Kamika’s quest

Kamika Smith.

He’s the face most often associated with the Smith Family Garden Luau, a successful Kauai family-run business for which he’s the general manager. He’s the gentleman with the soothing voice and pleasant smile who shares the history of Smith’s Tropical Paradise and explains the imu ceremony. He even plays music on stage during the luau.

And when he’s not at Smith’s? Well, he’s often headed to the airport. He’s got to catch a flight because, somewhere on the Mainland, probably on a Saturday or Sunday morning or both, he’s got an appointment.

With a starting line.

Because somewhere in the Unites States — and beyond — Kamika Smith is running.

He doesn’t talk about it much. Doesn’t bring it up. But he runs. A lot. More than most. Way more. He took up running more than 30 years ago when he was a college student at Seattle University and he is still at it. He’s logged thousands and thousands of miles, worn out untold numbers of running shoes. He’s completed more than 100 marathons (108 and counting), including one in every state. He’s closing in on 100 half marathons, with one completed in 42 states.

“It’s not my goal to finish fast,” he said. “I just want to finish.”

And this guy finishes what he starts. One wall of his home is covering with medals. Hundreds of them. They’re from races he’s completed in Cleveland. Chicago. Seattle. Boston. Los Angeles. New York. Washington, D.C. And on and on.

“I’m here just to have fun, enjoy myself, see the place if I can,” he said.

For the 53-year-old, part of this is about staying fit and strong. Running makes him feel better, physically and mentally — though he laughs when he speaks of the punishment his stocky, 6-foot-1 body has taken in the past three decades.

“It’s just the joints now, hips, knees and ankles,” Smith said. “All of the above.”

These days, the easy-going Smith focuses on running 13.1 miles, one race at a time.

“With the joints and everything going to the wayside, I figure half marathons are a little less taxing on the body,” he said. “And I don’t have to train for it as well, too.”

He’s doing something right.

Smith just pulled off a feat few have managed to do — the Triple 7 Quest. That’s seven half marathons in seven continents in seven days. Well, due to weather delays, that last half in Antarctica took a little longer to complete, but he got it done. It counts. It’s in the record books.

His adventure started Feb. 8 in Melbourne, Australia, with the Carlton Classic Marathon. This was the ititnerary for Smith and 35 others: Feb. 9, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Abu Dhabi Striders Marathon (Asia); Feb. 10, Paris, France, Torcy International Marathon; Feb. 11, Tunis, Tunisia, The Carthage Race International Marathon; Feb. 12: Garden City, New York, Lincoln’s Birthday Half Marathon; Feb. 13: Punta Arenas, Chile, Southern Cross Marathon; and three and a half days later, to King George Island, Antarctica, for the Penguin Marathon.

The group, which ranged in age from 30 to 77, included a couple who have raced more than 250 marathons together, a 69-year-old woman from Arizona and a Michigan man who was finishing a marathon on each of the continents for the fifth time. And there was that big Hawaiian guy, who “just wanted to travel the world with other crazies, doing a race on each of the continents.”

“I just want to do it while I can,” Smith said.

And he did, finishing each half marathon in the three-hour range.

They ran around lakes. They ran down crowded streets. They ran along the coastline. They ran with a mosque for a backdrop. They ran in blustery wind and scorching sun. They ran in mud and they ran on ice. They ran with 300 Arab men cheering for them. They ran with penguins looking on.

As for sleep, well, they caught a little shut-eye during the flights.

Nutrition? They ate what they could on the plane or at airport terminals. “I just ate whatever they gave us,” Smith said.

Camaraderie and spirit? They shared those in abundance.

It was exhausting, exhilarating and exciting, all at once.

“There are other people with like minds crazy enough to do this kind of thing,” Smith said, laughing.

Most challenging?

“The tough part was the travel,” Smith said. “The runs were fine. After six runs, we felt great.”

The group’s total flight miles totaled 43,127 and the total flight time was 92 hours. Layovers totaled 66 hours, 20 minutes.

“Flying for 10 to 14 hours per leg did take a toll on our bodies, especially after running just a few hours prior,” he wrote.

But any aches and pains — and there were plenty — were worth every penny of the $13,995 entry fee.

“Everyone in the group provided encouragement to the runners as we made our way around the world,” he said. “It still hasn’t sunk in as to what we have done. As time goes on, we’ll be able to reflect on our experience and be amazed as to what we have accomplished. We traveled to each continent, ran a race and survived.”

They fell short of seven races in seven days on seven continents, but that was through no fault of their own. Their charter flight to King George Island, Antarctica, for the final race had to turn back, 20 minutes before landing, due to weather. For a time, the quest was in jeopardy.

Here’s how Smith described that final half marathon:

“It would take us four days of waiting before we were able to land in Antarctica for the final race. We arrived as the sun made a slow arc over the horizon and made the hike to our frozen campsite. After spending a sleepless night on a sandy beach in Antarctica, we awoke to a beautiful sunrise and started our final race. A slight breeze pushed us up steep hills and across melting snow streams. About two hours into the race, huge snowflakes tumbled out of the sky as penguins dolphin-ed in the calm waters along the course. At the end, we were rewarded with our final medal of the series accomplishing our seven race, seven continent goal within eleven days and 17 hours.”

Smith thanked his family members for making his quest possible.

“I’m very fortunate to be able to take the time off and do those things as well,” he said.

Now that he’s back home, Smith is, of course, gearing up for more running.

“I’m still enjoying it. I’ll keep running until I can’t do it. Then, I’ll stop.”

But no signs of that happening anytime soon.

There are those eight half marathons — Alaska, Idaho, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, New Jersey, Kentucky and Iowa — he needs in order to complete one in each state.

And he recently learned his entry for the New York Marathon in November was accepted. So you know what that means.

“I guess I have to start training now,” he said.


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