Athletics: Huge payday would offer some pain relief

By Steve Landells

Kim Smith is confident her efforts to run through the pain barrier will help her land a bonanza US$100,000 ($121,700) road race prize tomorrow for a second successive season to cement her status as one of New Zealand's best paid sportswomen.

Twelve months ago, Smith secured the lucrative six-figure sum for winning the Boston Athletic Association Distance Medley - a series of three races run over 5km, 10km and a half-marathon determined on cumulative time.

This season, the athlete from Papakura goes into the climax race of the distance medley - the half-marathon - holding a commanding lead of 1 minute 11 seconds from Millicent Kuria of Kenya.

Not that this year's quest to secure the bounty has been straight forward. Back in June, at the second leg of the series - held over 10km - Smith's hopes of maintaining a series lead were plunged into jeopardy due to a foot injury and an Achilles tendon problem.

"I thought about dropping out of that race and the whole series," she explains, "but I thought, let's see what happens. I was in a lot of pain. My Achilles was really sore and I couldn't run really fast. I quickly decided I wasn't going out to win the race. I was just going to beat the other girls who were running in the distance medley. It was just a case of getting through without tearing anything too terribly."

Fortunately, for the Providence, Rhode Island-based distance runner, two of her main rivals in the series withdrew from the 10km race through injury and despite running in pain, Smith managed to finish second in 33m 32s - more than two minutes slower than her 10km road PB - to extend her lead in the series.

Sadly for Smith, the injury problems did not settle down and she was forced to withdraw from the World Championships, where she had been selected to compete for New Zealand in the 10,000m.

"It was disappointing, but I couldn't put in the speed work necessary to compete well," she says of her reasons for abandoning attempts to compete in Moscow.

Over the past couple of months Smith has returned to full training and although the foot is a little bit sore, she in a great position to strike for the US$100,000 first prize ahead of her plans to run next month's New York Marathon.

"I did a workout [recently] which was the best one I'd ever done," she admits. "I'm in pretty good half-marathon shape, so I'm feeling pretty confident. My coach [Ray Tracey] wants me to go as easy as I can ahead of New York. He doesn't want me to push it too hard. He just wants me to produce a solid race."

Besides the prize for the overall winner of the distance medley she would also land a further US$6000 ($7200) for first place in the half-marathon and the New Zealander admits she is surprised more big name athletes have not mounted an assault on the series.

Yet living just 45 minutes from Boston and with a range of events that match her talents, it has proved an irresistible challenge for the Kiwi, who celebrates her 32nd birthday next month.

"It is something that is really suited to me," she explains. "The half-marathon is my speciality and I'm a solid 5km and 10km runner as well. The series is perfect for me."

Last year she says she spent some of the winnings on a honeymoon in Hawaii for her and husband, Pat Tarpy, who were hitched in September 2012. However, the honeymoon did not pan out as she would have intended.

"We flew out the day after the New York Marathon, but because the race was cancelled [because of Hurricane Sandy] the honeymoon to Hawaii became more like a training trip and a stopover on the way to Japan where I went on to run the Yokohama Marathon. It wasn't much of a honeymoon."

So should she secure the US$100,000 for the second successive year does she intend to plan a second honeymoon?

"I think I'll hold off on the plans before I've won the money," she explains wisely. "I don't want to jinx myself."

- Herald on Sunday

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