When Emily and Bill Smith first met more than five decades ago, they couldn’t have imagined how far their romance and running career would go.
Emily, 74, and Bill, 77, have been married for 53 years. Throughout their marriage, they have run more than 200 races, ranging from marathons to 5Ks, all over the United States – and they’ve done it all together.
The first race that sparked Emily and Bill’s running career was the 1987 New York City Marathon. The couple had an athletic streak long before they met but decided to take it to the next level by training for a marathon.
“We couldn’t have dreamed up a better first marathon experience,” Bill explains. “The energy in New York City was indescribable, and there were so many people cheering us on every step of the way.”
The two started the race together and crossed the finish line together, hands clasped tightly and thrown up into the air as a sign of victory.
Not only did the New York City Marathon jumpstart Emily and Bill’s running career, but it also started their long-held tradition of traveling for races and turning their post-race glory into a fun vacation. The two love to hike and visit national parks, so they often look for ways to combine their passion for racing and their love of sightseeing.
Some of their favorite out-of-town races include the Key West Half Marathon, which they describe as fun and flat with stunning ocean views. They also enjoyed the Rocky Mountain Half Marathon this past July, as they included plenty of hiking in this trip. As for Memphis races, they note St. Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend and the M-Town Race Series as some of their favorites to participate in.
The two especially enjoy participating in races with more diverse age groups for older runners. While some races place all 70+ runners in one category, having additional groups for 70-75 and 75-89 runners keeps the playing field more even and make races more competitive for older runners.
The couple’s current workout routine includes three weekly runs on the Green Line or the Germantown Greenaway. Two runs are four miles, while the third is typically longer, especially if they’re training for a race. While they enjoy running just the two of them, they also love to run with their MRTC running group. They do strength training at ATC and bike once a week, often at Big River Crossing downtown.
Emily and Bill also love hitting the pavement with their family. With two daughters and six grandchildren, the couple often travel to California to compete and visit their grandchildren living there.
While the two both love running, traveling, and staying active, their lifestyle is made better by being able to do it together.
“From running to hiking to being outside and active, we really do enjoy the same things,” Emily remarks. “I truly believe we are a match made in heaven.”
As for Bill –– “I’m just always trying to keep up with Emily,” he laughs.
By Lucy Modzelewski
Photo by Tindall Stephens