The Heart of the Matter - Page 4
Photo by Justin Bailie.
The Balancing Act
Pam Smith opens the door to her home in the hills above Salem, Oregon, wearing ballet flats, leggings, a short dress and a cardigan. Her blond shoulder length hair is clipped back and she has on just a touch of make-up. She looks pulled-together and petite. This is a distinctly different woman from the Pam Smith who regularly crosses race finish lines completely spent, covered in mud and snot, and at the front of the pack.
“Racing for me is about giving it everything,” says Smith. “It’s about taking yourself to the very edge where your body can’t go anymore, when your emotions are raw.”
Smith’s first experience with such an effort came when she clocked the fastest mile for girls in her ninth-grade physical-education class. it was the first time she saw running as a competitive endeavor, and the competitive aspect of racing coupled with the recognition that comes with success fueled her.
“It made me feel good about myself to be good at something,” says Smith.
The race and the positive reinforcement she received from her dad launched Smith into competitive running in high school and then at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, where she walked on to the cross-country and track teams. After college she went on to medical school and now, at 37, she works four 10-hour days a week as a pathologist specializing in blood disorders.
Smith is also a mom to a seven-year-old daughter, Megan, and five-year-old son, Liam. With the support of her husband, mac, who is also a runner, Smith clocks between 70 and 90 miles a week, most of them before dawn, and competes in 10 to 15 ultras a year.
“Pam has priority on early mornings Monday, Tuesday and Thursday because that’s when her running friends run,” says mac. “I have priority on Wednesday and Friday early mornings. On Wednesday evenings, we have a standing running/date night, where we get in a quality speed workout together and then catch a meal with friends.”