Holly Wilson Smith runs a 3:10 marathon gliding and smiling all the way

April 28, 2017

Ain’t that tough enough? - Runner Holly Wilson Smith is gracious and loquacious, smiles at the beginning of a marathon, and three hours later, Holly girl is still smiling. On April 23, she conquered the Coastal Delaware Running Festival marathon in 3:10:24, which is a 7:17 per mile pace for 26 miles. I remember Holly when she ran for Lake Forest and coach Jim Blades. Her marathon finish came on her 32nd birthday. A smart, low-mileage runner, Holly is part of the local running community, but she doesn’t go out and run 50 races a year. In fact, I rarely see her racing or out on training runs. But you don’t just get up from the breakfast table and run a 3:10 marathon, or maybe she doesn’t eat breakfast?

The rarity of clarity - I am a tribal elder and longtime sports columnist inside a tight community where, like the bar Cheers, “everybody knows your name.” The words you read have been filtered through my own editing process as I ask myself, “Is this a good idea? I don’t want to offend anyone unless it’s intentional.” And trust me, there have been some paragraphs I wished I could pull back because they just landed awkwardly and offended a segment of sensitive society. People have called radio personalities - Dan Gaffney - calling for my Fred Head. In those few instances, Dan called me on the phone, usually 6 a.m. as I was on my way to teach, and asked me to go on the air. I always did because, like a Philly Boy doing the Watusi, I am good on my feet. My position is always, I stand behind nothing I wrote but rather I stand in front and own it. If you turn tail and run, the little yappy dogs give chase and nip at your ankles. 

You got to get inside - Sports is competitive, and sportsmanship is often at times elusive. I went from coach to sports journalist because I didn’t like the feeling of being competitive all the time. I wanted to crawl inside the belly of the beast to see other teams from the inside out. When the mission is always to beat your opponent or inflict a beat-down, the reflective postgame - appreciate the journey communion of souls in a hand-joining prayer circle - is replaced by the hand-slapping “good game, good game.” Caesar Rodney brought some Unified Athletes to the tri-meet at Cape April 26 and I thought, “Great idea. Get the uniform, ride the bus and run the race,” and hopefully have a ride home when you get back to school. Joy is easily read on the faces of all the kids we just help along.

Jump Street - I walked the Cape track April 26, 42 years after I first did the coach Fredman walk. I have been honored with a Legends Stadium plaque and Delaware Track Hall of Fame induction, all of which counts as a story, but we all have a story. I watched Ellis Gaulden rake the long jump pit and said, “Hey, Ellis, let me write your story, ‘From Big East champion (high jump) to pit raker.’” He laughed. Later, Jay Maull had the rake and he wanted the pit to look right. I finally said, “Give it a rest, Jay. It seems like 1978 was yesterday when you quarterbacked Cape in its first-ever state championship game appearance. And now you’re the guy on a mission with a metal rake, a real smooth operator.” 

Penn Relays - This is Penn Relays weekend and NFL Draft weekend in Philadelphia. Earlier there was the Democratic National Convention and before that the Pope ping-ponged around the city. You know the Pope wanted to run the steps of the art museum and shout, “Yo, Adrian!”   

Three’s Company - Enthusiasm spontaneously combusted in front of my camera April 26, as twice a trio of athletic girls asked me to take their picture. There were Cape tracksters Samantha Wyatt, Maniya Applewhite and Shelby Fry, and later at Champions Stadium it was Poly Panthers Angelina Woolwine, Meadow Behringer and Abby Olshenske. “These kids know you, even if they don’t know you,” said Eric Gooch. Eric told the Poly girls, “You just made his day.” Like the unmade bed of an obsessive compulsive, my day is made and remade all day long. 

Snippets - Go Phillies and go Caps, I’m schizophrenic fan. Go on now, git!