|Photo courtesy of Southsider Magazine|
At Friday's press race press conference he told the audience: "This(the marathon) is what I've been training for all year." That, if all goes well, he'll "have a good story to tell." His story thus far is pretty good. An underachiever in high school and college in New Orleans where, he said: "We don't breed distance runners," Castille dropped his two-mile time twenty seconds a year, starting out as a sophomore at 10 flat and finishing with a best of 9:20.
As a runner, he says, he "wasn't successful in college, not the least bit." He mainly ran the 800 meters because "you didn't have to think as long." But he wasn't an 800 runner. Wasn't getting any satisfaction out of the sport. He stopped running. Quit the sport for ten years and probably never would have picked it back up unless when he was supplementing his income as a personal trainer, he began coaching junior high kids. "They put the fire back under my butt," Castille says.
For them the sport wasn't about times or the competition as much as it was having fun.From watching them, it dawned on Castille that he never had fun when he was running. He was too tied up in the result, the competition, chasing the other guys. He could see from the kids, however, that those things weren't what it was supposed to be about.
While he loved running, he dreaded the competition. "I had a hard time being successful," he said He had the ability, but he couldn't bring it out during a race. When he began running again, he found that he didn't have that "baggage," as much. "I'm not chasing a younger version of me," he said. He could be patient and wait for things to develop, not try and force himself to be ready for the next race, the next challenge.
He was being coached by his friend Tom Hopkins, who he credits with restoring his "running life," moved to Oregon, ran in the 2004 Olympic Trials, but didn't finish. He still had trouble racing. It scared him. Fear of failure, not being able to perform. He hooked up with Marla Runyon's coach and husband Matt Lonergan, who coaches him now long distance as Lonergan lives in Oregon, Castille in Kentucky. Then a chance occurrence transformed his running life again. His college roommate, Kimboi Chesimet had to return home to Kenya and he invited Kevin to come with him. "Why not?" Kevin thought and he made the journey to Kericho a small town near Nairobi.
There he fell in with some Kenyan distance runners who made him one of the pack. They welcomed him, a total stranger, he says, with open arms. "They're just training. They embrace each other. They trust each other. There is no status." There were 27 minute 10K guys in the group and they fed off of each other, pushed each other, explored their limits. It was a "life change," said Castille. "I found out who I was." The fear subsided. When every day you are going toe to toe with some of the best runners in the world, said Castille, and they accept you, encourage you, you come out a changed man.
"Every week I raced with a couple of hundred Kenyans," he said. "(When the time was over he said to himself) You just spent a month in the lions' den." Racing didn't scare him anymore, and when he turned 40 this year, he was free to start rewriting the US Masters record book. He ran 14:00.09 in a 5K on the track at the Payton Jordan Invitational. A 28:57.88 in the 10K on the track, also at Stanford. He now owns the Masters records from 3K to 20K, and last month ran 1:05:39 at the Rock 'n Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon.
Sunday he hopes to run somewhere around 2:18 to 2:20. Figures he'll be nestled somewhere back around 25th place, being cautious, getting a feel for the marathon distance, and developing "a good story to tell."