Five Pro Women Interview Each Other, and Here’s What Happened

Five top American women who'll be running Sunday’s TCS New York City Marathon sat down together for 20 minutes on Thursday for a chat—a chat with a tape recorder running, that is. The cast:

Deena Kastor, 41, Mammoth Lakes, CA. 2004 Olympic bronze medalist. Running here for the third time. Mother of one daughter, Piper, age 3.

Desiree Linden, 31, Washington, MI. 2012 Olympian. Making her debut here.

Kara Goucher, 36, Boulder, CO. Two-time Olympian. Running New York City Marathon for the second time. Mother of one son, Colt, age 4.

Blake Russell, 39, Pacific Grove, CA. 2008 Olympian. Making her debut here. Mother of two children: Quin, 5, and Liv, 1.

Annie Bersagel, 31, Oslo, Norway. 2006 NCAA Woman of the Year. Making her debut here. Works full-time as a lawyer; met husband, Oyvind, while studying in Oslo.

We started asking the New York veterans if they had any advice for the rookies. They did, and the conversation took off from there.


Deena Kastor: It’s true of a lot of marathons but this one in particular, there’s so much energy on the start line that you can almost feel the bridge vibrating with it. Just having that emotional control in the beginning …

Desiree Linden: Ryan Vail said there was a very short window to warm up. Is that right?

Kara Goucher: I will say that in 2008, Paula [Radcliffe] said “there’s plenty of time, don’t worry about it," and the next thing I knew they were calling us to the start line. I was like panicked. So, we should just get clarification of that in the technical meeting.

Kastor: And it’s really cold up there, so wear a long-sleeve that you are willing to never see again.

Goucher: There’s this part where you go over the Queensboro Bridge and all you hear is each other. Breathing and footsteps. It’s surreal. Even though we’ll all have our competitive hats on, just take that in. It’s one of my favorite moments of the race.

Kastor: It’s the only quiet moment.

Goucher: It’s so pure. I got hit by Paula’s gel pack and I was like, that’s so cool. I’ll just put this in my jacket, thank you.

Kastor: Can you sign this for me?

Blake Russell: Somebody told me that it’s the only place that’s not going to be lined by people, so if you have to go to the bathroom, go there.

Kastor: Yeah, because you don’t want to wait till First Ave.

(Everyone laughs about the turn the conversation has taken.)

Russell: Yes, if you have to go to the bathroom, do it on the Queensboro Bridge.

Kastor: Or one of the many porta-potties they have provided along the way. Your choice.

Goucher: Blake, how was it coming back from the second pregnancy?

Russell: The first one was a disaster, so anything was better. I came back much faster after Liv, but maybe that was because I wasn’t planning on running (competitively) again. I didn’t run through either pregnancy.

Linden: How would you compare coming back from pregnancy vs. coming back from injuries?

Goucher: I was able to run through my whole pregnancy. You’re starting at a weird place because you’re overweight and everything’s loose, but at least I had been running. This past year I’ve had so many times when I couldn’t run, and I almost feel like that’s harder. Of course, [after pregnancy] you’re all whacked out on hormones.

Kastor: You sob at any commercial that comes on television.

Goucher: Is that a Hummer commercial? (mock sobbing).

Linden: Some say you get a [performance] boost from being pregnant. Is that real?

Kastor: I don’t know who gets that. I got the short end of the stick.

Goucher: Me either. Deena, maybe yours was just delayed.

Kastor: Three and a half years delayed. That could be: I’m a slow learner. I had a sedentary pregnancy. I thought for sure I would just run for the health of it, get out there 30 minutes a day, enjoy some scenery, it will be good for me, it will be good for the baby, and I couldn’t even walk the dog around the block I was so uncomfortable. I had the worst sharp pains in my side, a foot in my ribs …

Linden: You’re selling this.

Kastor: But now, it’s the best thing in the world, no doubt about it. Sitting there having a glass of wine while your kid’s having an ice cream cone, and her leaning across and saying, “So how was your day, mommy?”

Goucher: Oh, I was just going to say, “How was your run? Did you feel good? Can we go play Ninja turtles now?”

Kastor: When instead of being a mom you feel like you’re sharing time with them, it’s the best, it really is. I felt the first couple of years, “I don’t really know about this; I don’t know if I’m cut out for this. Can I get her back when she’s 18?”

Goucher: For sure.

Kastor: Now it’s super fun.

Goucher: Annie, what about you? How do you fit your training in around work?

Annie Bersagel: When I wake Oyvind and I run together.

Kastor: What time is that?

Bersagel: 6:15. So we just go out for a run, and sometimes our neighbors come along as well.

Kastor: What about in the winter? Isn’t it kind of dark?

Bersagel: Yeah, it is dark, so you have to wear the reflective vest.

Russell: Do you need the headlamps?

Bersagel: No, there are enough street lights. But it’s dark and sometimes you need the [crampons].

Goucher: Isyour husband able to work out with you?

Bersagel: He’s faster than me.

Goucher: That’s good.

Bersagel: I actually run with a group of guys in my club for the workouts, but [my husband and I] do a lot of the easy runs together.

(Bersagel is asked about the emotional energy of running at a high level with a full-time job.)

Bersagel: It’s not that different from having kids. That’s like a full-time job, too.

Linden: I would think that it would be kind of a stress reliever, to a degree.

Bersagel: If your running isn’t going well, you have something else to think about. It’s not that different from being a full-time student running in college. But I was definitely just looking forward to getting on the plane and just switching over, really thinking about the race and getting into it.

Goucher: Blake, you can relate to that. I follow you on social media and you’re like, “Gonna miss my kids, but I get to sleep.”

Russell: I’ll go to the airport like five hours early to get some sleep.

Goucher: Deena, what about Mammoth? How is that in the winter?

Kastor: It’s fine. I’ll actually go up on to the mountain at night to run. I have crampons or snowshoes, and that’s just my way to embrace winter. I tried skiing and snowboarding and cross-country skiing, bought all the equipment, even got lessons for two weeks by a 15-time national champion and I just threw my poles down one day and said, “I am trying too hard to like this. I want a cappuccino and to sit in front of the fire.”

Russell: That’s why we live in California, so I don’t have to deal with snow. Boston [where she used to live] is dark at like 4:00 p.m. in the winter.

Bersagel: (Laughs).

Kastor: I want to know what everyone is doing after the marathon.

Goucher: I’m going to visit my sister and then we’re going on vacation, but we’re still trying to decide between going to [the coast] because my son’s in love with the beach, or just go to Palm Springs.

Kastor: Why don’t you go to Coronado?

Goucher: Do you think that it’s warm enough, though?

Russell: Close to LA should be warm enough.

Kastor: It was hot down there when I just left, close to 80.

Goucher: He really likes the beach.

Kastor: I would suck it up and go to the beach, even though it’s not going to be as warm as Palm Springs. And Santa Monica is fun, because they have a carousel and a ferris wheel. I think Santa Monica is always nice when I’m there.

Goucher: Sold. Annie, what are you doing after?

Bersagel: Work. I’m actually going to a funeral after.

Kastor: Oh, I’m sorry.

Bersagel: But then I’ll go back to Norway.

Kastor: Funeral in the states? Family?

Bersagel: My grandmother.

Kastor: May her force be with you on Sunday.

Bersagel: She lived to be 97.

Kastor: Whoa!

Goucher: What about you, Deena?

Kastor: We’re going to Hawaii on our first family vacation. We are leaving computers and running shoes behind. I’m just bringing a bikini, hat, and flip-flops. I’ll buy the sunscreen when I get there. We’re going for almost two weeks and I cannot wait. And it’s the beach so Piper is going to love it.

Linden: I’m doing a Costa Rica trip.

Kastor: Oh, yeah, for Amy Hastings’ wedding!

Linden: I don’t really want to be on a flight for that long, but once you get there the fun starts.

Kastor: Are you guys going to do tours, look at Mayan ruins?

Linden: I think we might just be on the beach.

Kastor: That’s all I want to do. By the end of the first week, I just want a big [butt]-print in the sand. And by the end of two weeks I want a really big [butt]-print in the sand.

Goucher: That’s how I am, too. Adam’s like, “Should we plan something?” I’m like, “No, we just want to sit.”

Russell: I’m leaving right after the race. My mother is freaked out; she’s got the kids. Right back to reality.