Like many who balance work and family responsibilities, Sandra Smith, cohost of FOX News Channel’s Outnumbered and reporter for FOX Business Network, finds that some weeks it’s hard to carve out the time to run.
“My goal is to run every single day. Every morning I wake up, I say, ‘I want to run today.’ Some weeks I run seven days. Some weeks I run zero,” Smith told Runner’s World by phone on January 12.
The week of January 11th happened to be one of those closer to zero weeks for Smith, who served as one of the debate moderators for the Republican presidential debates in North Charleston, South Carolina on January 14. Along with Trish Regan, Smith moderated the undercard debate, which featured candidates Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, and Rick Santorum and took place just before the primetime debate.
Smith, 35, who ran in college for Louisiana State University, says there are similarities between preparing for a debate and training for a race.
“It [involves] constant, constant preparation. It is writing questions, updating questions, throwing questions out,” Smith said. “It’s staying on top of absolutely everything and everything that every candidate says and does. I lay in bed at night thinking about questions.”
But when the big night comes, she said, it feels like competing at the Division I level.
“It’s a total adrenaline rush,” Smith said. “I don’t get nervous about it at all because I feel like we’re so prepared. But when the adrenaline kicks in, it is fun.”
Even in non-debate weeks, Smith, who lives outside of New York City, leads a busy life. With a 2½-year-old daughter and a son who turned 1 on Tuesday, as well as a husband who also works long hours, her days always begin early. She leaves for work as early as 4 a.m.
“I have long days at work, which is why it’s really important that I come home and just have that few minutes to myself to clear my head, go for a run,” Smith said. “I love running—it’s my escape, it’s when I think best. With so much going on, running is no longer a chore or a stress to me. It’s a getaway.”
At LSU, Smith was a varsity cross-country runner and ran the mile and steeplechase on the track. She earned Academic All-American honors and still holds the school’s third-fastest time in the 3,000 meter steeplechase (11:57.98). Though she never competed in a national championship race, she was a part of three national championship teams in track and field, thanks to teammates such as future Olympians Lolo Jones and Muna Lee.
As Smith’s life has become increasingly hectic with work and family responsibilities, she has remained determined to keep up with her running.
“[I run] to keep myself healthy, to keep myself in shape and looking good, but I have a whole new reason to run,” Smith said. “I want to inspire my daughter to run because I think running did such amazing things for me in my life.”
Smith recalls running with her father, an avid marathoner at the time, beginning around age 5, and running her first 5K race around age 6 or 7. Smith recently signed her daughter, Cora, up for her first race—a one-mile fun run—and was surprised that at not quite 2½, she ran the entire way.
“I kept saying to her, ‘Cora, do you want to walk? Are you tired?’ and she said, ‘No, no!’ Smith said. “She loved it.”
Smith’s father, now in his early 70s, still runs, and she joins him on visits home whenever she can.
Her schedule, along with her pregnancies, has kept her from racing much in recent years, but when she does race, she prefers shorter races like 5Ks and 10Ks. In 2010, she was the first female finisher in the electronic media division of the Capital Challenge three-mile race, which she ran in 22:11.
Smith also moderated the November 10 debate, but before January’s debate she said entering with prior experience isn’t necessarily going to make it any easier.
“We’re in the election year now, it’s two days after the State of the Union address, it’s the first debate of the new year, it’s a couple of weeks before the Iowa caucuses,” Smith said. “This is go time for these candidates. So there are going to be candidates who have a lot to lose and those that don’t. Those candidates that don’t have a lot to lose may come out swinging, and so we have to be prepared for candidates that are willing to take on a lot of risk.”
While Smith knows almost everything there is to know about each of the candidates, she declined to pick a clear favorite when asked which presidential candidate would win in a running race, saying she doesn’t know the details of their fitness regimens.
“You never know because runners can look all different shapes and sizes, so not knowing what they do for their workouts, any of them could be a good runner,” Smith said.