After years of study, it’s my educated belief that runners are just about the most generous, selfless subspecies out there. We are known for our positive spirit and almost all of us do what we can to help our fellow runners and try to encourage newbies to join our ranks. That’s just who we are.
So it is, we say good bye today to a man who epitomizes so much of what is good about Austin’s running community. His name is Walter Smith and yesterday he pulled up stakes as he and his wife Sheila reluctantly moved on to Broomfield, Colorado for work purposes.
It was just three years ago that a bunch from Gilbert’s Gazelles were crossing Longhorn Dam when this guy just hooked up with them to finish a long run. Back then, Walter wasn’t much of a runner but he made up for lost time, culminating with a 2:48:55 PR last fall in the Chicago Marathon. Great stuff, especially remarkable for a 53-year-old (sixth in his age group).
While Smith was certainly proud of his marathoning, it was his generosity toward others which set him apart. We’ve all probably paced others in races, but for Walter, it was practically his calling. In the past six months, he has paced at least five other friends and club mates to PRs in marathons from Austin to Boston to Vancouver to LA.
It’s one thing to jump into a local race and pace a friend, but Smith had to jump on a plane, pay an entry fee, get a hotel and—of course—run a goal pace that wasn’t his. To do that is hard enough, but Smith’s precise pacing led to personal bests this year for all his friends, except one (who PR’ed at Boston last year when Smith paced her).
He never once complained about the expense or the fact that he was sacrificing a marathon of his own to help others. That’s just who he is. A few months ago I mentioned that doing so much marathon pacing for others might not be the best thing for attaining his lofty goals.
But, he didn’t much care.
His goal was an ambitious sub-2:40 at Berlin this fall (which he has now postponed to 2016 because of the move to Colorado). Maybe after a year of altitude training Walter will knock down that goal, but what has truly mattered to him (and his running) was helping his friends reach their goals.
For that, Walter Smith left an indelible mark.
O The World Masters Championships began on Tuesday and the US has sent a team of 426 athletes (35 and older) to Lyon, France with a sizable contingent coming from Central Texas. Austinites entered include Carmen and Ricardo Troncoso, Jeff Brower, Kent Brown, Don Keller, Alex Hoefler, Austin McCormack, Mary Faria, Rudolph Rendon, Cameron Bird and Don Stricklin. Others who are entered include Brad McFarling (College Station), Carol Finsrud (Lockhart), Lewis Edmonson and Don Curry of Bryan, Kerry Sloan (Harker Heights) Darrell Harriman (Devine), Herb Accord (Wimberly), Carl Clark (Rising Star), Tom Dalke (Pflugerville) and Steve Campbell and Gavin Thorne of San Antonio. Also, two shoe friends of mine—Kevin Paulk of Nike and Mike McManus of Adidas—are also running. Hopefully, we’ll have some results next week.
O Two recent UT grads—Ryan Dohner and Craig Lutz—have joined the professional ranks. Both Dohner and Lutz, the top two distance runners for UT, have moved to Flagstaff to join the Northern Arizona Elite team, sponsored by Hoka One.
O Former Cedar Park HS stud and University of Oregon graduate Parker Stinson, finished seventh in the recent Wharf to Wharf 6-Miler (Santa Cruz to Capitola) in Northern California. The 23-year-old Stinson, who has been dipping his toes in the professional waters, finished in 27:43 and was the third American, behind local Brett Gotcher and Scott Smith of Tulsa.
O In his spare time, Stinson has been coaching Matthew Maton, the former Austinite, who ran a 3:59 mile this spring while in his senior year of high school. Stinson must know what he’s doing. Maton won the USATF Junior 5000 in 14:47 which qualified him for the Pan Am Junior team. Then, last weekend Maton won the Pan Am Junior 5000 meters in 14:20 in Edmonton. Maton will join his sister Ashley (Stinson’s girlfriend) in the fall on the Oregon team.
O One of the truly great races of yesteryear was the International Run Against Crime—a 15-K in El Paso which had a world-class field (Joan Samuelson, Rob de Castella, Carlos Lopes, Steve Jones, etc) and was the perfect pre-fall marathon prep. The race started in El Paso at Dudley Field baseball park went through downtown and then crossed over a bridge into Juarez before finishing back at the ball park in El Paso. But the race died 15 years ago in the aftermath of 9-11 due to heightened border security. On this Saturday (August 8th), the first Run Internacional: The US-Mexico 10-K will be held as a sign of reunification of the border cities of El Paso and Juarez. The race will start in downtown El Paso and then cross into Juarez before finishing on top of the Paso Del Norte Bridge at the border crossing. Americans will be required to carry a passport to get back into El Paso. For more info go to www.raceadventuresunlimited.com.
O Patricia Walsh of Austin has earned a provisional spot on the US Paralympic Triathlon team. Walsh was the top American who competed in the qualifying race at Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil last weekend and earned a bronze medal overall. She can clinch a “country” spot at the Paralympics in Rio by either winning the World Champs or being ranked in the top six International Triathlon Union rankings. Coached by James Cotter and guided by Jessica Jones Meyers, Walsh is confident she’ll race again in Brazil at the Paralympics. Let’s hope so.
O Congrats to Jared and Megan Carson on their announcement that they are expecting their first child—a son in February. Evidently, their first child will be a singleton and not a twin. (Jared is an identical twin.)
O The 13th annual Zilker Relays will be held in a month on…the evening of September 11th (9-11). But race director Paul Perrone is embracing the race date. “We understand that 9-11 is a tough date to celebrate anything,” says Perrone. “So we are encouraging teams to get out and show off their Red, White and Blue as a show of support for all those who were lost on that day.” Perrone, an avid cyclist, is also partnering with the Ghisallo Cycling Initiative and the Texas Cyclocross Project to promote cycling as transport and recreation in Austin. To enter or for more info go to www.zilkerrelays.com.
O Gilbert Tuhabonye will speak on August 18 (a Tuesday) at the Westlake Community Luncheon at the Austin Country Club. The head Gazelle who is a co-founder of the Gazelle Foundation, will speak at 11:30 a.m. Tuhabonye’s speech and the luncheon is open to the general public. To buy tickets go to www.westlakechamber.com.
O There might be a name change soon for the Texas Running Company stores (two in Austin; one in Sugar Land). According to Running Insight, The Running Specialty Group of Denver (which is owned by the Finish Line) will rebrand all its 76 stores nationally as JackRabbitt Sports. JackRabbitt Sports is the name of four running stores in New York City that were gobbled up in March by The Running Specialty Group which then hired JackRabbitt’s founder and owner Lee Silverman to oversee branding for the group.
O What I’m listening to this morning: “Who’s Next,” the epic ’71 album by The Who.
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