Going into Sunday’s 12th B.A.A. Half Marathon, the finale of the inaugural B.A.A. Distance Medley, Kim Smith has the edge over her closest rival in cumulative time, personal best, and experience at the distance.
“I feel pretty confident,” said Smith, 30, who is training to compete in the ING New York City Marathon on November 4. The men’s and women’s winners of the three-race B.A.A. series, which began with the B.A.A. 5K in April and the B.A.A. 10K in June, will each earn a whopping $100,000.
She, along with the five other top contenders for the medley prize, addressed the media Friday at a pre-race press conference hosted by the Boston Athletic Association.
Smith, a half-marathon specialist, holds a 16-second lead in the series over Ethiopia’s Aheza Kiros. She has also competed in the half-marathon distance at least a dozen times, while Kiros has but two half-marathon finishes on her resume; and Smith has a personal best of 1:07:11—the fastest half-marathon ever run in the United States—to Kiros’s 1:09:10.
Still, said Kiros, “I trained very good, so God knows.”
And Smith is not without concern. ““It is a comfortable lead,” she said, “but it is also a long race, so that can get eaten up quickly.”
Kiros finished second in the 5K in 15:21; Smith was third in 15:26. The New Zealander who lives and trains in Providence, RI, came roaring back to win the 10K over Kiros in 31:36 to her rival’s runner-up time of 31:57, giving Smith the edge in cumulative time, 47:02–47:18.
On the men’s side, however, the series is much tighter, setting up a dramatic finish on Sunday in which one second could decide who goes home with the winner-take-all $100,000. Ethiopia’s Ali Abdosh, the B.A.A. Half Marathon defending champion, comes into the race tied with Sam Chelanga of Kenya for the series lead, with identical cumulative times of 42:21. Two more Kenyans, Allan Kiprono and Lani Rutto, are close behind, at 42:25 and 42:26.
Neither Abdosh, a 5000-meter specialist, nor Chelanga, the 2011 NCAA champion at 5000 meters and 2010 NCAA champion at 10,000 meters, brings a wealth of experience at the distance. Neither, for that matter, does Kiprono or Rutto, who will be making his half-marathon debut.
“Half marathon like for me is full marathon,” said Abdosh. “It’s very long and very hard.”
Smith, on the other hand, is nothing if not versatile. Her three Olympic appearances have been at three different distances: 5000 meters, 10,000 meters, and the marathon. “So many people told me when they heard about [the new medley] that it was made for me,” she said.
Asked how running the B.A.A. Half Marathon will affect her preparations for the ING New York City Marathon, Smith acknowledged that, although she runs her best half-marathons while readying herself for a marathon, her coach, Ray Treacy, prefers she run them two months beforehand rather than just a month.
“But for this one he completely understands,” she said, “that there’s a lot of money involved.”
“Our races are to our sport what Wimbledon and the Australian, U.S., and French Opens are to tennis, and what the Masters, U.S., and British Opens and PGA Championship are to golf. Each race has the history, the tradition, the honor roll of legendary champions, and a special place in the eyes of all to make them stand apart from the other events.” Mary Wittenberg