By Chris Lotsbom
NEW YORK (15-Mar) -- For New Zealand Olympian Kim Smith, Sunday's NYC Half could not have come at a better time. After focusing on the marathon for the better part of four years and suffering through a tough end to 2012, the 31-year-old has turned her attention to the 10,000m and half-marathon for 2013.
"This will be a good thing to have a break from it for a while," said Smith, speaking with reporters here on Friday. "It's hard, the marathon has been a little disappointing compared to the times I've run on the track in shorter distances."
Smith, who lives and trains in Providence, R.I., has started seven marathons since debuting here in 2008. Having not improved upon her personal best of 2:25:21 --a New Zealand record, set in her first completed marathon back in 2010-- Smith was somewhat discouraged by the distance. Her excellent credentials at 10,000m (30:35.54) and the half-marathon (67:11) haven't yet translated to superb performances at the marathon, yet.
She's even had some bad luck. Among her tough breaks were a DNF at the Boston Marathon in 2011 (due to a torn soleus muscle as she was leading the race) and last year's cancellation of the ING New York City Marathon.
The latter may have been the straw that --temporarily-- broke the camel's back and convinced Smith and coach Ray Treacy to skip a spring marathon. After trying to race the Yokohama Marathon two weeks after the New York City cancellation, Smith was dejected.
"My coach was thinking I just needed a mental break more than anything," she said. "My training was going so well for the last one [New York City], then having the disappointment of running badly in Yokohama (6th, 2:27:35), and cancelling this [New York City Marathon] was kind of a miss there.
"It just ended up being not a great situation and I just think I needed a break from doing a marathon. Just a break from the pressure of it," she described.
After passing on a spring marathon, Smith plans to turn her focus towards the track, where she will specialize in the 10,000m. But, the Kiwi says she will return to the marathon distance eventually, possibly as soon as next fall.
"I'd like to one day get a marathon right," she chuckled.
One benefit of taking to the track will be the opportunity to run every track session with Americans Molly Huddle and Amy Hastings, both of whom also reside in Providence and are focused solely on the oval this season.
"We'll all be training for the track, so it will be good to all be doing the same thing and doing workouts together," Smith said. "I haven't really been on the track at the same time Molly's been doing track stuff [in the past], so it'll be good to do some workouts with her."
Entering Sunday's NYC Half, Smith is excited considering the fitness she has shown recently. She is hoping to use her experience from last year's runner-up finish to her benefit.
"It was a great race last year," Smith said. After going out very hard for the first 5 km --the hardest and hilliest of the course-- Smith learned her lesson: to be a bit more patient over the hills of Central Park. "I think a few people in the race like to run hard [from the start], are kind of front runner type people, so I think it will be interesting."
With a tailwind expected on Sunday morning for the second half of the race, Smith is eager to toe the line and see what happens, expecting fast times to come along. With the lowest personal best in the field, she is considered a prime favorite along with 2011 champion Caroline Rotich and American Olympian Janet Bawcom.
"This has come at a good time and it's a distance I feel comfortable with, so I'm excited to get out there and race," she said.
PHOTO: Kim Smith after speaking to reporters prior to the 2013 NYC Half (Photo by Chris Lotsbom for Race Results Weekly)