Running was never a chore for William “Brad” Smedley 6th.
During some stages in his life, it served as a cheap and easy form of exercise. When his kids were young, running in the mornings was more convenient than going to a gym or attending classes.
Now, he calls it a “social experience.”
“You really get to know someone when you spend two hours hoofing it on a road or trail somewhere, and there’s a real opportunity to talk about life,” he said. “So the human need to connect to something, to belong to something and share experiences, seems to be natural with running.”
Tennis players and skiers don’t have the same ability to converse with other people during their sports, he said. Yoga and aerobics classes are relatively solitary activities.
“We always say in the long runs we solve the world’s problems,” Smedley quipped.
Through his love of hitting the trails, he has also found several opportunities to involve himself in his community.
In addition to being one of the founders of the Scores Running Club, Smedley, 52, volunteers with the Monadnock United Way and participates in the annual Men Who Cook fundraiser for Monadnock Family Services.
Smedley lives in Keene with his wife, Jenelle. The couple met in junior high school in Keene and married 28 years ago. They have two adult children, Beth, 25, and William “Liam” Smedley 7th, 27.
The road to Keene, the path to Scores
Originally from outside Philadelphia, Smedley moved to Keene with his parents when he was 10 years old. His father moved the family to start a new job at NGM Insurance on West Street.
Brad Smedley later worked at Vision Financial Corp., which was formerly housed in the same building as NGM. Employed at different companies under one roof, the two Smedleys had a “gentlemen’s agreement” that the younger wouldn’t apply to work at NGM until his father retired.
The elder Smedley left NGM in 1996, and his son began there two years later, now working as a business technology analyst at the insurance firm.
Growing up, Smedley said, he was never particularly skilled at running, but he wasn’t terrible, and he didn’t hate it. He tried several sports, including track in junior high school, but nothing stuck.
While in college at Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove, Pa., he ran to de-stress and clear his mind.
But he remembers the moment he decided to start running as a regular form of exercise. About 20 years ago, he was sitting at Thanksgiving dinner when he realized he couldn’t maintain the same dietary and health habits for the rest of his life.
He wasn’t interested in going to the gym, he said, adding he would rather “stack wood than lift weights.” Besides, he always preferred running — a runner can track their progress in a physical way, he explained. Traveling from one point to another always felt like a tangible accomplishment, even if he ran in a loop.
So Smedley picked up running routinely in the late 1990s.
“My kids were little, so I needed to do something that I could kind of squeeze in on my own,” he said.
Soon, he found himself wanting to run with other people, both for the social aspect and the accountability. And in that search for running companions, the Scores Running Club was born.
By 1999, Smedley and several people in the area who shared his interest had gathered to form the Keene Runners Club, an informal group with the sole purpose of exercising together.
The club continued in casual fashion for more than a decade. Then, on the advice of a new member from outside the region, the group became an official nonprofit organization in 2015 and transformed into the Scores Running Club.
Smedley clarified that Scores Sports Bar and Grille in Keene doesn’t sponsor the organization like a sports team. The members approached the restaurant in 2015 and asked if they could use the space as a quasi-headquarters and borrow the bar’s name.
“For the most part, it’s not a monetary relationship. It’s — they like us advertising for them. We’re running all over the area with their name,” he said, laughing.
Although the group typically meets at Scores after a run for food and beverages, he added that the club doesn’t comprise “a bunch of drinkers.” Many members don’t drink, he noted, and children sometimes tag along and order Shirley Temples.
While running can be a personal activity, Smedley said there’s also a strong communal aspect. Runners often want to meet like-minded people and swap stories about their experiences.
Smedley served as the president of Scores Running Club until earlier this year. Realizing he wanted to step away from the administrative role and “do more running,” he chose not to place his name on the ballot for re-election.
Cassie Cyr of Keene now leads the club and its 150 or so members.
But Smedley’s still a member and remains heavily involved in the club’s activities, including its two annual official races: the Drummer Hill Trail Races and the Stone Arch Bridge 10-Mile Race.
“It’s been more than I could’ve hoped for,” he said of the club. “I initially was just looking for someone I could run with, and it’s really grown into something bigger.”
A new running companion
Smedley plans to complete his third Clarence DeMar Half Marathon this weekend, and he has another two dozen or so under his belt from other races. He’s also completed two full DeMar marathons.
But this time, he’s focused on someone else’s milestone: His wife, Jenelle, is participating and plans to run her first half-marathon.
Running has never been her passion, Smedley said, but she has recently dipped her toe into the sport and started training for the DeMar.
Smedley plans to run alongside his wife at the race. He bought her Wonder Woman earrings for the occasion.
As for his own race goals, Smedley has his eye on a new target: He plans to run in his first ultramarathon in December. The event name encompasses any race longer than the traditional 26.2 miles, and this ultramarathon will challenge Smedley to run 30 miles.
He said he was inspired to try it after watching a friend and fellow club member run a 100-mile ultramarathon this past October.
While Smedley typically considers running a social form of exercise, the idea of an ultramarathon sparked introspective questions about his own limits, and he determined to try the event.
“It’s kind of like, how do you push yourself to another level?” Smedley said. “… What am I capable of doing? How far can I go?”