Athletics: Kiwi dodges ash delays

By Steve Landells

New Zealand distance runner Kim Smith believes dodging the crippling travel delays caused by the volcanic ash cloud could work to her benefit ahead of tonight's (NZT) London Marathon.

Unlike many of her rivals who have found air travel nearly impossible because of airspace closure across much of northern Europe, Smith enjoyed a relatively trouble-free journey to London, leaving her fresh and focused for arguably the biggest test of her career.

The US-based Kiwi booked a flight from Boston to Dublin during a small window last Saturday when the giant ash cloud spewing from a volcano in Iceland briefly cleared.

After five days in the Irish capital, she completed the journey on Wednesday, hopping on a plane to London after provisionally booking a ferry.

"For sure I had the best journey [of the other athletes]," she said. "I think it's going to help [in Sunday's race].

"I had booked a flight to the UK the day the volcano first erupted. I looked into the other options and managed to get on a flight to Ireland. It was weird for just one day the flights opened, so it was good timing and good luck."

Other athletes have not been so fortunate. London Marathon organisers chartered a special flight from Kenya to bring more than 25 elite athletes at a cost of £110,000 ($238,000).

Meanwhile, the 2009 London Marathon runner-up Mara Yamauchi - and one of Smith's main rivals - endured a mammoth six-day journey from Denver via Portugal, Spain and France before finally arriving in England.

The comparative travel schedules were revealing at the pre-race press conference. Yamauchi looked tired and haggard, Smith fresh and alert.

The 28-year-old from Papakura failed to finish her debut marathon in New York in 2008 after picking up a bug, but many believe her natural endurance is best suited to the distance.

She posted a New Zealand half marathon record of 1:07.55 in New Orleans last month and is targeting Allison Roe's 29-year-old national marathon record of 2:26.46.

"My coach [Ray Treacy] believes I can run under 2:25 and there's not much point [running marathons] if I can't," Smith said.

"If I can't run that fast, I'll probably go back to running 10km. I want to be a marathon runner really badly."

- Herald on Sunday

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