Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken
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Joyce Smith M.B.E

Joyce Smith M.B.E.
Six time British marathon record holder


by Alastair Aitken

JOYCE SMITH M.B.E. (born 26th of October 1937) and her husband BRYAN SMITH of Shaftesbury Barnet Harriers, are constantly needed to officiate at countless events in and around London. When Joyce Smith bustles round at meetings, helping out, very few indeed, mostly amongst the younger generation, would recognise or realise that she was one of the All-Time Greats of British Distance running.
   She broke the British record for the marathon six times and the sixth was 2:29:43 in the London of 1982, when New Zealand's Lorraine Moller was second in 2:36:15 Smith also won the first London in 1981 in 2:29:57.
      Alastair Aitken asked her if the London was the highlight of her long career in athletics?

" I actually remember winning the two Tokyo marathons more than that. They were more important to me. That was in 1979 and '80.
79 was the first Women Only Marathon in Japan. They closed the streets for 54 women! The crowd were actually packed for the whole course so, I remember my two Tokyo wins. Probably because of winning those two I have been back to Japan a lot of times. I went back in November to start the 30th race. I still consider my second win in Tokyo (2:30:27), though it was slower than my two London times, as a better performance because it was a women only race. It was a race because there were still two of us together with one Kilometre to go, trying to win. With my two London's I was in with men round me. You run the best you could sort of thing'
The atmosphere was good in the London?
' Yes, the atmosphere of London was fantastic. I was disappointed with my second one because I was fitter then than that but, I ran fast in the middle to get away from Lorraine Moller and I paid for it in my legs from 25 miles onwards. I do look back at my London with enjoyment. I can remember one chap who was running with me in one of them saying' When there is a big cheer they notice you
When you get a big cheer you step up the pace' I remember you did tend to go a bit faster, purely because of the cheering. However, I still look back at my Tokyo's as being far more outstanding.
   Looking back through the years you realise Joyce Smith was quite close to making international stardom over 800 in the early 60's. She was WAAA Champion for the mile in 4:53.5 in 1965. Back in 1959 she won the English National cross country and again in 1960 and 1973. Joyce Smith was International cross country Champion in 1972 at Cambridge, the year she made the Olympic Semi-Final in Munich over 1500 metres and ran a time of 4:.09.37 in that. In 1974 she was 3rd in the Final of the European 3000m in Rome in 8:59.4 and ran a PB that year of 8:55.53.
   " I moved up the distances as they came in. I moved up to the marathon as I was starting to find the track training hard' she remarked
Why did she not compete as a veteran in the Major Masters Championships?
" I never chased veterans' competitions, Never done any Championships as I ran in the Olympics when I was only two months short of being 47 (11th in Los Angeles Olympic Marathon in 1984 in 2:32:48)
Now that Joyce Smith is in her 70's did she still run at all?
" I run just under 3 miles, three times a week. I do a spinning class, body pump class, go in the gym one a week. I think it is important to keep one's muscles toned rather than plodding round the road continuously day in day out. I enjoy that side of it. I can get off a bicycle in a spinning class and my legs can be wobbly so I know I have pushed myself.
       Regarding her husband Bryan and herself she concludes:-
       " Athletics has been our hobby the whole of our lives together. It is something we get our pleasure from. I can still watch international races on the track and see other people achieve."

Alastair Aitken

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