Ryan Smith, left, and Robbie Hollis jog down the Whitman Spring Road Trail in Auburn on Thursday, Aug. 1, 2019, before a training run. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Mainers might not know a lot about 2018’s top Maine finisher at the Beach to Beacon 10K, even if they’ve been following the state’s running scene over the past decade. 

They might, however, be familiar with Ryan Smith’s wife, Abby Smith (formerly Dunn), the race walk star at Edward Little High School and then at Goshen College in Goshen, Indiana.

But Ryan Smith, who grew up in Albion, Indiana, and then attended Goshen College, where he and Abby met, made a name for himself in Vacationland last year with a 17th-place finish overall, the best by a state resident, at the historic Maine race.

Now Smith is training with friend and former Edward Little and University of Maine at Farmington track and cross country runner Robbie Hollis, who finished 55th at last year’s Beach to Beacon.

The pair’s goal is to have an even better showing during Saturday’s race. Beyond that, Smith also has his eyes on qualifying for the 2020 U.S. Olympic Trials in Atlanta, Georgia. Hollis also is working to improve his marathon time.

Smith ran a 2:21.07 at Grandma’s Marathon on June 22 in Duluth, Minnesota, which is two minutes and seven seconds off of the Olympic B standard for the marathon Olympic trials.

While the Hartford Marathon on Oct. 12 is the race that Smith and Hollis are most focused, the Beach to Beacon is a race that both runners use as something to break up the monotony of marathon training.

“With the marathon, it’s hard to maintain high-mileage for four months,” Smith said. “After Beach to Beacon we will have 10 weeks, and that’s when you really get up there and then taper off the last couple weeks. Eight weeks is long enough where you can focus on your goal. I have been doing 100 miles a week since my junior year of college, and Robbie is a low-mileage guy and he’s still new to it.”

Hollis ran his first marathon on May 19, winning the Sugarloaf Marathon in 2:34.23 and earning $500.

“Ryan kept telling me to do marathons,” Hollis said. “I said, ‘Yeah, but I don’t like fueling during races or feeling dehydrated.’ He said, ‘Just try it.’ I signed up for the Sugarloaf Marathon. … That experience is seriously a different experience.”

Hollis and Smith have lived in the same apartment building two different times over the past year. The two met when Smith, after graduating from Goshen in 2017, took a job as an assistant track and cross country coach at UMF and started working with Hollis, who was on the Beavers’ cross country team.

Now the two have started a team of Maine runners called Maine Rogue Runners, which consists of three other present and former UMF runners. 

“After listening to his work ethic, it’s raw, hard work,” Hollis said of Smith. “You can just see it in phases where other people have a bad season … I don’t think he’s had a bad season.”

There’s a reason why Smith has been so successful. Ever since the eighth grade, when he ran 5:56 in the gym mile, then 5:14 that same year in outdoor track, Smith has had the running bug. 

Robbie Hollis, left, and Ryan Smith at the head of the Whitman Spring Road Trail in Auburn on Thursday, Aug. 1, 2019, before a training run. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Now Smith, who lives in Auburn, is running 100-110 miles a week. Every morning, he wakes up and runs 10 miles at 5 a.m. before work. He recently left his job in Farmington, and next week will begin working at Bates College as the manager of purchasing, accounting and licensing in their Information and Library Services Department. 

With the new job, Smith will also gain access to Bates’ facilities and will be able to bring a guest: Hollis. 

Hollis started running in his sophomore year of high school after talking with one of his best friends, Lucas Bourget. 

“I didn’t know about running, I thought they had tryouts,” Hollis said. “I didn’t bother to go until I was told you are on the team if you just sign up.

“I would see Lucas running on my street and I thought that was really inspiring, and he told me about the whole running scene and what it was all about. He said he was really competitive and working on improving his times. From then on, I bought into that mentality. It‘s been a really good sport for me. It’s not for everybody, but you know you love running when you’re training this hard for six years.”

While Hollis’ personal record is 13 minutes behind Smith’s, he has his own goals, as does Smith. 

“Ryan is well in reach of the Olympic trial time, and if he doesn’t get it this October, he’ll have it within the next year,” Hollis, who currently lives in Farmington, said.

“I’m going to get it this October,” Smith said with a smile.

“It’s like he can grab it, he’s that close,” Hollis said. “So, he will have the 2:19 Olympic trial B standard. You have me looking to go under 2:30 in the marathon on a really good day, and under 16 minutes in a 5K on the road. … Again, it’s all relative.

“That’s why I love this sport, because I don’t focus on the Olympians or even the sub-Olympians like Ryan, I focus on where I am at, where I want to be and what it takes to get there. That’s what makes it fun for me, the trial and error.”

On Saturday, Smith is looking to repeat as Beach to Beacon’s Maine champion, but the competition might be stiffer than 2018. Former Brunswick High School star and current Nike runner Will Geohegan has moved back to Maine and will compete with Smith for the top-Maine finisher title, as will former Ellsworth High School runner Dan Curts. 

“This year I am coming off a marathon, but I’m just a stronger runner this year,” Smith said. “I would like to run under 30:30 this year, and I think I can run under 30:30, still. I also want to get closer to the top-10.”


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