with my teammates. It’s pretty special for me and everyone else that was there.
Do you have a favorite story or moment from the season?
There’s some fun ones in there. I look back and how I was, my focus, my determination, I kind of missed out a lot, in my opinion, looking back. I wasn’t around — like I was around, but I was so focused on what I wanted to do. I wasn’t into a lot of the social stuff that everyone else was, a lot of the other guys on the team. I was there, but not necessarily there at 100% focus and hanging out with my buddies. So I look back and from time to time, I can see, oh man, I came across as kind of intense and an asshole sometimes. It captured my personality, especially at that point of my life, a lot of the stories.
But probably the write-up and the description of NCAAs, the championship, was probably my favorite. The way Chris writes it, it’s like I can read it and visualize it like I’m re-living it. That’s probably my favorite chapter of the book. But it’s tough because there’s so many, not just about me, but everybody. Just having that is so cool, so amazing.
Anything else fun or interesting, important to know in the story from your life, from Running with the Buffaloes, anything we didn’t talk about that you want to mention?
I think that what you’re writing, what you’re doing (catching up with the guys from RWTB) is great. There’s a lot of things over the last 20 years that have been a part of my running and career, and in a lot of ways it’s not over. The fight that Kara and I fight and the battles against Alberto [Salazar] and Nike, I think that’s not necessarily something that people realize how intense that is and how intense that can be and how consuming it is. But you’re fighting for something that you believe and your integrity is on the line and you want to do right by the everybody, by the community and the running world in general. And so I don’t know if that’s something that needs to be said or not, but I think that that’s something where Kara and I have been brave enough to come out and just say, You know what? This is not right, we’re not doing it, we’re not going to put up with it, and just expose a lot of stuff. That’s been a huge, huge part of my life since, really 2011, 2012, fighting for the people who choose to do it right. I don’t have anything to lose now, I’m not an athlete, but as an athlete it’s tough to have a voice and speak out, especially if you’re a Nike athlete. So it’s just one of those things where I’m done, I can actually speak out and hopefully be a part of the solution in the end.
You said, “I’m not sure people realize how intense” it can be. Help me realize. What kind of things have you had to face in speaking out?
One part is the negativity from people who don’t necessarily understand or don’t necessarily care. They’re hero worshippers. No matter what, that person or those people can’t do wrong. And so the fact that you’re coming out against them, you’re the bad guy. The negativity, the assaults, essentially. It’s not over the top by any means but when you get pummeled by people — “you’re just jealous,” stupid stuff — it’s just like, okay, you feel like, Why am I doing it? We don’t get anything from it. There’s nothing we get from it, except for the stress that goes along with it. When we went to USADA for the first time, it was intense. We were talking to them about everything. That sticks with you.
And then once everything gets going, more stuff gets exposed and then more stuff is public and you’re in this fight. Until you have that ultimate resolution, it’s almost like energy is being sucked from you. I feel so bad for Kara in that sense because she was still at the top of her career, very, very close to the top of her career when this started happening. As a professional athlete, you need to focus on training, on rest, on eating right and staying healthy. And being preoccupied with other things that’s just constantly dragging you down emotionally, it’s like an obstacle that you can’t even imagine for Kara and for her ability to run at her ultimate potential. I think there’s just the process of going through the whole process which we’ll talk more about at some point. But when you’re working with USADA, there’s a lot of stuff that goes into it, a lot of time, a lot of emotions.
It’s just one of those things. It’s frustrating that you’re fighting for so long and there’s still no resolution — or at least not 100% resolution at this point. I think it’s coming very, very soon, but until there is that ultimate resolution, you’re just kind of waiting. And that in itself is a drain. It’s a drag, it’s frustrating.
We won’t stop fighting because you know what? At some point, the athletes deserve to be treated right, they deserve to be on an equal playing field. If you don’t clean it up, if you don’t get rid of this corruption that is happening, you don’t get rid of the people that are around IAAF and people at the top of Nike Running, as soon as we can get rid of those people and get fresh, good, honorable people in there with good intentions, the sport can come back and actually be viewed as legitimate.
I think that so many just look at it [now] as, Ah, whatever, it’s just fake, anybody that really knows the sport. You’ve just gotta get people to fight and say, you know what, I won’t tolerate it anymore and enough’s enough.
This interview has been lightly condensed for clarity.
Talk about Goucher and RWB on the messageboard:
*MB: Breaking: Adam Goucher says he thinks a resolution to the Salazar/NOP doping investigation is “coming very, very soon”
*MB: If Adam Goucher graduated in 2018, would he get a shoe deal?
*MB: Goucher rips Salazer and Rupp on Citius Mag Podcast
*MB: Running with the Buffaloes 20 years later – We catch up with Adam Goucher, Chris Lear and the Buffs.
More: Previous: LRC Running With The Buffaloes At 20: Author Chris Lear Reflects On The Running Cult Classic In An In-Depth Interview
*LRC Where Are They Now? Catching Up With the Members Of The 1998 University Of Colorado XC Team 20 Years After “Running With The Buffaloes“ We catch up with the key figures from Running With The Buffaloes 20 years later.
*LRC Q&A: Adam Goucher Talks Running With The Buffaloes, His Greatest Running Memories, & the Stress of Becoming a Whistleblower Against Alberto Salazar & NOP)