Cari Reads: Des Linden and Kara Goucher

By | April 21, 2023

It has been a good last twelve months for running reads: Molly Huddle and Sara Slattery’s How She Did It, Lauren Fleshman’s Good for a Girl, Alison Mariela Desir’s Running While Black in fall 2022 and then Kara Goucher and Des Linden’s books in March and April, respectively. I said somewhere that I was glad their publishers gave us a couple of weeks between publication dates, and then I read both last week! Both were absolutely amazing reads, with Kara’s having the added lens of being completely gut wrenching.

Linking up with Darlene, Jenn, Michelle, Renee and Zenaida to share my five-ish thoughts on these books.

Fit Five Friday

Other Reviews:

In reading some other reviews and podcasts around Boston 2023, I remembered I still have Alexei Pappas’ Bravey on my Kindle. I’ll plan to read that soon. One day I’ll even finish Deena Kastor’s book. Maybe.


  • These books are absolutely amazing and I’d say almost everyone should read them. My caveat there is if you’re someone who struggles with an eating disorder. There are elements of both of these that can be triggering. So practice any necessary self care. Choosing to Run can be a one or two seat read as it’s utterly engrossing, especially reading it just ahead of Boston. The Longest Race cannot be binged, or maybe it can if you have a stronger constitution than I do. I kept having to put it down to fully digest the events, her reaction, Salazar’s continued bad behavior.

opening quote from Kara Goucher’s book

  • The intersections between Des and Kara’s running lives were both expected and not. I will always have a soft spot for Shalane Flanagan because she won New York, but she was also a major thread throughout both of these books. Oddly, my perception is that Des and Shalane are contemporaries, whereas it seemed that Kara was closer to Deena Kastor, yet their Olympics and World Championships overlapped. I think part of the reason for this is that by the time I started running, Kara was mostly “just” the Nike whistleblower vs. a competitive runner so it was hard to see her as the same runner the other two are. Also, amazing to think she raced against-and beat!-Paula Radcliffe in the Great Northern Race. Paula always seems to belong to another era entirely. Even reading this book, and knowing she trained with Shalane when she left Salazar, I think I’ll still see Kara as a podcaster and broadcaster first, which is definitely wrong on my end.
  • We knew Salazar was dirty, and even the abuse stories aren’t new thanks to the SafeSport report, but it was completely heartbreaking to read about it in Kara’s own words. I’m not a big audio book person anyway, but I don’t think I could bear to listen to her narrate this. The “smaller” issues, the objectification of women and harassment of women’s bodies draw major parallels between Lauren Fleshman’s book and the stories about Mary Cain, including her own Op Ed. It would be wrong to say I’m “boycotting” Nike, because I don’t recall wearing anything from them since high school soccer-and I was an Umbro girl even then-but I don’t see myself even considering them now. Salazar was a huge problem, but Nike is rotten through and through. Did Mo Farah, Galen Rupp, et al need to dope? Probably not, but it’s like some of the MLB sluggers – now everything is under question.
    • I read Des’ book first (thanks, Liz!) and had an unexpected intro into The Oregon Project and its doping when Dathan Ritzenhein left Nike for Brooks-Hanson, part of what led to Des’ eventual change in coaches given the awareness of doping within the sport.
    • I knew Allyson Felix and Alysia Montaño’s stories of how Nike mishandled their pregnancies and contracts, but somehow Kara’s story was even harder to read. She worked for them, they marketed her as a pregnant runner, but nope she didn’t compete so she was suspended. Revolting. This was the 2010s, not the 1970s when they thought women’s uteruses would fall out. This is not OK.
  • While I of course know the story of Des’ 2018 Boston win, and loved how she used it as the framework for her story, I didn’t know much about her prior history. It’s not that I don’t know my running history, it’s just that it’s easier to focus on active runners’ achievements’ vs. retired runners’ stories, if that makes sense. I appreciated how both of these books gave the surround sound to their running careers, especially Des’ as an active, professional runner. The choices to take an Olympic spot when you know you’re not in a position to compete, and/or might hurt yourself more must be completely gutwrenching. In some ways though, her 2011 Boston was an even more exciting read than 2018. Yet if she’d won, 2018 wouldn’t have been anywhere near as exciting, or she might have dropped out due to weather. I also love how well rounded she presents herself, a wife, a sister, a dog lover. She is so much more than “just” a runner, whether than be a marathon winner, Olympian or more. She’s someone I’d absolutely love to have a coffee with, but maybe not the nitro cold brew they gave us at the Brooks event last fall.
    • The parallels between Des thyroid condition (legit) and the medicine Kara was given to lose weight was an interesting look at women’s health-and as came up in Lauren Fleshman’s book -how little even professionals know about women’s bodies and the perception that thinner is better. Salazar is the one who – rightfully- gets the attention because he’s a name brand, but the actions by Dr. Jeffrey Brown are utterly deplorable.
    • I almost want to reread Lauren Fleshman’s book now. I loved how her path tied back to Kara’s when Kara signed with Oiselle after
  • I learned so much about the World Championships in both of these books. I must admit as a former (bad) track athlete, the words “track meet” made me smile. I only did it as conditioning between seasons and truly only liked shot put, but I can still see the college fieldhouse we used for our indoor meets. While I’m thrilled to have “found” running at 37, I wonder what might have been if I hadn’t injured my knee in high school and had kept running.
  • I loved the look into their childhoods and how their lives made them the women they are. Des, a so-called traditional family in Southern California with a stage manager father who had her and her sister into a new activity every minute. Kara-whose father died when she was a young child and was raised by her mother and grandparents in Duluth. I loved the weaving of Calvin and Ola Jean throughout Kara’s book, and where her love of running came, and how she felt her father when she ran the New York City marathon.
  • Learning about how it works to be a sponsored athlete was fascinating. Both in the traditional Nike sense for Kara (and Shalane, which was touched on) and Des’ untraditional with Brooks/Hansons having her coach and sponsors so intricately tied-with both ultimately facing how to break those ties partially. I also appreciated the insight into how negotiations work, both for subsequent contracts, races and other items,
  • On a silly/weird note, didn’t realize that the Adam Goucher behind Run the Year was Mr. Kara Goucher. Ooops. Run the Year was my gateway to running, so debatable at the time whether I knew who Kara Goucher was. While the focus of the book was on Kara, I liked what we learned about Adam as a professional runner, husband and part of her support network turned agent. Yet she felt she couldn’t be honest with him about what was happening with Salazar-both for protecting him as well as her career. This was an interesting parallel as I’d listened to Brooke Shields’ podcast episode about sexual violence that was released in tandem with the Pretty Baby documentary at the same time as I was reading Kara’s book. This world is so very broken. This is not news to me – I fundraised for Joyful Heart while marathon training – but somehow it makes me angrier every time it comes up.

Wow. That ended up being a lot longer than I expected. These books are both still very much with me and I anticipate rereading.

What’s your favorite running biography or memoir? Is there someone whose story you want to hear?

As much as I’ve followed her career, I’d love a non cookbook from Shalane. Maybe about the transition to coaching, and life after winning NYC.

11 thoughts on “Cari Reads: Des Linden and Kara Goucher

  1. Renée

    great and interesting feedback on these books/athletes. I wish I could fit reading into my life again and not fall asleep every time I attempt to do so. but reading your thoughts actually makes me want to try again. The last running book I read was Deena Kastor’s (I think Coco got me interested in that one?) and a book by a local Dutch runner “Ik haat hardlopen – dacht ik” who I met in her earlier days running, and even got a tiny shoutout on her inside book cover 😀 .

    1. cari Post author

      How awesome on the shout out.
      I can’t get through Deena’s, despite loving to hear her talk about it. One day!

  2. Kimberly Hatting

    Like Renee, I just don’t seem to have the time to read real books these days, and I know that’s all on me (besides there’s all kinds of other craziness that’s been taking up any and all free time these days). These women’s stories are fascinating, and I owe it to THEM (as well as all my fellow women runners) to schedule in some reading time and dive into both of these books. Thanks for the great reviews!!

  3. cari Post author

    It’s hard. We’re all so swamped. + Life.
    Do you like audio books? As active as you are, I feel like that could help you get more reading in if you ultimately decide to dive in.

  4. Pingback: Book review Des Linden Choosing to Run

  5. Liz Dexter

    I loved Des’ book and really loved how rounded she was as a person – she drinks, she has lots of dogs, she travels not just for competitions! I think I will have to build up to Kara’s, also I love Mo and I hate how he got tainted with all that stuff. Great reviews!

  6. Michelle

    I absolutely loved Des book – I’ve always been a fan of hers and this book did not disappoint! Kara’s book has been on my Kindle for a while. I need to make create some space to start it.

    As an aside, I enjoyed Deena’s book – I listened to the audiobook during my long commutes. I think it was more interesting hearing it in her voice. Given what I know of Kara’s story I understand what you said about how tough it would be to listen to her narrate some parts.

  7. Darlene S Cardillo

    I have both books on hold from the library and can’t wait to read them.

    I enjoyed Deena’s book as well as Kathrine Switzer’s.

    Lately I’ve been reading non-running books.

  8. Wendy

    You nailed it with your reviews here and I love the parallels between the books. I also think I need to re-read Lauren Fleshman’s book after reading these two. Kara’s book just gutted me as well, but I finished feeling unsettled about how she didn’t tell anyone about what Salazar was doing. She must have felt completely helpless and stuc;k. These were quite the reads, weren’t they?

    You have to read Deena’s book–it’s one of my favorites!

  9. Jenny

    I really want to read both of these! I’m waiting for my library hold for Des’s book to come in, and I have to put a hold on Kara’s book. Did you listen to their interviews on Running Rogue? Good stuff. Thanks for the reviews!

  10. Zenaida Arroyo

    Great reviews! I hope I get the books soon from the library. I love Des and she is one I will also like to have a cup of coffee with and a drink with Kara. Not sure if she drinks or not. 🙂


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