Angie’s Half Crazy! Half Marathon was an experience of a lifetime for so many reasons. From my twin sister Carrie surprising me to my younger sister Heather being there despite getting ready to move to Colorado Springs to meeting Angie, Lauren and others who will always be in my heart. Words can’t begin to describe my feelings to be given the opportunity to speak to an eclectic and inspirational audience at the pasta dinner prior to the race. I am horrible at grammar so my apologies but here is my speech…
I am so humbled to have the opportunity to speak to an amazing group that is redefining what it means to be an athlete. Many of you may be thinking, “That’s not Joan Benoit Samuelson or Paula Radcliffe.” Well, you are right, I am Kellie Smirnoff, an everyday athlete that is balancing work, life, family, friends, training and racing. Sound familiar?
I enjoy taking to other athletes and asking them why they love their sport. It always becomes very evident that it is not about the race itself but about the journey. We all have our own goals, our own stories, our own reasons why we are here. But for most of us it is not about how fast we cross the finish line but what we have learned about ourselves, the person we’ve become, the deeper respect we have for those that support us, the admiration we have for those that inspire us and hopefully we are paying our gift forward and inspiring others along our journey.
The race is what I consider the Icing On The Cake.
A little bit about myself and I hope that my story resonates with many of you. I have always been in sports alongside my two sisters, Carrie and Heather who are also incredible athletes. It was much more competitive back then. I remember watching my Grandfather who use to play armature and pro soccer over in Germany running back and forth on the sidelines and if a referee made a bad call he was on the field yelling and red cards were flying. So, we had a little bit of a competitive bone in our body. But it was not until I graduated college and joined the workforce that I truly understood the benefits of running.
It was that very rare but much-needed alone time. It was a way to release stress from a hectic workday or everyday life demands. I started to see my body transform and became a happier person. I began to wonder what I was truly capable of but I never had the confidence in myself to take that next step. So I did something that changed my life, I began to surround myself with people who believed in me more than I could ever believe in myself. They taught me that my only limitations are those I set on myself, that anything is possible. If you think you’ve reached the top, just keep climbing.
I listened. I began running marathons and I did my first ultra in 2003. Funny story with a moral. I set a goal for myself to run an ultra. I had no idea what it entailed or how to go about it. I told myself that I was going to go into a search engine, type in “prestigious ultramarathon” and the one that popped up on top I was going to do. So I type it in, push search and Comrades Marathon pops up (got a few chuckles from those that knew what it was!). I thought, cool I love the comradery of runners! When I clicked into it I saw it was a 54 mile ultra marathon in South Africa. Hmmmm, who knew there was an ultra in South Africa? So I signed up for it, got my plane ticket and it was the most amazing experience of my life.
What that taught me was that if you set a goal for yourself and stop and think about it you will find every reason in the book why you can’t do it. If you commit yourself to it and you are passionate about it you will find a way to accomplish your goals.
I started in triathlon about 4 years ago and have completed 3 Ironman competitions then got a little ADD at the end of last year and decided to go into Ultra’s again. So my big race for the year is Ultraman Canada. Myself alongside 39 other athletes will be swimming 6.2 miles, biking 260 miles and running 52.4 miles over 3 days in British Columbia (the crowd went wild…lol). But like I said it is not about the race but the journey and this journey (looked at my sister Heather who was smiling with tears streaming down her face and could not even look at Carrie – frog in throat and tears swelling) will end with my Dad and two amazing sisters by my side all three days cheering me on and encouraging me to get to the finish line each day. But what I am really looking forward to is my sisters running by my side on that third day knowing they will see me in my darkest moments and still helping me get to the end. Then holding their hands when I cross the finish line knowing we did it as a team. That is what is important to me.
People ask me what motivates me? What keeps me going? That’s easy, it is the everyday athlete like you and me. I know the struggles. I know what it feels like to get up at 4am to get a workout in before a 10-11 hour work day. But I look around and see others with more hectic schedules than me and they are still out there achieving extraordinary goals. That is what inspires me.
I hope our sport gives you the same feeling as it gives me. It gives you that emotion that you don’t feel doing anything else. It is that sense of accomplishment. It is crossing the finish line with your children watching and showing them that anything is possible. For the cancer survivors every step is a celebration of life. For those running in memory of someone taken from the deadly disease, it is a way for us to remember. We all have our own stories.
So before you step onto that start line, before the gun goes off and that clock starts to tick take a moment to reflect on your journey, think about those that have supported you and encouraged you, think about the sacrifices you had to make and then smile because you are about to enjoy the Icing On The Cake!
Good luck to all the runners and thanks to the volunteers and spectators! I look forward to seeing you all out there tomorrow!
* After the speech I had a wonderful lady come up to me and say she was a cancer survivor (cervical) and she just signed up for the race a week before. She said she was not sure how she was going to get (in her words) her “scare tissued @$$” over the finish line. She then stated that listening to the speech she cried and was inspired and knew she could do it. That confirmed I at least touched one person and she touched me back a millions times more.
Until next time…Midget OUT!