By Wayne E. Rivet
For the past two years, Ryan Smith had run the L.L.Bean 10K on the Fourth of July.
This year, he decided to change it up and give Bridgton a try.
“I had heard great things about this race,” the Farmington resident said. “One of the athletes I coach mentioned she has done this race many times, so I decided to join in!”
It was a good decision.
The 24-year-old Smith posted a time of 20 minutes, 15 seconds to beat four-time and defending champion Moninda Marube, 41, of Auburn in the 43rd Annual Bridgton 4 on the Fourth Road Race. Marube finished in 20:53 — the same time he ran a year ago to win the four miler.
“I have not won very many races. I try to go to really big races and place as high as I can,” Smith said.
His biggest win had to be his finish last year at the Beach 2 Beacon race, where he was the top Mainer.
“I’d have to put that at the front. Overall, I got 17th though,” he said. “In terms of winning, I’d have to say my college conference cross-country meet. I was part of one of the most, if not the most, competitive conferences in the NAIA division. It took me four tries, but I won it my senior year with a big collegiate personal record at 8K (24:41). I have also always considered myself more of a cross-country person over track. That win was very special to me, because I had never won a cross-country conference meet, even if you include high school. To do that at the collegiate level, in my last year, really shows how much I worked to improve over the years, and how it will always pay off!”
Making his debut in Bridgton on the Fourth, Smith said his only strategy was to pace off five-minute miles and see what happened from there.
“I went out in 4:59 according to the mile marker, then hit 5:15, 5:08 then 4:53. I would say with the hills, it was a consistent effort. Those middle miles have a lot of climbing. I also wanted to be assertive on the up hills and let the downhills carry me,” he said. “It was certainly warm! I tend to race well when it’s hot and humid outside. That is not by mistake though. I always overdress when I run to get used to hotter weather. If it’s below 80 degrees, I’m wearing at least a long sleeve on my training runs. Many times with multiple long sleeves and/or jackets.”
How did the race unfold for Smith?
“I was actually mostly oblivious to what was happening. Everyone let me lead from the start. I do remember hearing multiple footsteps at the beginning,” he recalled. “I believe by the mile, it had thinned out. It wasn’t until 1.5 miles into the race that I couldn’t hear footsteps and I couldn’t tell who it was behind me. I was really just focusing on my effort.”
Behind Smith was Marube (41), Nick Brown (21) of Madison, N.H., Adam Goode (35) of Topsham and Tim Poitras (23) of Dracut, Mass.
As Smith made the turn onto Depot Street and heading toward the finish line, there was a huge gap before Marube appeared.
The space between the next group was tighter as Brown finished third in 21:20, Goode fourth in 21:24 and Poitras fifth in 21:40. Julian Gazzelloni (27) of Windham was sixth in 21:42 while Dominic Sclafani (19, who won the Harrison 5K Run by the Lake on Saturday) of Harrison was seventh in 22 minutes even.
“I didn’t have any expectations going into the race, but I was really happy with how it turned out. I actually ran a full marathon (26.2 miles) just 12 days before the race. I took a few days off after the marathon, and since then I’ve only done easy jogging,” Smith noted. “Being able to run that time on this course was great, given the context. It’s a good indicator of where I’m at in terms of fitness and training.”
Smith liked the idea of being part of a field that nearly topped 2,000 people, but “it felt like a race with only a few hundred. That small race atmosphere really takes the pressure off to perform.”
“I also loved the last half mile — there were so many people cheering. I was really surprised to see that big of a crowd in a small-town race. It really got me motivated to finish strong,” he said.
What is the most difficult aspect?
“The hills. No question. We could talk about the temperature and humidity, but there is a 160-foot incline from 1 mile to 2.5 miles (Pond Road onto Dugway Road) into the race. That’s no joke! It really tore up my calves. I’ve always been really strong up hills, but I don’t think I’ve had to climb something like that in a race,” he said. “With that being said, it actually made the race interesting. Anyone can run fast on flat courses, but try to run in those conditions with hills. That extra factor made it fun and challenging.”
When asked what he enjoys most about competitive running, Smith said, “The experiences. I have traveled all over the country for running. Many times, big races with lots of competitors. Even on the local scene, it’s such a great experience. You meet all sorts of people with the same ambitions. You get to exhibit all the training you’ve done in preparation for the race. My life would have been really boring for quite some time without running. Now, I have other things I can focus on (career, family, etc.), but running has really highlighted this first part of my young adult life!”
At the moment, Smith has only four races on his schedule from now until October — finishing with the Hartford marathon. The race range from 10K, 10 miles, and all the way up to 26.2 miles.
“I am trying to qualify for the Olympic Trials in the marathon, so that’s the ultimate goal. In training, I’ve gone as high as 120 miles in one week. I plan to get higher than that in preparation for the Hartford marathon,” he added. “My training really isn’t different from what many other competitive runners are doing. I do one long run and two harder workouts each week. The rest of my training consists of easy, seven-minute miles. I wake up anywhere from 3:45 to 4:30 a.m. every morning to get my longer run in before work (normally 10 miles, sometimes up to 16 or so), because I have to be at work by 7 a.m. Then, sometimes I’ll run again after work. I try to do a lot of miles on the weekends when I have more time, normally a 20-mile long run is one of those sessions. I’ve gotten up to a full marathon in practice before just to get ready for the distance!”
While Ryan Smith uses “the jogger” as part of his e-mail address, he was more like a sprinter to pull away from the field last Thursday to make his Bridgton debut a winning one.
The course record of 18:46 set by Colin Peddie in 1987 remained safe for another year.
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