There is fast and then there is Kyle Smith fast. UT PGE graduate student, Kyle Smith, finished fourth overall (and was the first Texan to cross the finish line!) at the 2013 Livestrong Austin Marathon with a time of 2:42:55.
His clocked finish was only about 34 minutes shy of the winning time at the 2012 London Olympics.
The marathon is a commemoration of the fabled run of the Greek soldier Pheidippides, a messenger from the to Athens in 490 BC. Only less than one percent of the U.S. population has completed the 26.2 mile gauntlet.
Smith began his days of running in middle school when he competed against his classmates. “I started running laps around a lot of my friends on the track, so I realized at that point, I had a knack for the sport,” said Smith. “Being a tall and lanky kid was definitely an asset when it came to running.”
He competed on his high school’s cross country team, which won the Virginia State Championship twice. His success in high school led him to compete on the cross country and track teams at Princeton University. Smith is now a second year masters’ student in the UT PGE department working alongside Dr. Larry Lake on reservoir engineering and economics.
“As a left brain, analytical thinker, I track all of my running times – practice and races – in an Excel sheet,” said Smith. “I used my past training as a guide for this marathon’s taper to ensure I had enough energy reserved for the race – it’s a bit like using decline curve analysis to judge a reservoir’s reserves.”
The Livestrong Austin Marathon was Smith’s first marathon in four years. As an undergraduate he competed in two a year, but not until he met UT PGE professor Maša Prodanović regarding her Team Energy running group did he get inspired to get back into the race.
“Dr. Prodanović got me excited about the opportunity – I wanted to train hard, so I ran six to seven days per week and ramped up my long runs to about 15-20 miles,” said Smith. “When I visited the East Coast during winter break I trained with a friend in New York City in 30 degree weather to stay strong.”
In the days leading up to the race Smith inhaled tons of pasta for the carb energy surge and then the morning of the race stuck with a modest piece of toast and banana. During the race Gatorade and water was key for his stamina about every five miles.
“I thought a Top 20 finish was realistic, but was shocked at taking fourth place,” said Smith. “The fear of ‘number five’ catching up to me kept me going. It is an amazing feeling to cross the finish line – everyone is cheering, which helps to take away the pain and then I just had to focus on not collapsing since my body was completely stripped of its energy. “
Smith plans on taking it easy for a while, running 5Ks, but is open to competing in The Livestrong Austin Marathon again next year. If this year was any sign of what’s to come, the out-of-state runners won’t want to mess with Texas!