Kara Goucher was once one of the best marathon runners in the United States. But her career included several injury setbacks, moments of losing joy for running, bitter contract disputes with her then-sponsor Nike and alleged abuse by her coach.

Last year, Goucher announced that she was diagnosed with dystonia, a neurological disorder that causes involuntary muscle spasms, and she no longer trains competitively for races. In a phone interview with The Washington Post, the 44-year-old Goucher talked about her new book, “The Longest Race: Inside the Secret World of Abuse, Doping, and Deception on Nike’s Elite Running Team,” written with co-author Mary Pilon, and reflected on her career, the lessons she’s learned on resilience and why she still loves running.

The following interview has been edited and condensed.

What is your relationship with running now?

It’s still my happy place, meditation; I feel so happy in movement. I have this rare neurological movement disorder, so I can’t run as much as I want. But I am in a pretty good place right now where I’m running most days. And I still love running so much. Some people would call it an obsession. But truly, it’s not a chore for me.

How has dystonia changed everyday life and running?

It doesn’t impact my everyday life anymore. There was a while before I was diagnosed, and it was bad. I was struggling to walk into the grocery store. I’m in a good place with medication. I feel completely stable walking now all the time.

But with running, it kind of ebbs and flows. This fall, I had an incredible month in September, I felt so great. I was running a lot, and then I must have pushed too much, and my body really pushed back. And so then I lost a month of running. I’m still figuring out what that balance is. But if I really keep the mileage low, and don’t push it on days I’m tired, I’ve kind of gotten into this rhythm of like five miles is my sweet spot. And I’ll take it. It’s better than nothing.

Why do you think you’ve been so resilient?

I think a lot of it was modeled for me, like my grandfather and my mom are very resilient people. They accept the bad times, but they don’t let it stop them, and they know that life moves on. I was just sort of raised in that sort of mentality. And then as far as my running career, anytime I would get injured or be really discouraged, and I thought about quitting, I would feel this, like, super uncomfortable pang in my chest, like I was giving up on myself. And I would be like: “I still haven’t done everything I could yet. It’s still not time.”

What’s your advice for managing disappointment?

Sometimes you’re going to do everything right, and you’re still not going to get the result. I think it’s okay to mourn those losses. I don’t like it when people are like, “Shrug it off.” You’ve put so much into it, so much time and energy and hope and all those things. And I think I learned this at a younger age, because my mom would always let me kind of cry out a bad race and be upset for a day. Then it would be like, there’s always another day, another opportunity. But I think it’s okay to acknowledge the frustration or the disappointment.

What makes a good running coach?

It’s just someone who’s invested with you, respects you, understands you as an athlete, understands what motivates you. Some people need that challenge of, “So and so is going to beat you." And some people need, “You just need to be focused on yourself.” A coach that is flexible between athletes doesn’t necessarily treat each athlete the same way. If you have a bad day, everybody should be taking ownership, not just you. There are a lot of really great coaches out there. I had an amazing high school coach, I had an amazing college coach. I don’t want everyone to think like there are no good coaches, because there are.

How did you train during pregnancy?

Your body will tell you what you can do. Or at least that was my experience. And I did train throughout my entire pregnancy. It was kind of funny, after I gave birth to my son, there was a loop I did when I was pregnant that I didn’t normally do. I thought it was about six miles, and it’s like three and a half. This was before GPS. Like the body just slowed me down. But I still liked it. I still enjoyed it. I was still getting the fresh air and getting the movement, and I honestly thought I was running a lot further than I actually was. So that just kind of goes to show that the body will let you do what it can do in that moment.

What advice or cautions do you have about training?

I would certainly tell women coming back from pregnancy that there is no timeline and that you should not feel pressured to return to any sort of space. I like to say like, yeah, I ran [a 2 hour 24 minute marathon] less than seven months after I gave birth to my son, but then I spent the next rest of my career really being injured, healthy, injured, healthy. Faith Kipyegon, [the Kenyan middle distance runner] took a year before she started training. And she’s a world champion and the Olympic champion. So I would say really take your time and don’t feel like there’s this timeline that has to be met.

What conversations should we be having about disordered eating and running?

I think we still have a big problem. I like that people are talking about it. I love [professional runner] Allie Ostrander and how she’s really shared her struggle with it. I think that’s amazing and helpful to so many people. But I think if we really want to get real, I learned about eating disorders in high school. Most of the women that I’ve run with had been exposed to eating disorders and learned about how to control food when they were in their early teens. We need to start having conversations with younger athletes.

What is your message for everyday athletes?

My goal was to let people see what the professional life is like, but also to let people see, like, maybe there’s some things we need to change. My biggest hope is that someone would see themselves in that and realize that one experience does not define who you are. I know there’s a lot of other people who experienced what I experienced, and I just want them to know, you can get through it, and you can live the life that you want.

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