After all the abuse and indignities that elite distance runner Kara Goucher has endured, I was surprised that the one moment she got choked up during our hourlong conversation was while recounting the time she won the USA Half Marathon Championships during Grandma's weekend in Duluth.

Clinching that 2012 victory in the community that reared her — on the way to her second Olympics — was a pinnacle of her career, she said.

"This stuff makes me want to cry, but that's where I started running, that's where I discovered the love of it. My high school coach was there. My grandparents were there. So many high school teachers, and classmates," as well as a stranger who shouted, "My son was in chemistry with you!" she recalled with a laugh.

"Running has literally taken me all over the world, and it was amazing, at the height of my career, to be able to come and run there."

Minnesota plays a grounding, healing force in Goucher's new memoir, "The Longest Race: Inside the Secret World of Abuse, Doping, and Deception on Nike's Elite Running Team," co-written by journalist Mary Pilon. In it, Goucher reveals that it was she who made allegations of sexual assault against her longtime coach, Alberto Salazar, leading to his lifetime ban from the sport in 2021.

Her initial reaction to the assaults — which occurred during two athletic massages — was to freeze, compartmentalize them, and rationalize that they couldn't have been what she thought.

"I'm able to push pain aside and put it in a box. I think that helped me as an athlete, but it didn't necessarily help me as a human," she said. "Unpacking a lot of stuff has been hard, but it allowed me to view my past in a different light and understanding."

Salazar, in a statement to ABC News, called the claim "categorically untrue." Goucher alleges that beyond the assaults, Salazar tried to kiss her while drunk, commented on her breasts and subjected her to sexualized talk about other women.

But the mistreatment did not proliferate in a vacuum. Her sponsor, Nike, suspended her pay while she was pregnant, even as it profited off her image and publicly presented itself as a brand that celebrated motherhood.

Her critique is not so much about a single villain, but about structures that perpetuate inequity and misconduct. Salazar was paid by Nike, which recruited Goucher and her husband, Adam, to train on a team that was created to reestablish the preeminence of American distance running. (The Gouchers also blew the whistle on Salazar's doping violations, which resulted in a four-year ban in 2019.)

"If I had a problem with him, then I had a problem with my sponsor, then I had a problem with my livelihood," she told me. "We need to be more aware of the power dynamic."

But Goucher, 44, said the power imbalance can start much younger, when athletes are in high school or college and are so heavily influenced by their coaches. She details the unique challenges that girls in sports, especially runners, can face during puberty and how that can lead to self-destructive habits such as disordered eating. Goucher recalls her own reckoning — she got her first period before a big national competition as a junior in high school — and remembers feeling as though she had failed.

What if, Goucher said, we could teach girls through their adolescence that this was a time of empowerment, not a time to be feared?

"We know about the girl who was fast, and then got bigger and was slow, and we don't want to be that girl," she said. "It took me two years to go from being 5 feet tall to 5 feet 8. It took me a long time to adjust my body. But nobody told me, 'That body is going to take you to the Olympics.' "

In the book, Goucher doesn't spare herself from scrutiny, particularly when it comes to her own silence. She regrets not speaking up on behalf of a female teammate who endured humiliating weigh-ins with Salazar, fearful that challenging him would jeopardize her favored status.

Nor did Goucher vocalize her misgivings about the racism that she believes fueled her sizable contracts. While she was prized for her "relatability," she watched as some female runners of color went unrewarded for their talents. As she recounts, Nike executives noted during contract negotiations that she was not just the first "American" but the first "white person" to have won a distance running medal at a major international competition in years.

Goucher, who has since retired from competing, said she needed to own up about her mistakes, as well as being transparent about pay. In the book, she disclosed her contract amounts to the dollar.

"If you don't know what your worth is, then you don't know what to ask for," she said. "I think about Tirunesh Dibaba [the Olympic gold medalist from Ethiopia], or even some of the marathoners that were beating me every time we stepped to the line. I promise you I was making a lot more than them."

Yet much of her memoir is spent describing her own struggle to find self-worth and her voice. When I asked her why she decided to tell her story now, she said, "I felt dirty about it for years. I felt I couldn't say anything because it would hurt [Salazar's] family. ... I have Minnesota values. I'm loyal to the people who treat me well. When it happened, I was frozen, I was scared. But I also felt afraid to say anything because I don't want to disrupt things."

Therapy helped her realize that the anxiety she experienced as a result of the trauma was affecting how she was treating her own family, including Adam and their now-12-year-old son, Colt. Writing the book and finally letting go of her secrets was like ridding her body of a cancer.

Minnesotans may feel even closer to Goucher as she writes about how she drew strength by visualizing the pine trees of her youth, or about her memories of "Papa," her late grandfather who introduced Goucher to her first race in Hermantown, Minn., when she was just 6. Goucher and her family, who live in Colorado, plan to spend much of this summer at their cabin on Fredenberg Lake, north of Duluth.She'll also be in Duluth on May 4 to be inducted into the DECC Athletic Hall of Fame and plans to attend a book-signing event while she's in town.

So central to her identity, Minnesota is tattooed to her left arm. More recently, she had an artist ink the Olympic rings just below the state, at the urging of Colt. Goucher never felt defined by the Olympics because she didn't perform her best there. But her son helped her see her past differently.

"It's been cool to see it from his perspective, which is, 'Mom, you made it there. You should be proud,' " she said. "So I got the rings kind of for him, but also for myself. It's for him to know, 'I hear you, and I am proud.'"

Goucher has much to be proud of, on and off the track. Perhaps we'll remember her most for the voice she found to hold others to account, so that all of us, her son included, could believe in the sport she loved.