MEMBER: ZachARY Smith
Name: Zachary Smith
Hometown: Doylestown, PA
High School: Central Bucks West
College: St. Joseph's University
Favorite Place to Run in Philly: Wissahickon Valley Park
10 mi: 55:12
Half Marathon: 1:14:48
After playing golf collegiately at St. Joseph's I got into triathlon seriously for 5-6 years and through triathlon found a love for running. I won two olympic distance triathlons over a 5 year period and had a few decent finishes in the 70.3 distance over 6 or 7 races. During that time I did a number of road races and saw fairly consistent progress with times from 10k to marathon. Focusing more on running now I am shooting for PR's at the half marathon and marathon distances while still doing some light swimming and biking for cross-training.
Member Spotlight: Zach Smith
By: Kevin Brandon (08/13/18)
Zach, thanks for taking time to speak with us. Could you tell us a bit about yourself? How did you end up in Philadelphia and running with PRTC?
Sure, I'm happy to talk. I grew up in the Phila. suburbs in central Bucks County and went to school at St. Joseph's University so never ventured too far from home. After college I moved back home for a couple years but ended up coming back to the Manayunk/Roxborough area where I lived for a couple years in school as well. I've always said that I could just as easily live in the city as I could somewhere rural so having access to the Wissahickon Valley basically in my back yard has been great and definitely serves as my (and my dog's!) escape from the hustle and bustle. I grew up as the youngest of 4 brothers and still stay really close with them. I have 8 nieces and nephews now (with #9 on the way) so pressure is off of me for the time being! They are a blast to hang around and it is one of my favorite things right now getting to spend time with them.
Once you began running, how did your career develop? Take us through day one to today.
I did not get in to competitive running until after college. Growing up I played a lot of different sports of which running and endurance sports was never something I did competitively. By the time I got to high school I was dedicated to ice hockey and golf playing both for the high schools teams as well as club teams and busy summer golf schedules. I continued to play golf in college at St. Joseph's and loved every minute of it. Golf is my first love when it comes to sport and I've met some of my closest friends through the years competing together and working together on our games. After college, I owe a lot to my Mom, for introducing me to running and endurance sports. My Mom had been competing in multi-sport (duathlon/triathlon) for as long as I can remember and when I was getting stressed out after my first couple months working long hours in the public accounting world she recommended I start a regular swimming and running routine to help cope with some of the stress. I got hooked pretty quickly and even more so after going to watch her compete at various Ironman races. I began swim, bike and run training regularly and began competing in triathlons soon after. The triathlon schedule in the northeast usually wraps up in late August so I began supplementing my race schedule with spring and fall running races and gradually fell more in love with running. Through the years doing various running races from 5k to marathon during the triathlon "off-season" I saw steady progress in my times and began to get curious about what I could do with more dedicated training. Running started as my outlet and a way to clear my mind. To this day it still serves that purpose just as it did when I began but now also with some time goals attached to it as well :)
Can you tell us about a favorite running accomplishment or moment?
Looking back on it I think my first marathon in 2013 was my favorite running accomplishment. For most people the first marathon is a foray into the unknown and for me, even having done a few 4+ hour triathlon events at the time, it was no different. I'll never forget the pain of the final 10k of that race but the way I was able to hang in and persevere is an experience that I always draw on and come back to.
How about a not-so-great moment?
Thinking about this its hard to pick out a specific race or workout that is particularly memorable. There have certainly been bad races over the years but I've learned a lot from them and I believe they have made me a better runner as a result. Injuries I think frustrate me the most. As I mentioned previously, running is a very important part of my life not only because of the competition but because of the therapeutic benefits and the way it helps me deal with stress at work, life or wherever it comes from. So the periods I've had with prolonged injuries where i'm not able to use that "outlet" are my least favorite moments.
Regarding your running future, what are your near and long-term goals?
This answer is pretty simple for me right now. PRs! Having been more focused on triathlon over the last 5-6 years I'm now looking to switch that focus and chase some PRs across all distances really from 5k to marathon. I enjoy the marathon distance the most and have some progressive goals at that distance that I would like to work towards over the next few years. I'm also on a quest to do all of the world marathon majors. I've currently done 3 of the 6 and scheduled to do Chicago in the fall of '18 which will be my 4th. Longer term I will probably reassess where I am at in life and what I have been able to accomplish and see what is in the cards at that point. I do want to get back into triathlon and try the full Ironman distance as qualifying for the world championships in Kona, Hawaii is a lifetime dream of mine. Ultra trail running really interests me too.
You come to us via the world of Ironman/Triathlon. Can you share with us a few highlights of your time pursuing those specialties?
In triathlon I started out doing a lot of sprint and olympic distance races which are typically approx 1 hr and 2 hrs of racing respectively. I then worked towards the half ironman distance and really like racing that distance, even though I was never really able to figure it out. Racing triathlon, running was my strength. I didn't have a swimming or biking background but was able to build a level of proficiency in those disciplines that usually put me in the mix in most races when it came to the run. Over a 6 year period I won 2 mid-atlantic region olympic distance races and had a few other podium finishes in sprint and olympic distance races. As I mentioned I really enjoyed the half ironman distance because, while the distance was formidable, you could still put your head down and race it. Having done 6 or 7 over a 6 year stretch I was never really able to put a complete race together which was frustrating. Getting the training, race nutrition and race strategy all dialed in is a challenge and not having conquered it leaves me with a little bit of an unfinished business feeling but I'll be back at it again. Even as I focus more on running now I still make it a point to keep swimming and riding weekly. The training intensity has been less but I believe the strength, aerobic training and just a simple change of pace with training is really beneficial for running.
I believe you are our only club member who played collegiate-level golf. How did you end up competing at that level and what was the experience like?
I'm honored to have the distinction! Ha. As I mentioned, golf is my first love when it comes to sport. My dad introduced the game to my brothers and I when we were very young and growing up I was fortunate to have access to a golf course and practice facilities on a daily basis. There were many days in the summer when we would be at the golf course from sun up to sun down practicing in the morning and playing 27 or 36 holes in the afternoon. In high school all the practice started to pay off and I was fortunate enough to get recruited to play at St. Joseph's. The college golf experience was great. Playing great golf courses up and down the east coast against great competition and with some of my closest friends are experiences I'll never forget. I wish I could go back and do it again!
When you aren't running, golfing, or training for incredible events like Ironman, what is your day job?
My day job is in finance/accounting. I'm a CPA and I currently work for a pharmaceutical company in Malvern. The job keeps me busy and I enjoy it (most days!). There are certain challenges working for large multi-national companies however there are aspects that I enjoy. In my first role with the Company I was lucky to be able to travel with the Company and interact with colleagues around the world. Learning about and seeing international business in action as well as seeing and experiencing cultural differences was really interesting. In my first job out of college I had a few clients in the Pharmaceutical & Life Sciences industry so when the opportunity for me came at Endo I was excited to hop on it. The pharmaceutical industry is interesting but can be very volatile. Things are always moving & changing and new products for new treatments are always evolving. It keeps things interesting.
Any non-running related hobbies, hidden skills or talents we may enjoy hearing of?
Right now I love spending time with my nieces & nephews and family members. My nieces and nephews range in age from newborn to 7 which is a really fun time. My brothers and their families don't live in the area so its tough not being able to see them more often but it makes the times we all get together that much better. Otherwise I do a lot of hiking with my dog each week in the Wissahickon or in other parks around the area and love to try all the local craft beer and food the city has to offer. I also recently bought a stand up paddle board that is a blast to take out. Lately I've been exploring some of the local parks with that with aspirations of doing some longer trips in the future.