Andrew Alderson

Andrew Alderson is a sport writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Athletics: Smith ponders NY tactics

Kim Smith. Photo / Getty Images
Kim Smith. Photo / Getty Images

Promising marathoner Kim Smith has not given up on her front running tactics.

Smith is busy pounding roads around her home in Providence, Rhode Island, aspiring to be the third New Zealander after Allison Roe (1981) and Rod Dixon (1983) to win the New York Marathon next month.

The 29-year-old will race on November 6 through New York's five boroughs, having shown potential at the distance if her efforts in April's Boston Marathon are an indication.

Smith led by 30s at the halfway mark of that event before a right calf injury saw her exit the race around the 30km mark.

"Any niggle can turn into something larger," Smith says. "You've got to be 100 per cent healthy on the start line. At Boston, I felt a minor twinge a couple of days beforehand, then it became a big problem during the race."

Still, Smith's plan was sound - get out to a lead so you're not boxed in or outkicked by the perennially strong African contingent in the last 10km.

Smith has not ruled out using the same tactic in New York or even London where she intends to race the Olympic marathon next August.

"I had a tail wind to work with in Boston, so my coach and I decided it might be better to go out fast for an advantage, otherwise the other runners can keep it at a jog for the most part, working as a pack, until they take off in the latter stages. That's what happened in New York last year [Smith finished fifth], so I tried to do something different.

"This time, I'll try to be more conservative in how hard I go out, but you've got to take the Kenyans into account. They have been dominant this year [with five of the eight best times and winning in London, Paris, Berlin and Prague] and they are tough to beat, especially as a unit. It is daunting running against them."

Dixon sounded a note a caution about Smith's tactics.

"She's not going to run away from the world's top runners," he says. "In Boston, she gave it a go and I applaud her for that but if she thought she was going to get away from them, she was making a mistake."

Coming from a track background - Smith still holds the New Zealand 5000m and 10,000m records - she claims to be adjusting to the distance, although setting a national record of 2h 25m 21s in her debut at London last year for eighth place was an outstanding start. However, despite being New Zealand's current top women's marathon runner, she is yet to reach to achieve the fame brought by Roe's New York and Boston triumphs in 1981, or Lorraine Moller's bronze at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

"It is a weird distance but I'm starting to feel more comfortable on the road. The marathon is still scary; the track is much easier to predict because you get a regular gauge on your competitors' distances.

"[Athens Olympic marathon bronze medallist] Deena Kastor once told me that even if you're in the best shape of your life, every time you're on the start line, it still feels like your first marathon."

Smith has shone in her preparation for New York, winning the Philadelphia half marathon in 1h 07m 11s, the fastest time run by a woman in the US and a time which broke her national record set at New Orleans in February.

"I was surprised how well it went, given I was tired going in," Smith says. "I hadn't been racing because of my marathon training until that point."

Dixon was impressed with Smith's record run.

"I was in Philadelphia and saw Kim run her half marathon. Her tenacity and focus was evident.

"She runs aggressively, puts her head down almost like Paula Radcliffe and it was probably the perfect preparation for New York."

Smith says the New York Marathon is likely to be her last before London. She intends to come back to New Zealand for four months in December to train and avoid the worst of the American winter.

- Herald on Sunday

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