Even among long-distance runners, who are known to dance to the beat of a different drummer, Kamika Smith is distinct.
He’s a member of the 50 states marathon club. He ran seven half marathons on seven continents in 11 days. (It would have been seven halves on seven continents in seven days were it not for foul weather in Antarctica.)
He lives on the breathtakingly beautiful island of Kauai yet confesses that he loves the cold.
“Maybe I can enjoy it because I know I’m coming back to the warmth of Hawaii,” says the 55-year-old Smith.
Hence, he has trekked to Antarctica twice for half marathons.
He has run 111 marathons with a 3:48 PR. Come Sunday, at the Alaska Airlines Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle Half Marathon, Smith will knock off his 155th 13.1-miler. He’ll also become the latest member of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series’ century club, running his 100th Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series event.
Smith ran his first half marathon his senior year at Seattle University on Mercer Island. It was his first road race of any kind, skipping the typical 5K to 10K to half build-up. Plus, it was a hilly layout.
“I didn’t know any better,” he says. “I was out there doing the run and having fun.”
Doing the run and having fun would serve as a nice slogan for Smith’s current running status. His first Rock ‘n’ Roll event was in San Diego in 2001.
“Just hearing there were rock ‘n’ roll bands every few miles, I figured that would keep me motivated,” he says. As for why he got hooked on the Rock ‘n’ Roll brand, Smith adds, “The bands. The bling is really cool. And all the different locations. Since I was on my 50-state trek, it made sense to do all the states they were in.”
While the bands, the medals and race buzz all serve as attractions, the real magnet that draws Smith to Rock ‘n’ Roll races are the people.
“It’s the friendships you make,” says Smith, whose family is in its third generation of operating river tours and luaus in Hawaii. “You have like-minded people doing Rock ‘n’ Roll races, enjoying the camaraderie.”
The Rock ‘n’ Roll regulars call themselves the Rock ‘n’ Roll Gypsies. There’s even a Gypsies subset dubbed the Black Sheep, who’ll do crazy stuff like run the 5K on race morning, then jump in the corral and take off on the half marathon.
In 2013, Smith and more than 20 of the Gypsies ran the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Antonio Half Marathon in the morning, then jumped on a plane and ran the Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Half on the Strip at night. #SA2LV the trip was called.
“We see our friends at the races,” he says. “We gather and say, ‘OK, here we are.’”
But there’s another, even bigger reason Smith runs.
“Most of my family is pretty big,” he says. “I wanted to break that cycle. Get out and exercise and not be heavy. I wanted to do something so I wouldn’t get ‘Hawaiian’ (as in heavy). Poi is a good thing but it packs on the pounds.
“I tell my friends, I run so I can eat.”