Raised by a single dad, a story so profound it goes back to a toddler memory just how Ashley Smith set out to chart his way around the athletics track.
Born and bred in Mitchell’s Plain, Smith was reared by his dad while finishing his schooling career at Imperial Primary before matriculating from the Western Cape Sport School in Kuils River.
The support Smith received from his dad propelled his career. A trajectory that led him to graduate from two of South Africa’s top universities as well as from a vocational college in the Northern Suburbs of Bellville.
Smith said: “After school, I studied at Northlink and spent about two years in the US [United States of America] on a running scholarship at California Baptist University, before coming back home in 2018 to do my BA – majoring in political studies and history – undergrad at UWC [University of the Western Cape] and then my Honours in History at Stellenbosch [University].”
Following a very successful academic career, the 26-year-old is now focussing completely on his athletics career while hinting at a possible return to pick up the books sometime down the line. His reflections back on where it all started for him lay bare how much he enjoys athletics as far back as him racing around in his pre-school days.
“This year I’m grateful that I can live out a childhood dream and run full-time, I might return to studies in future, but [right] now I just want to give myself the best possible shot at this running thing going into 2024.
“I always felt like athletics has been around [for me] because my first racing memory was in crèche and then also just racing kids in the street you know. However, I’m very versatile and can run anything from 800 metres to 21 km. However, my main event and most successful event is the 3000-metre Steeplechase which I have three nationals and three USSA titles.”
The pathway that the USSA champion has taken is one that allows him to express and fully immerse his talent and abilities into his athletics. Spending hours training, devoting his entire free time to recovering and recouping his energy. Preserving it for training and events. Smith has carved a pathway that many can learn from, three qualifications later, and six recognised 3000-metre Steeplechase titles later, the kid from Mitchell’s Plain has found the right formula.
“All I do, currently, is eat, sleep, and run,” Smith said about a normal daily routine. “But when I was a student, it was a lot to manage with class and two-three training sessions a day. Sport is not forever, so we technically do the sport just for a good time and not for a long time. It is therefore important to have something behind your name due to sporting success not being guaranteed. Injuries can happen anytime, but this should not hold one back to give yourself the best possible shot.
“I am where I am because of opportunities, so hopefully one day I could have achieved enough to grant others also the opportunity that I was blessed with. I’m always tired, running 170-180 km per week which takes a lot out of my body, so in my free time I rather sleep, play Xbox, or read.”