In the final stages of training for the ING New York City Marathon on November 3, Kim Smith today became only the second B.A.A. Half Marathon champion to defend her title in the 13-year history of the race, winning handily and obliterating the course record with a time of 1:09:14.
In the process, the three-time Olympian from New Zealand also repeated as winner of the B.A.A. Distance Medley, in which the lowest cumulative time recorded in the B.A.A. 5K in April, the B.A.A. 10K in June, and today's half-marathon takes home $100,000, the largest non-marathon prize in road racing. Smith, who lives and trains in nearby Providence, RI, won the 5K in 15:16 and—competing with an injury—was runner-up in the 10K in 33:34.
Coming into the half-marathon, Smith had a lead of 2:11 on her nearest rival in the distance medley, Millicent Kuria of Kenya. Kuria was never a factor this morning.
Aheza Kiros of Ethiopia finished second, in 1:10:03, with Alice Kimutai of Kenya third in 1:10:37. Both of those times also broke the previous course record of 1:10:52, set by Caroline Rotich in 2010.
“I hadn’t raced in so long, I was just anxious to get out there,” said Smith, who hadn’t toed a starting line since the B.A.A. 10K on June 23 as she battled an Achilles injury. “It felt really smooth and easy. I purposely was slowing down the last two miles.”
Adding that the break from racing might be a blessing in disguise, Smith said: “Training’s been going really well. I knew I could [run this fast], but my coach didn’t want me to. It really felt pretty easy out there, so hopefully I didn’t leave it all out there for New York. I don’t feel like I did.”
Smith was in command on this golden autumn morning from the gun, with only Kiros and Kimutai able to withstand the quick early pace. The trio went through the 5-mile mark in 25:39, but Kimutai soon fell back. Smith and Kiros hit 10K in 31:48, and then the relentless Smith put in a surge up a hill on the far side of Jamaica Pond that left her running by alone the rest of the way.
“When I dropped them, I felt good at that stage,” said Smith. “I was like, ‘I think I’ve got it now.’”
As if the prospect of earning $6,000 for winning the race and $100,000 for the medley victory wasn’t enough, Smith had an added incentive to run well: her parents, Alan and Jeanette, were visiting from New Zealand and among the excited spectators.
“They came a long way,” Smith said, “so I had to put on a good show.”
Smith hopes that the next good show will come in New York: She is looking to improve on her fourth-place finish from 2010 and her fifth-place finish from 2011.
Said Smith: “I’ve never gotten top three in a major marathon, and that’s a big goal of mine.”
“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