Scott Smith is retiring (with a soft “r” in his own words). So we thought we’d look back at his top 10 races as a member of HOKA NAZ Elite. Here goes:
10. 2014 USATF Championships/Twin Cities Marathon
Scott’s first marathon as a member of HOKA NAZ Elite was a darn good one. A slow, tactical first half (1:07:48) kept a number of athletes in contention for the win until Scott himself made a big push to break things up, running a 4:50 20th mile. Only two runners kept up and eventually beat him that day: Tyler Pennel and Jared Ward. All three athletes would go on to have stellar marathon careers with Ward making the Olympic Team in 2016.
9. 2015 World Championships
This one makes the list not necessarily because of the result–28th place in 2:24:53 in the hot and humid conditions of Beijing–but because of its significance. At that point the team was only in its second year, and its first with its new title sponsor, HOKA ONE ONE. For Scott to represent the U.S. at the World Track and Field Championships was a big deal for Scott and for the team. He would learn a lesson on how to compete in the heat that day as well, a lesson he’d need at the 2016 Olympic Trials.
8. 2021 Boston Marathon
In what turned out to be his final race with the team, Scott finished 17th place in 2:14:29. On paper, it wasn’t his greatest result but, objectively, the 2021 Boston field was incredibly deep and the day was not particularly fast (only one athlete broke 2:10:00). Scott was the fourth American in the race that day, one spot behind his longtime teammate and friend, Scott Fauble. There was a lot of meaning for Scott on this day. His wife Nicole, pregnant with their first child, was in Boston to cheer him on and Scott recounted saying to himself in the final miles, “She’s going to remember her ****’in dad.”
7. 2015 USATF Club Cross Country Championships
The consummate teammates, Scott and Ben Bruce had to step up and help the young bucks (Scott Fauble, Ryan Dohner and Craig Lutz) try and win the Club Cross Country title in San Francisco at famed Golden Gate Park. With the Olympic Trials Marathon only a couple of months away, we couldn’t afford to risk anything so Scott and Ben had to run in racing flats while the rookies spiked up. In classic Scott Smith fashion, he ran a calculated, smart race, finishing 17th to help us sew up the victory. HOKA NAZ Elite went 3-11-16-17-23 for a dominating win.
6. 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials
What do they say in sports–it’s not just about the results, it’s also about the process? Or something like that. For Scott, and for our team, the 2020 Olympic Trials and everything that went into it will always be special. Coming off a personal best in Chicago a few months prior, Scott absolutely had a chance to make the team. So did his teammate Scott Fauble. So did his teammates Stephanie Bruce, and Kellyn Taylor, and Aliphine Tuliamuk. The entire training segment was chronicled in a documentary film that would come out after the Trials called A Time and a Place. Unfortunately, Scott came down with a nasty flu five weeks out from the race that forced him to miss several key workouts and left him lethargic and congested for a considerable period of time. By race day he was back to feeling good and ran with total confidence but could only muster a 19th-place finish in 2:14:29.
5. 2019 Bank of America Chicago Marathon
For a long time in U.S. men’s marathoning, it was a really big deal to break 2:12:00. Scott was part of a historic day on the streets of Chicago that changed all that. Helped by the pacing of teammate Matt Baxter, Scott and a huge pack of Americans came through halfway in 1:05:25, and ten would go on to break 2:12. Scott was the sixth American and finished 15th overall in a then personal best of 2:11:14.
4. 2016 Olympic Marathon Trials
This may have been the fittest Scott ever was for a marathon, or for any race actually. His training segment included some of the best workouts of his life as he and then teammate Matt Llano were firing on all cylinders. The race, which started at 10:06 am in Los Angeles on an unseasonably warm February day, turned into somewhat of a war of attrition. As temperatures rose to near 80 degrees under an unrelenting sun, the lead pack whittled down to only a few major players after Tyler Pennel ran the 17th mile in 4:50. Eventual race winner Galen Rupp and eventual runner-up Meb Keflezighi covered the move with Shadrack Biwott (seven seconds back) and Scott (eight seconds back) the only others to hang on. That mile would cost Scott later but his only chance to make the Team was to cover it and he did. He would go on to finish 14th, a place he would equal a few months later in the 10,000 meter final at the Track and Field Trials in Eugene.
3. 2017 Mainova Frankfurt Marathon
Some training segments are just more memorable than others for whatever reason. This one was that way. Scott and teammates Scott Fauble and Matt Llano really clicked in the months leading up to Frankfurt, tearing up workouts on Lake Mary Rd as they prepared for a race that would serve as Fauble’s debut and Llano’s comeback from labrum surgery. Interestingly, Scott Smith probably had the “worst” segment of the three, failing to hit some of the key sessions in the build-up. On race day though, it was Scott who took charge, leading the way on a windy day in Germany and running a then two-minute personal best of 2:12:21–a team record at the time. Fauble finished close behind in 2:12:35 with Llano coming home in 2:13:42. It was a big moment for the team.
2. 2018 Boston Marathon
It would be tough to say when Scott was the most fit, but it would certainly be a battle between 2016 before the Olympic Trials Marathon and 2018 before Boston. Unlike some training segments, where he struggled here and there on workouts but came through on race day, this segment was epic. Scott grinded out some of the toughest workouts of his career, amidst the highest sustained mileage he had ever done. And it turned out to be a grinders day in Boston. The runners were greeted by (and this is not an exaggeration) the worst weather in the history of the Boston Marathon with temperatures in the 30s, headwinds gusting up to 25 miles per hour, and a steady (and at times heavy) rain nearly the entire way. Scott somehow survived the conditions and ended up in sixth place, his highest ever finish at a World Marathon Major.
1. 2020 The Marathon Project
In sports there are many types of athletes and many types of great careers. There are those who burn brightly, but only for a short period of time. There are those who enjoy a long period of success and gradually fade away as father time catches up with them. And then, though rare, there are those who go out with a bang at the end. Scott was part of that rare group. Nearing the end of his career, at 34 years old, after another segment that was choppy and at times worrisome, Scott produced arguably the finest race of his dozen-plus year career as a professional runner. In the heart of the Pandemic, after nearly a whole year without a marathon on the international calendar, The Marathon Project in Chandler, Ariz. offered athletes a chance to compete. And they took advantage. On the women’s side, Sara Hall ran 2:20:32–the second-fastest U.S. time ever. On the men’s side, a giant lead pack came through halfway in 1:04:29, with Scott Smith right there near the front. A hard move from former teammate Martin Hehir around mile 22 finally broke things up and, as was a theme throughout his career when things got tough, Scott covered it as best he could…and better than just about everyone else. Hehir would go on to win in 2:08:59 with Scott finishing sixth in 2:09:46. He was now a “2:09 guy.” Seven years prior, when he joined the team with only a 2:16 debut on his marathon resume, a performance like that may have seemed out of reach. But as we came to realize over the years, you never sleep on Scott Smith.