Doug Smith snaps up Canadian Masters Runner of the Year

Canadian Running magazine could have found someone faster or more decorated, but its Masters Runner of the Year award for 2014 went to a gent with perhaps the most dedication to the sport — Doug “Shaggy” Smith. An M60 steepler, Doug competes, organizes meets and photographs his countrymen (and women) at major events. He’s been doing this for decades. Without him, Ontario Masters Track would be a shadow of itself. But he’s lucky to live in a hotbed of masters athletics, so he has plenty to celebrate. (Same with me in San Diego.) I consider him a brother in Cameraland, and love to shoot beside him. I just wish I had half his running talent. Kudos on the award, Doug. Long overdue.

Doug lands in steeple at North Carolina nationals, keeping his momentum.

Here’s the story, in case the link goes south:

Sometimes Doug Smith’s life reads like a parable, which for an avowed atheist is deeply ironic. Recounting a run in Antiqua, Smith laughs, “I was feeling pretty good heading back to the beach when I came up on a Rasta jogging along in bare feet. I said ‘Hi’ as I passed.” A few minutes later Smith heard footsteps coming behind him and met the challenge with a sustained burst of speed.

“We turned to a long downhill to the hotel and I let it all out,” recalls Smith. “I was flying along at full tilt. I could hear him coming and then he passed me… running backwards.”

There’s always going to be someone faster and yet even at the age of 60, Smith shows no signs of slowing down. Smith not only contends in his age group, he has also been the animating force behind the Ontario Masters Association since 1994.

And yet despite standout masters achievements that include an 11:25 in the steeplechase, a 1:21 half- marathon personal best and a near sub-three-hour performance in the marathon, Smith is circumspect about his ability. His understated nature may be the inherent consequence of being raised in Sudbury, Ont.; a town where summer passes in the blink of an eye and winter is forever. Despite residing in Toronto for the last several decades, Smith’s never far from the pragmatic Northern sensibility of his youth.

Much like the rest of the country, formalized running didn’t exist in 1950s Sudbury. “We would run around all day but there was nothing like a race. I ran in Phys-Ed during high school, but no one ran on their own in those days,” says Smith.

Ethiopia’s Abebe Bikila’s win in the 1960 Rome Olympic Marathon would change everything.

“Bikila impressed me and I started running around our very hilly block in high tops. My dad would time me,” recalls Smith.

Decades later Smith’s heroes are different. Years in the sport have broadened his perspective and while he still admires speed, it is athletes like Bob Moore who inspire him.

“A lot of top runners fade from the scene but Bob keeps plugging away, giving it his all year in and year out,” states Smith.

Thirty years as a masters athlete and organizer have done little to dampen his enthusiasm.

“There’s a great feeling of satisfaction when an event goes off as planned and people enjoy the experience,” says Smith.

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December 27, 2014

17 Responses

  1. Tom Phillips - December 27, 2014

    Richly deserved! Well done Shaggy Smith!

  2. KPaulk - December 27, 2014

    Now THATs a great idea. Congrats Shaggy.

  3. Kate Cochrane-Brink - December 27, 2014

    It is great to see Shaggy get this recognition. He gives so much of himself to masters running and masters runners! We sure love him in Toronto!

  4. James Chinn - December 27, 2014

    Congrats Shaggy!

  5. Sarah Lawson - December 27, 2014

    Congrats, Shaggy!

  6. allan tissenbaum - December 27, 2014

    Shaggy is the real deal, a great ambassador for masters track, fierce competitor and a tireless worker. He was in charge of the canadian championships this past summer in which I participated, he put on a great meet in a great venue, Congrats Doug very well deserved.

    I encourage all athletes to consider a visit to Toronto for one of Ontario Masters meets as they are always first class.

  7. David E. Ortman (M61), Seattle, WA - December 27, 2014

    Yes. Congratulations Doug! And also for your fine photos. That is a real service to masters track and field!

  8. Don Burkett - December 27, 2014

    Congrats Doug!!! Enjoyed running against you this past year!!!! Your a true gentlemen!!!

  9. Diane Pomeroy - December 27, 2014

    Congratulations Doug! Well deserved. Now only does he organize and time so many events but he also competes and snaps some of the best photos out there.

  10. Nolan Shaheed - December 27, 2014

    Congratulations Doug

  11. Mary Freeman - December 28, 2014

    How wonderful…and how well deserved. Congratulations Doug. All that, and you are still alive.

  12. Roger Pierce - December 28, 2014

    The absolute Best…Congratulations Doug

  13. Kathy Martin - December 28, 2014

    Congrats Bro’. If only Mom had not sent you out to the bulrushes. Pretty sure we are siblings as we were born on the same day butT you got the slow twitch fibers 🙂 congrats on a well deserved award.

  14. Duncan Greenshields - December 29, 2014

    Yes, Shaggy is the real deal! A real treasure for masters especially in Ontario, but for Canada and the whole world, as well. It’s a real pleasure to workout with him 3x a week, chasing and dissing each other, and we usually share a ride or subway trip home after workouts. He listens patiently to my diatribes, but secretly gets even by taking racing pics of me with my tongue out and getting nipped at the finish by inches. He really is a spectacular individual and deserves all the accolades.

  15. kevin f forde - December 29, 2014

    Props and much respect

  16. Rob Jerome - December 29, 2014

    A man of many talents…athletic and photographic! Congratulations.

  17. Lee Dukes - January 4, 2015

    Congratulations Shaggy! I enjoyed meeting you in Winston-Salem and loved your spirit! You are a great ambassador for the essence of Masters running.
    – your fellow steeplechaser (Alan) Lee Dukes, Dallas

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