Kim Smith speaks of her training partner, Amy Hastings, as only a close friend would.
"She couldn't keep up with me at all last year," said Smith, a three-time Olympian for New Zealand, during a pre-New York City Marathon media event on Thursday. "She's gotten used to our training and our ways."
The duo is based in Providence, R.I., under coach Ray Treacy, who is director of track and cross country operations at Providence College. Hastings joined the group, which also includes U.S. 5,000-meter record holder Molly Huddle, a little more than a year ago after competing in the Olympic 10,000 for Team USA.
Hastings had temporarily moved from Mammoth Lakes, Calif., to train with Smith for the 2012 New York City Marathon, which was canceled, but since then has decided to make it permanent.
Despite success at shorter distances, Smith and Hastings have each experienced heartbreak and disappointment in the marathon. At the 2012 Olympic trials, Hastings placed fourth, just outside of making the U.S. team. Her personal record of 2:27:03 was clocked at the 2011 Los Angeles Marathon, her debut at the distance, where she placed second.
Smith placed 15th at the 2012 Olympic marathon and holds a personal best of 2:25:21 set at the 2010 London Marathon, but has yet to place in the top three at a major marathon; Sunday will be her fourth try in New York.
The two train together nearly every day, and say that their tempo runs and speed sessions indicate they’re ready for the fierce competition and tactical race sure to unfold on Sunday.
"I'm ready to get out and race it," Hastings says of a race that has been two years in the making. "I've been thinking about it now for so long, it adds more excitement going in."
Smith isn't shy about her goal: she wants to end up on the podium and plans to go with whatever pace is set out of the gate, unless "it's a 2:16 pace or something, then no."
She recently won the $100,000 first-place prize for the Boston Athletic Association Distance Medley, a three-race series that includes a 5K, 10K and half marathon. Winning the half marathon in mid-October with a 1:09:14 left her feeling confident about her marathon preparation.
“I felt strong. It felt easy to run 69 and probably could've run a minute faster,” she says, adding that Treacy was unhappy that she pushed the pace as fast as she did at that point in marathon training. "I was in big trouble after that. He wanted me to go slower."
It's been a year of transition for Hastings, who left the Mammoth Track Club and coach Terrance Mahon after the Olympics. She competed in the 10,000 at the World Championships this summer, but had a disappointing race, placing 14th in 32:51.19. She did set a 5K personal best of 15:17.35 during the track season at the Oxy High Performance meet in May, but hasn't raced on the roads since last spring.
Adjusting to sea level and a new training philosophy has gone better than expected, Hastings says.
"Ray builds more recovery in between workouts," Hastings says. "But the tempos and intervals are more intense and longer than what I've done before. When I first looked at it on paper I thought, 'How am I going to do this?'"
Smith and Hastings plan to work together on Sunday, as they have throughout training for the race. Hastings says she's enjoyed sharing the workload day in and day out, and each has offered strengths. Smith has heavily contributed to tempo runs that are "better than ever," Hastings says.
"It's not a course to set a time goal, so we'll make a game-time decision," Hastings says. "I can look to [Smith] and see where she's at."