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Slow and steady wins heart of the OK5K race

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KINDERHOOK – The 20th running of Kinderhook Bank OK5K race on Saturday, June 9, brought more than 450 participants to the Village of Kinderhook, including first-time racer Nanci Smith, a 62-year-old retired nurse from Philmont.

Ms. Smith, who raced with a group of 15 from Father’s Promise ministry in Valatie, crossed the finish line 3 hours, 38 minutes and 40 seconds after the race stepped off at 9 a.m.

“Nanci certainly has this determined attitude,” said Laurie Cordato, a friend and churchgoer Ms. Smith credits with encouraging her to fulfill her 5K goal.

Nanci Smith of Philmont crosses the start line at the 20th Annual OK5K race on June 9. Photo by Siobhan Connally

Ms. Smith was diagnosed with a mild form of Cerebral Palsy in childhood but says that she never dwelt on the condition.

“I was so much more fortunate than others,” said Ms. Smith. “Only my legs were affected by CP. My heels would go out to the side when I ran.”

Still, sports were never really a part of her life until last year when she decided to join Ms. Cordato and train for a 5K race.

“I didn’t really train,” laughed Ms. Smith, who said that she underwent a total knee replacement last January and was scheduled to have the other knee replaced on Friday – just six days after the race.

“I just started walking. I just told myself ‘I’ll do my best and I will get to the finish.”

Although 15 members from the church ran in the race, Ms. Smith had planned on walking with her husband, Andrew, who is also a nurse. However, he was assigned a Friday-to-Saturday shift and wasn’t able to arrive until the afternoon.

“I walked a good bit alone,” said Ms. Smith, who noted that she had to get directions from some course officials early on because she’d lost sight of the runners and didn’t know the route turns. “My friend Laurie and her daughter, Heather Cordato, came back and walked with me for awhile after they’d finished their race, and Ann (Birckmayer), the course sweeper, kept coming and checking on me. She was very encouraging.”

Nearly two-thirds of the way through, someone stopped and offered her a ride.

“It was hard. The hardest part was probably then. I was weakening. Since my knee is bone-on-bone, I have to walk with some compensation, and that started to affect my shoulder around the second mile. So I was having some pain,” she said.

But the stretches of solitude didn’t bother Ms. Smith.

“I loved that people were expressing concern. But I did enjoy walking alone, too. I’m a woman of faith. I got to pray and to take in the beautiful scenery.”

In the end, her husband made the race.

“He finished it out with her,” said Ms. Cordato, who said she switched places with him when he arrived near the last leg and drove his car back to the village green.

“It was amazing,” said Ms. Smith, of her finish.

When asked if she planned to race again, she didn’t hesitate.

“This has opened up a new doorway for me,” she said. “A new world that I had never considered I could do before. And I can do it.”

OK5K Race Director Dan Curtain said the advisory board was impressed by Ms. Smith’s perseverance. “She had made an impression on all of us. We were glad and honored that she chose our race,” he said.

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