Legend Smith eyes the challenge
He ran the fastest 10K Bermuda has ever seen — and in the intervening 33 years no one has come near his record-setting Island feat.
One of the Bermuda Marathon Weekend’s legendary winners Geoff Smith is returning this year for his third comeback appearance, and he intends to run in as many of the races as he can.
At 61, Smith is under no illusions that he can recapture the breathtaking achievements of 1981 and 1982 when he won the 10K. His second victory, in 28 minutes 14 seconds, remains the Island’s all-comers record. At the time it was just 17 seconds outside of the world record.
A two times Olympian and twice winner of the Boston Marathon, Smith is quick to emphasis he will be “running” in this weekend’s events, as opposed to “competing”.
He has learned not to push himself beyond what his body can sensibly handle. He paid the price last year while building up for the Bermuda events.
“I was running good all the way through December. I could cover a half-marathon on my own in training in under two hours. But then I pulled a hamstring,” he said.
That sidelined him from last year’s races, and he instead busied himself helping out on the start and finish lines.
A year earlier, in 2013, Smith had trouble with a hip flexor muscle, and managed only the Friday night mile race.
This weekend should be different. Smith, who hails from Liverpool, England, but has lived most of life in the US, is looking at a possible Bermuda Triangle Challenge — a mile, 10K and half-marathon.
“Right now I’m healthy and slow. I’ve done runs of up to 72 minutes and at the moment I can do a 5K in 27 minutes. So I should be able to break the hour for the 10K and perhaps manage the half-marathon in 1:50.
“I’m looking to run the mile and the 10K and then see how things go,” he said. He admits his over enthusiasm during training last year cost him the opportunity to take part.
“I was thinking maybe I could win my age group and I was in really good shape, and then I pulled my hamstring.
“This year I’m just going out there to enjoy myself and run.”
Smith has an esteemed place in the history of the Bermuda Race Weekend, thanks to his mesmerising wins in the early 1980s, especially 1982 when he blitzed a quality race field.
A few years ago, as he recalled his victory of ‘82, 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.”
No other runner has run sub-29 minutes on the 10K course, other than Marty Ludwikowki who was a distant second to Smith that day in 28:59. The fastest woman in the 1982 race was another legend, Norway’s Grete Waitz, who set an unbeaten women’s record of 31:41.
Smith said: “From what I remember it is a relatively flat course, and a bit hilly in the last mile.”
After setting his Bermuda 10K record in 1982, Smith achieved back-to-back Boston Marathon victories in 1984 and 1985.
A running accident in 1990, when he fell badly on a gravel surface, ended his competitive career.
However, three years ago, weighing 180lb, Smith made the decision to get back into shape.
“I didn’t run for a long, long time. I weighed 180lb and I looked at myself and said I needed to do something,” he said.
“I had started putting on races and had friends come down to do a Santa race. I put on a Santa suit and sneakers and managed to do 5K. That gave me some momentum.”
When bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon in 2013, Smith, who was there as a guest former champion, was inspired to get back in shape to once more run the world’s most historic marathon. That was his ultimate ambition until he was hit by the hamstring injury on the eve of last year’s Bermuda races.
His training recovered to the point that he was close to breaking 20 minutes for 5K during the summer before an achilles injury forced him to take a few months off. Since returning to training he has been taking it steady and now has a new outlook on running.
“It’s about getting competing out of your mind. If I can do that I can run for a long time,” he said.
“My goal is to run and be good and healthy, not kill myself. I want to run for the moment, enjoy myself and run consistently.”
Smith will be wearing race bib number 2244.