Colin Smyth - Rotorua Marathon Survivor and Motivator
The Survivors Club is for those who have completed 15 or more Rotorua Marathons, and recognises those who have proven their staying power by tackling New Zealand’s most popular marathon numerous times.
Colin Smyth stands at the top of the Survivor’s list. Officially this year’s event was his 44th Rotorua and his 102nd marathon overall. He has walked the last four Rotorua’s as a recreational walker, finishing this year in 6hr 9min. He says that he has an arthritic knee and they won’t let him run. He may not be taking part in the Rotorua next year as he has travel plans.
Colin Smyth (right) and his wife Pat (left), both help out at the local Marathon Clinic. Pictured here at the 2008 Rotorua Marathon.
Yes, officially this was his 44th Rotorua Marathon - this does not include the one that was cancelled a few years ago because of the rain and flooding.
Of the year that it was cancelled Colin says – “A group of 45 of us went out and ran it the following Saturday, we had done all the training and did not want to waste the training.”
But unofficially this was his 48th. In 1962 he actually participated and helped to start the marathon around Lake Rotorua as a club marathon, which continued in this format for the next three years.
Colin says that “in 1965 we had a chap running with us who worked for Fletchers and that’s how the original sponsor got involved”. It became the Fletcher Marathon but has now become one of Athletics New Zealand’s own events.
Colin’s most memorable moments at Rotorua include winning the unofficial marathon in 1964 in 2hr 46min. He says “In 1965 I just missed third place by 50 seconds. I chased Gary Sissons for the last 10k -I tried to catch him but just missed out on third.”
Derek Wilson was Colin’s coach when he first started running. Derek was a builder and Colin was a plumber. They were working on a job together after Colin had been playing rugby in the weekend – Colin had apparently split his eye open in the rugby scrum on the Saturday. Derek noticed the eye and after finding out what had happened said - “what the hell you doing that (rugby) for? You ought to come out and run with us.” Colin now says ” I was always keen on running, but there was no one there to coach me, so I went out running with the local harriers and it nearly killed me – but I went back the next Saturday”. He has been involved with athletics ever since.
Colin’s fastest marathon time is 2hr 39min 21sec at the Owairaka Marathon in 1967. He has also competed in ultra-marathons from 50 kilometre runs to 24 hour runs. However his forte at the moment is motivating and training recreational walkers to participate. This came about when he was asked to take over the Marathon Clinic at the Lake City Athletic Club. Over the years he has brought a lot of runners through the clinic, but since becoming more involved with recreational walking, he has ended up with a huge walking group. As a result there are now more walkers than runners in the Marathon Clinic.
He really gets the most of his pleasure from motivating and advising the walkers. He uses the Arthur Lydiard principles of long distance, but makes the walkers do twice as much as a runner would. He says “We walk for up to six hours in our training. This makes it a lot easier to go the marathon distance - that way the walkers keep coming back.”
“We start off training when daylight saving starts, in October, an hour on the first Sunday, then it’s increased by a quarter hour every Sunday. By Christmas we are doing three and a half hours, and that gives them a base where they can have a good Christmas dinner! We have a 10 week build-up then it’s another 10 weeks in the Whakarewarewa Forest on the hills.”
The walkers group has become so large that Colin takes the fast ones and his wife Pat takes the others. The interest has become so keen that 16 in his walking group want to go away for a trip which includes a marathon, so they have decided to do the London Marathon next year. As a result Colin does not think that he will probably not run the Rotorua next year.