KUALOA RANCH, Hawaii — Two months ago, Salt Lake City resident Patrick Smyth hadn't won, or even competed, in a trail-running event.
Now he's 2-for-2 at taking home top honors.
Smyth won the XTERRA Trail Run Nationals in his first trail run event at Snowbasin Resort in September, and he followed that up with a victory at the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship in Hawaii on Sunday.
The latter victory, like the first, came against tough competition, including former world champions Joseph Gray (2012) and Max King (2008-11).
“I didn’t think it would come this quickly, taking back-to-back races like this,” Smyth said in a news release. He finished the 21-kilometer championship course in 1 hour, 16 minutes, 38 seconds. “I’ve run a lot of races against some of these guys, just not on terrain like this. Getting my mind and body ready for the trails was my biggest concern, so to get back-to-back wins is really nice.”
Gray finished second in 1:17:26 and King took third in a time of 1:20:53. Behind them was another Salt Lake City native, Nathan Peters, who finished fourth in 1:23:44. Peters, like Smyth, was also competing in the world championship run for the first time.
On the women's side, Polina Babkina was the first female to finish the Hawaii race, in a time of 1:37:24.
“We were getting after it right from the get-go,” Smyth said of his battle on the course with Gray and King. “And it was a battle of attrition after that. I think they were a lot more trail-versed on the downhills, where I was more conservative. Then I would try to open it up on the double-track. It was kind of a cat-and-mouse game.”
Injuries and the elements played their part in affecting the top racers in Sunday's event.
Smyth, who had built a lead of more than a minute late in the race, fell while trying to get around some of the slower runners who were being lapped.
“I tried to go around one guy, and went off the trail and then kind of tumbled head over heels,” said Smyth, who scraped up his shoulder. “I knew I had the lead, but when something like that happens, all these thoughts go through your head, and I was just imagining Joe or Max sneaking up and catching me after that, so I got up and kept going as hard as I could to the finish.”
For Gray, a rolled ankle kept him from pushing hard at the end to catch Smyth.
“I gave him too much time, and then after I rolled my ankle, I kind of played it safe and made sure I could hold on to second,” Gray said.
King did not race in last year's championship event, skipping it to witness the birth of his daughter. Before that, he had won four straight times in Hawaii.
“I don’t know, I didn’t feel quite like myself today, and I had to let (Smyth) go,” King said. “I did what I could and came up in third. ... We were all running fast, so I would say the bar has been raised. I have to get back in shape and try again next year.”