MONDOVI, Wis. — Jeff Smith, 60, admits he didn’t think about running or biking much when he was just a simple city clerk.
Twenty-five years later, he’s completed 40 marathons, including events on every continent but two, and recently finished a two-stage bicycle trek across the country.
“I just kind of got started in it, and it took off,” Smith said. “When I quit the city job and started my own construction business, I started running and enjoyed it.”
Smith’s brother, Kim Smith of Ames, Iowa, got him interested in triathlons, and soon Jeff was biking, running and swimming.
“We had a common interest, so I got started in those things,” Jeff said. “It seems I always had a bike but never did anything competitive.”
Jeff began training a bit more seriously, biking hilly terrain and covering longer distances. Eventually, he got the idea of biking across the country.
“It seemed like a good idea at the time,” he said, “but I had to bring it up to my wife, Cindy. That was the most difficult part — talking her into these things.”
“Yes, he did have to convince me to do this,” she said with a laugh. “There was a lot of talking about it. Being on the road for six weeks was a long time, and that was a concern for me.”
The couple agreed Jeff would cover the country by bike in two segments, from Washington state to Mondovi, Wis. in 2012 and from Mondovi, Wis. to Maine this year, while Cindy drove a vehicle to assist him.
“Cindy talked me into doing it in halves, which was the smart thing,” Jeff said. “After the first half last year, I certainly was ready for a break.”
“I don’t do any of that [long-distance running and biking],” Cindy said. “I am the co-pilot, and I’m happy with that. It was just a lot easier for me to have all that extra stuff in the car with me rather than have him try and carry it on the bike alone. Plus, I would worry a lot.”
Jeff dipped a bike tire in the Pacific Ocean last year and rode back to Wisconsin covering 2,100 miles, in 32 days.
“We found out that in May in Montana, there is still a lot of snow on the mountains, and it’s cold,” he said. “I couldn’t believe Montana is that big.”
Jeff got a flat tire 20 miles into the trip. He also got lost, causing Cindy to take over the navigation.
As if the biking and mostly camping wasn’t enough, Jeff also ran in a marathon in Idaho.
“I was in pretty good shape and thought I could do it, so I did,” he said.
The couple stayed in motels more on the second leg, covering about 1,900 miles over 30 days and ending the journey in Bar Harbor, Maine.
“The biggest thing for me was always the wind, and with all that rain this spring, there was a lot of water too,” he said. “I have to say it was a lot of fun, and I thoroughly enjoyed it all, but at the end of the trip Cindy told me how long we were on the trip, and I couldn’t bring up anything else I wanted to do for a while.”
Cindy, who taught 34 years in the Mondovi school district before retiring five years ago, said she “couldn’t complain about the trip because I always said we needed to see more of the U.S.”
The couple used maps designed for those trying to bike across the country. The maps suggested roads, campsites and stores.
So, what’s next for Jeff, who’s run marathons in China, London, Kenya, Greece and India?
How about the Inca Trail Marathon in Machu Picchu, Peru, and another in Australia so he could say he’s run a marathon on every continent.
“I like all the traveling and seeing the world, but I’m not so sure about Machu Picchu,” Cindy said. “We’ll see.”
Distributed by MCT Information Services