His journey ever on

By on February 12, 2014

Smith to celebrate latest birthday by giving back

“May the trail rise up to meet you

May your heart rejoice in song

May the skies be fair above you

As you journey ever on”

-Dan Fogelberg

Kirby Smith’s love of running and celebrating milestone birthdays has led to him once again figuring out a way to tie the two together for the benefit the community.

Kirby Smith (left) and Liz Hall hit a trail in Loyd Roland Park during a recent training run.  (Photo by Stan Hall)

Kirby Smith (left) and Liz Hall hit a trail in Loyd Roland Park during a recent training run. (Photo by Stan Hall)

For his 50th birthday back in 2004, he came up with the Frostbite Challenge Run. Now, inspired by the song, “Ever On,” by his favorite singer Dan Folgelberg, Smith will be honoring his late father Donald, who passed away last March, with a pair of projects in conjunction with his 60th birthday, which was Feb. 3.

For starters, the former Akron Mayor created the first annual Ever On Donald R. Smith Memorial 5K Cross Country Classic to be held Saturday, February 15, at 10 a.m. in Loyd Roland Park in Akron. Proceeds from that race will benefit the Ephrata Track and Field Booster Club.

Secondly, he is establishing The Ever On Donald R. Smith Memorial Scholarship, which will benefit one senior Ephrata High School cross country runner and one EHS track and field athlete as they continue their education in college. Both athletes will receive a one-time $1,000 scholarship when it’s announced at the EHS Senior Awards Ceremony in May.

“I got together with the Ephrata coaches and presented them with my ideas,” Smith said recently. “I really wanted to honor my dad’s memory, and the coaches were all real receptive.”

“It kind of came out of my love of the sport, as well as my dad’s,” he continued, “and just the blessings he left behind for us. I wanted to do something that would honor his memory and help a graduating senior…just help them on their pursuit, as well as helping out the program as a whole with the race.”

The race will be run on a unique course designed by Smith (with the help of Ephrata assistant Mike DelPiano) and will incorporate the entire park. It will feature running on several trail surfaces, negotiating some steep hills, as well as several well-placed obstacles along the way.

“It’s more of a European style,” Smith said. “Some times you are hurdling…you are not just on the same surface all of the time. It’s pretty cool. It’s a challenging course. You are going to hit a hill the first mile. It’s up and down, rolling…you are in and out. It’s cool. It’s what I wanted. I wanted something unique, and everyone thought it was really cool. I just kind of gave the reigns to (DelPiano) and he kind of ran with it.”

Smith said plans are in place to make the race an annual event. Cash prizes will be awarded for first and second place finishers.

For registration forms, contact Smith at: kns2354@dejazzd.com. Cost is $30, including race day. Race day registration will be held at the Lions Lodge located in the park.

“And in this planetary circle

We are but a single stone

Spinning on our fragile axis

Through the endless night alone”

A one-time running junkie, Smith competed in races all across the country. In fact, in 1987 he ran the Boston Marathon and finished in a time of 2:38.57, which placed him in the top four percent of the finishers.

While he never lost his passion for running, Smith gradually slowed down and gave up competing for awhile to focus on other things such as his dietary-supplement business in Akron.

But his fire was rekindled a few years ago when he was asked to speak to a group of runners at the Ephrata Rec Center. He’s been going strong ever since.

“That kind of recharged me,” Smith said. “I was running at the time but I wasn’t really passionate about anything. But I was invited to talk to the running club at the Rec Center, and then they invited me to come and run with them.”

That group was training for a half-marathon, and through that he was inspired to teach and mentor, which he thoroughly enjoyed.

“It was kind of cool,” he said. ‘That kind of recharged my running, my running personally and my running in giving…the mentoring and teaching. I made some friends at the Rec and we still run now. I met two or three really close people. That’s been good.”

He also began taking on other students, such as Hempfield junior Kim Campbell, as well as Liz Hall, a 24-year-old Ephrata resident who is training for her first marathon.

Campbell, who finished fourth in the L-L League Meet two years ago and was eighth last season, has really been making strides under Smith’s tutelage.

“I’m all about diet and supplementation and rest,” Smith said. “That’s a tough age for girls, and there are a lot of things you have to deal with. But we talk about it and we are making strides. The coaches teach a lot of the techniques and the mechanics, and I’m into a lot of that stuff. But I’m more there for the nutritional help and encouragement. Sometimes they just need to know they are doing OK. It’s a demanding sport, and a lot of mental stuff goes into it.”

He says he relishes the role of teacher, and looks forward to working with more runners.

“This phase of my running life has been special,” he said. “Because I’m doing more now with teaching and giving back. It’s been pretty amazing, some of the things that have happened, and I look forward to more opportunities as I get more confident in it.”

It’s also sparked his interest in competition again. He’s been running 25-30 miles a week and is currently in training for his first competition as a 60-year-old as he will run the Garden Spot Half-Marathon on April 12. He’s also hoping to run the Long Beach Island 18-Mile Run in October.

“I actually wasn’t competing but I started to run a couple races,” Smith said. “I got more fit, so then I started looking at age groups and trying to run with guys in my age group. We went over to Bird-In-Hand and I came in second in my age group in the 5K. That got me enjoying it again, so I started looking at other guys and seeing what they are doing. I’m excited.”

“May your love be there to guide us

May it always keep us strong

May we walk within your footsteps

As you lead us ever on”

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