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I’ve been running through pain barrier my whole career, says Smith

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His stride was graceful and elegant and the smile on his face suggested he was thoroughly enjoying himself, but most times nine-time Bermuda Half Marathon winner Kavin Smith was going through the pain barrier just to complete races.

At his peak Smith was a popular champion of Bermuda’s most popular road race, but various injuries from back to hip to chronic tendinosis in both achilles made running very difficult for Smith.

“Injuries, if you only knew the injuries,” said a grinning Smith as he began revealing something about himself that he knew would shock most people. “My bad races as far as the comfort of running far outnumber the good runs because of pains from injuries.

“My whole running career was running through injuries. I’ve had chronic tendinosis in both achilles and I ran with that the last 14 years of my career. You couldn’t touch them or massage them so I just ran through it and changed my running form. The majority of my races I had major back issues.

“In my running days I had so many comments from so many people about different things and how I’m running, I used to laugh to myself and think ‘if you only knew why I’m doing what I’m doing. It was fluent and that was the key because that was the way I had to learn to maximise to be able to run. I got a lot of injuries late in my life as a result of compensating for so long because I was flat-footed. Running wasn’t just running but I was exercising other muscles so that I could run straight.

”When I was running a race I spent so much time focusing on being relaxed and not feeling the pain and it just got to the point that I got tired of doing it.”

Smith missed last year’s race as he stood on the streets of Hamilton and cheered current champion Chris Estwanik to a fifth straight record which has only twice been achieved before by Smith himself and another running legend Ed Sherlock. In 2001 Smith was seventh overall in a time that was about ten minutes slower than his fastest time and the previous year strolled to a 69th placing in 1:35.58.

At the age of 46, Smith, whose last Bermuda Day victory was in 2003, has long given up any hopes of a nice, round figure of ten victories, something he predicts the current champion Estwanik will one day surpass.

“Chris is in a different class, he’s an Olympic runner,” said Smith.

“I never went out to say I’m going to win ten or eight or seven, for me I just wanted to keep going and keep going until whatever happens happens,” said Smith. “What happened was I always knew I wasn’t going to be a real senior runner, with things that go along with life like a full time job, injuries and other things you want to do as you get older. I guess I just literally ran out of running.”

Smith says some days the pain in his achilles was so severe he could hardly walk. He spent so much time being treated by neuromuscular therapist Glenn Robinson of Ashlan Sports Clinic that he knows his phone number by heart.

“I can’t give enough thanks to Glenn who kept me going mentally and physically for at least half of my running career,” said Smith who revealed he was even advised by doctors to give up running. It was because of injuries that he had to give up a track scholarship at the University of Georgia.

After so many visits to doctors and other specialists, Smith has developed an understanding of how the body works and how one muscle group supporting another.

“I had to listen to my body, it wasn’t necessarily injuries but overuse tiredness and by backing off from running my body said ‘thank you’,” he explained.

“Everything was a result of my flat feet, no arch. When I forced myself to run straight the pain would go away.

“Running was tough but you never would have known. I went out on a limb sometimes because I was methodical about my training. When I raced it was Terrence (Armstrong), Jay (Donawa), Mike (Watson) and I made sure I did my homework.

“The main reason I stuck with running after I left the college scene was I didn’t want to say ‘only if’. Some said ‘Kavin, bye, if I had kept running I would have put some licks on you’. I made that commitment I wasn’t going to be an ‘iffer’.

“I appreciate the public because they gave me that respect and it means a lot to me, especially now when you meet ladies 80 or 90 years old in their homes, because I work for Telephone Company, and they are glad for the opportunity to meet me.”

On the ball: Runner Kavin Smith works out with personal trainer Amy Turner at Ashlan Sports Clinic in this 2009 file photo.
Kavin Smith runs through the pain as he completes the 2006 Bermuda Day half marathon in fifth place.

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Published May 16, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated May 15, 2013 at 5:09 pm)

I’ve been running through pain barrier my whole career, says Smith

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