Record holder returns 31 years after setting fastest 10K time
The man who ran the fastest 10K in the history of Bermuda Marathon Weekend is back on the Island.
Two-time Olympian and two-time Boston Marathon winner Geoff Smith intends to take part in tomorrow’s HSBC Bermuda 10K, but predicts he’ll run it a bit slower than he did 31 years ago.
His remarkable achievement — a time of 28 minutes 14 seconds — has not been challenged during the intervening three decades. No other runner has broken 29 minutes on the course, other than Marty Ludwikowki who was the distant runner-up to Smith that day in 28.59.
When Smith, then 27, powered to the course record in 1982 he was only 17 seconds slower than the-then world record. Tomorrow, he will be able to take in the course scenery at a more relaxed pace, something he wasn’t able to do on his glory run of ‘82.
“I’ve got a bit of an injury but I’m going to try to run the 10K, probably in 50 minutes of more,” said the Englishman, who has lived most of his life in the US.
He is looking forward to reconnecting with Bermuda and meeting race fans and fellow competitors during the weekend.
Smith first came to Bermuda in 1981 as a promising up-and-coming athlete. When he lined up for the international 10K that year he was slightly phased by the big name runners from North America. However, he won in 29.17 and returned to defend his title the following year.
“The first year I was a bit overawed because I did not know any of the other runners. The second year I knew what kind of shape I was in and I thought to myself ‘I’m going for it,’” he said. “Back then, when you were on the starting line you wanted to win and you ran.”
Recalling the race, he said: “I went through the first 5K in a very fast time. The lead vehicle was having trouble staying ahead, I don’t think they expected anyone to go as fast as I was running.”
Smith believes he might have gone under 28 minutes that day had it been a flat course. “The hill at the end took a bit out of me.”
Of his memories of Bermuda, Smith recalls tasting wonderful French Onion soup at Elbow Beach Hotel and going on training runs with legendary women’s long distance runner Grete Waitz, who raced nearly every race weekend in Bermuda during the 1980s. Waitz set the women’s 10K course record in 1982. Her time of 31.41 that never been beaten.
“She (Waitz) was a world class lady. I became good friends with her. She trained hard and when the guys went out for a run with her on the Sunday after the 10K she’d be doing six-minute miles. We’d be hanging on, no one would be able to talk because the pace was so good.”
Smith’s long distance credentials are impressive. At the peak of his career he was one of the toughest racers around, regularly pushing himself to his limits. He achieved back-to-back Boston Marathon victories in 1984 and 1985.
He played football as a youngster before taking up running when he was 21. He burst onto the scene in the UK in 1978. By the following spring he led the world’s 10,000m rankings. Then he suffered a shin splints injury and needed surgery.
In 1980 he competed in the Moscow Olympics and was hitting his peak years, training on average 115 miles per week. He won the prestigious Emsley Carr Mile race in England in a time of 3.55, and puts much of his success down to speed training and interval sessions.
“If you can’t train fast you can’t race fast,” he said, lamenting the comparatively slower times often seen in road races these days.
A running accident in 1990, when he fell badly on a gravel surface, ended Smith’s competitive career. He later had a double hip replacement.
Today he still follows the sport and occasionally coaches and holds workshops. Apart from tomorrow’s 10K, Smith is likely to be at various Bermuda Marathon Weekend functions and registration events to chat to competitors and members of the public.
He also hopes to do something he didn’t do in ‘81 and ‘82. “I’ve got to go to the Swizzle Inn, I missed it last time.”
Tomorrow’s HSBC Bermuda 10K race and walk starts outside the National Sports Centre at 9am.