A Hawaii Runner’s Boston Story

Hawaii Kai’s Christopher “Kit” Smith must have been beaming as he glided down the final stretch of the Boston Marathon. After all, the grand prize was just minutes away.

Runners often describe a feeling of euphoria induced by distance running. Smith was no doubt experiencing that runner’s high as he approached the finish line. But the mood and celebratory atmosphere changed with two enormous blasts.

“I was about a half mile from the finish when I ran into people who said the race has been cancelled, two bombs just went off at the finish line,” says Smith from his hotel room in Boston. “I was just totally shocked and stunned and glad I wasn’t a little faster.”

So do his friends and family. Smith and hundreds of other runners still on the course were moved to safe areas. Their day was cut short by terrorists.

“It was just horrible, horrible. I couldn’t believe it,” says the 78-year-old Smith. “They stopped everything right away when it happened.”

Smith’s wife, Margie, was more than a mile and a half away when the explosions occurred. She and others were rushing to the finish line to meet their loved ones. They too were diverted from their final destination.

“I had to get off the subway. They stopped that right away along with the buses and (commuter) rail,” says Margie.

One of the last pictures Margie took of her husband was at the 20-mile mark. Kit was smiling from earto-ear as he pushed toward the finish line. Margie was anxious to know if her husband was safe. Relief would come but not soon enough.

“We filed down the street and joined a packed street of runners and spectators. We very slowly made our way back into Boston,” she says.

Most of the 50 runners from Hawaii already had finished the race when the bombs exploded. Many were extremely concerned knowing Smith was still on the course.

For several grueling hours, his whereabouts weren’t known by most of the Hawaii contingent.

“By my calculations, Kit would have been nearing the finish line,” says veteran runner Jonathan Lyau, who stayed in contact with other runners from Hawaii on Facebook. “When I heard from his Margie, I was thankful he was OK.”

Kit Smith is one of Hawaii’s finest marathon runners. The retired Honolulu Advertiser business writer and editor ran in his first Honolulu Marathon in 1976. He’s competed in dozens of races. Smith is often at the top of the leaderboard in his age group, including a seventh-place finish in the 2006 Boston Marathon.

Not in 2013. “I couldn’t finish. I was very pleased with my time; I would have loved to have finished, but I didn’t. I was deprived of the opportunity, but that’s pretty small stuff compared to the loss of life.”

The Smiths were overwhelmed with phone calls, emails and messages from worried friends and family back home. As for Kit, he’s eager to return to Boston next year and hopes to qualify again to compete in one of the world’s most prestigious races.

And like the rest of the world he, too, will never forget 2013.