May 18, 2015

Over Hill and Dale, Runner from Scotland Finishes Cap 10K in Bonny Time

Dave Smith, 49, thought the Austin race was hot, humid, hilly and hard. Still, he finished 95th overall out of nearly 14,500 participants. Photo by Hilary Pearson/Reporting Texas

Dave Smith, 49, found the Austin Capitol 10,000 race hot, humid, hilly and hard. Still, he finished 95th out of nearly 14,500 participants and fifth in his 45-49 age group. Photo by Hilary Pearson/Reporting Texas

By Rachel Thompson
For Reporting Texas

Like many runners, Dave Smith arose early that Sunday and laced up his sneakers, ready to race.

Unlike most of his competitors in Austin’s Capitol 10,000, Smith had just flown across the Atlantic.

Smith, a 49-year-old engineer from Edinburgh, Scotland, decided to run the race when a colleague in Austin suggested he incorporate the Cap 10K into a time-flexible business trip. The avid triathlete left his city’s clouds and cobblestone streets a few days before the race, neon green running shoes in tow. He flew to London, then boarded a flight to Austin.

He had visited Texas earlier, but this was his first trip to its capital. Hot, he thought upon arriving. And, to his surprise, green.

Smith assembled for the race on April 12 with a team of fellow engineers at Cirrus Logic, his wiry frame clad in shorts and a cobalt blue T-shirt.

As a voice bellowed the countdown to race time, he edged up to the starting point, just behind the elite runners, then darted down Congress Avenue and up the hilly terrain.

The competition was like a protein-packed, pre-race meal. He fed off it.

“I’m driven by the challenge,” Smith said in an interview the next day. “If I see a hill somewhere, I want to get to the top of it. A lot of people just see a really big hill.”

The Cap 10K, which began 38 years ago, is as quirky and multifaceted as Austin. Before the race, a woman muttered, “Do the naked people run in this race?” As soft rain fell on the nearly 14,500 participants making their way up Congress Avenue, one man stood on the sidewalk, a life-size cutout of his wife’s face in his hand and his children by his side. A woman sported a hat with a can of Lone Star dangling from it as she ran.

“The Statesman Capitol 10,000 race has grown from a small, local race to the largest 10K race in Texas,” senior events manager and race director Tracey Kennedy said in an email. “Despite the growth, it has retained its personality. Just as Austin attracts visitors near and far, so, too, does the Cap 10K.”

Such as Smith. This was the first time in his long career that he’d traveled by air to compete in a race.

Smith, a native of England, began cycling at 14. He got into running when he moved to a hilly Scottish town. When he started winning races, he trained more.

Two years ago, his son asked him to join a triathlon club. Smith hesitated. He could barely swim. He spent hours in the pool so he could concentrate on the the placement of his arms and legs in his stroke.

Now he races in about eight competitive events every year. They include timed cycling tours and an Iron Man event that includes a 1.9-kilometer swim, an 88-kilometer bike ride and a 21-kilometer run. The Cap 10K served as training for those exertions.

Smith is accustomed to Edinburgh’s flat terrain and said he struggled with Austin’s signature hills. After 5 km, he entered the “why am I doing this?” phase. By the final kilometer, he’d reached the “I want this to stop” stage. He still finished 95th overall — fifth in his 45-49 age group — in 40 minutes, 37 seconds.

He summed up the race in four words: hot, humid, hilly, hard. Still, he found reminders of home.

The course circled Town Lake, which made Smith think of his runs beside the Firth of Forth estuary that flows through Edinburgh. The city holds a race every Saturday.

“There’s a big culture of it,” he said of his city. “Runners are everywhere.”

James Dodds, a coach at Rogue Running, said camaraderie marks races like the Cap 10K and running itself.

“You can’t help but feel like you share something immediately,” he said. “Once you go through that and someone else went through the same thing, you end up sharing that and sometimes bonding because of it.”

The next day, Smith sounded eager to give it another go.

“Maybe next year,” he said with a smile. “Now I know the course.”