Surrounded by eager fans toting copies of her new book, "Strong: A Runner's Guide to Boosting Confidence and Becoming the Best Version of You," recently christened 40-year-old Kara Goucher could have passed for a full-time author instead of a world-class runner harboring hope of at least one more sub-2:30 marathon.
Looks can be deceiving.
While Goucher, the 1996 Duluth East High School graduate who morphed into a two-time Olympian, had been anxiously awaiting the opportunity to launch her first book at a signing in her hometown - which happened Wednesday at Fitger's - she's not ready for a career change quite yet.
"There are editors for a reason," she joked. "I'm not a writer. I mean, I write blogs, and I contributed to this (book), obviously, but thank goodness for editors because I'm not confident in my writing."
She must have done something right.
As Goucher was speaking to about 60 attendees inside the August Fitger Room, "Strong" climbed to No. 2 among Amazon's best-sellers in the "sports psychology" subcategory. It's a breezy read highlighting Goucher's quest to overcome her own self-doubt, and the techniques she used along the way en route to becoming one of the top female distance runners in U.S. history.
The book's official release date is Aug. 14.
Goucher started the evening with a few words in her self-deprecating, down-to-Earth style before fielding questions from the audience. She discussed the agony of finishing fourth at the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in February 2016 - one spot shy of representing the red, white and blue in Rio de Janeiro - and the importance of "shutting out negative chatter."
For an athlete as accomplished as Goucher, it's hard to imagine a crisis of confidence. This is someone who, aside from competing in the 2008 and 2012 Summer Games, boasts third-place finishes at the New York City Marathon (2008) and Boston Marathon (2009); the then-fastest-ever marathon debut by an American woman; a World Championships silver medal; and NCAA Division I cross-country individual and team national titles at the University of Colorado.
And yet, "I have struggled with confidence throughout my running career," she writes in "Strong."
In that regard, she's highly relatable.
"She has very high expectations for herself, and you have to have high standards to achieve all those things," said 28-year-old Auralee Strege of Duluth. "I thought it was very, very inspiring."
Strege, who owns a marathon PR of 3 hours and 41 seconds, had just snagged a selfie with Goucher after getting her book signed. In fact, as the signing got underway, Goucher repeatedly bounced out from behind the table to pose for pictures. By the time the night was over, she may have gotten a better workout than from the 16 miles she ran Tuesday back home in Boulder, Colo.
"She's so kind and accommodating, even to runners that don't necessarily have the talent that she has," Strege said.
Goucher will do additional signings around the country, but it was important for her that the first one occur where everything began. She relished the opportunity to connect with people who have followed her journey ever since she was a prep star running for legendary East coach Dick Skogg.
"Running has brought so much brightness into my life, and if this is one way that I can give back, then it's awesome," Goucher said.
Not done running
Despite the success of this first book, Goucher remains committed to running. She's eyeing a fall marathon, though she won't say which one, other than it won't be at Twin Cities on Oct. 7 but rather later in the year.
Goucher took some time off after finishing 21st in 1:18:15 at the Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon in June.
"I was feeling really emotionally and physically spent, and I think it showed in that race," she said.
The layoff rejuvenated Goucher.
She's ready to resume chasing fast times.
"I'm still really focused on running," she said. "I still feel good and I still think that I can run sub-2:30, so those are still things that I want to give myself the best shot at. There will come a point where that's not a realistic goal anymore, and that's OK. Then I move on and set a different goal."
Goucher one day plans to take a crack at ultramarathoning. Longer distances intrigue her, as does racing as a master, a thought she cringed at not too long ago.
"I definitely want to try an ultra, and it'll either come next year or the year after depending on how this marathon goes in the fall," Goucher said. "That's the cool thing about running - there are so many different adventures and things to try."