By Savanah Bandy
Ultra-marathon runner Brandon Smith started running at a young age and today, he’s helping youngsters follow in his footsteps.
“I began running in seventh grade after a friend talked me into going out for cross country to get in shape for basketball,” Brandon said. “My school never had very competitive sports programs, but I learned that in cross country and track, I could be successful on my own if I worked hard.”
Brandon went on to compete at Southwestern College and would make some of his happiest memories as a runner during that time.
“I had an amazing coach and an awesome team to train with,” he said. “I was a 15-time All-Conference runner, three-time Conference champion and even was able to be an All-American in the 4×800 meter relay.”
Brandon hasn’t slowed down a bit – even since becoming a father of three. In fact, his kids run with him. All of Brandon’s children – Nephtali (11), Tzaddi (9) and Manolo (7) – have inherited their dad’s athletic abilities. They all compete in multiple sports, including basketball, swimming, track and soccer, and they have all competed in 5Ks and triathlons.
“They are my biggest priority, and I think it is really important to show them the benefits of a healthy lifestyle,” he said.
Brandon’s accomplishments span countless races of varying distances, and in the last year alone, he ran two full marathons and a 50K.
“The most memorable race I have ever done was this past year,” he said. “I did a three-day trail race in Utah through Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park and Horseshoe Bend. It was absolutely incredible.”
Brandon isn’t just helping his own children learn the joy of running. He is the head coach for cross country at the East Newton school district where he is also a fourth grade teacher. Between teaching, coaching and being a dad, Brandon admits life can get hectic. But even in the busiest seasons, he still makes time to pound the pavement.
“Running is a part of me, and if I’m not doing it regularly then I go crazy,” he said. “I am currently attempting to get in race shape after one of the busiest seasons of my life as a head coach. I try to run a few days a week with some of my running friends from Rufus Racing and Joplin Roadrunners. I love to run with others and talk, it does not matter the pace.”
In his downtime, Brandon loves biking, hiking, camping, woodworking and helping his daughter Nephtali with her shaved-ice business called Queen Bee.
“Ease into it and find people to run with,” he said of new runners. “It is so much easier to accomplish your goals with others helping. Also, sign up for an event, and it will motivate you to train.”
See more photos from the story in the January 2023 print edition.