Blind runner completes half marathon – with a little help from a new friend

PO‘IPU — Kyle Kreinbring knew he would be taking in 13 miles of breathtaking sights during Sunday morning’s Kaua‘i Half-Marathon race. What he didn’t know — until a day before the race — was that he would be viewing those sights for two.

After seeing an ad on Facebook Friday, Kreinbring took on the challenge of escorting legally blind runner Ben Smith along the winding 13-mile course around the South Shore of Kaua‘i.

The two, who first met Saturday morning, finished the half-marathon in 2:26:28.

“This was absolutely great,” Smith said, “and Kyle is the one that made it all possible.”

Smith was on Kaua‘i vacationing for the past week and had no intention of running the marathon until he heard about it several days ago. Once he got word of the race, he decided it was something he wanted to be a part of. He knew he was in good enough health, as he’d been training with his daughter back in Oakland, Calif., in preparation for a 20K run.

The problem for Smith was he needed somebody to do the course with him — to be his eyes.

“I can only see a very very little,” Smith said. “My wife told me she wouldn’t let me run alone. It would be unsafe. I would bump into people or trip.”

Smith contacted the marathon organizers and together they put an ad on the marathon’s Facebook page asking if anybody would like to run with Smith.

Kreinbring, who was already planning on running the half-marathon, said his wife, Christina, came across the ad online and told him it was something he should do.

“I sent Ben an e-mail that day and told him I’d love to do it,” Kreinbring said.

Part of Kreinbring’s reasoning for accepting the offer was that his wife routinely leaves him in the dust. Kreinbring said the two run a lot together, but she’s much quicker — Christina finished the half marathon in 1:55:10 — so Smith made for a good running mate.

“This has been the best marathon experience I’ve ever had,” Kreinbring said. “We talked the whole time. It passed the time so much quicker than running by yourself.”

For most of the course, Smith could make out the yellow street lines that formed the route, but he relied on Kreinbring to help him navigate through other runners or when the lighting conditions became such where Smith couldn’t see anything. When Smith needed assistance, Kreinbring held onto Smith’s cane and guided him through the obstacles.

“There were some scary parts for me with some bad shadows and drops,” Smith said. “So I just put my good faith in my guy. He grabbed the front and I followed behind him.”

The 13 miles went without a hitch for the two, with Smith only bumping into a rogue cone or two en route to a time both men were satisfied with.

Smith said coming into the race he was hoping to finish within the three-hour range, but the pair beat that by nearly 30 minutes. Both said they would like to come back next year, with Smith saying his next goal is to be the first blind runner to finish the full 26-mile Kaua‘i Marathon.

“I’ve been running all my life,” Smith said, noting that he doesn’t let his lack of sight affect his passion. “If you got to run, you got to run.”

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