Sunday, October 06, 2013

Mbarak Hussein Is the Consumate Master

Mbarak Hussein(206) leads Kevin Castille(right behind
Hussein. Photo by Gene Niemi 
It's probably not too much of a stretch to characterize Mbarak Hussein as a sensi.  Since he's Kenyan, though,  they'll have to coin a new term for master teacher.  Hussein won his fourth Masters title in 2:20:21 at Sunday's Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon and taught his pupil, runner up Kevin Castille(2:21:00), firsthand how it is done.

The pair sat together at Friday's pre-race press conference and are in frequent contact throughout the year, said Castille.  Hussein says Castille has the potential to do what Hussein has done at Twin Cities, not only win the Masters competition, but the overall title as well.  Though he's 48, Hussein looks about as young as the 41-year-old Castille.  While Castille can be brash and is something of a quote machine, tossing off one liners such as saying that training in New Orleans, where he is from, is like running underwater in the dark, Hussein is understated, analytical, and encouraging, even against those with whom he competes.

When the pair met at a race two years ago, Hussein took Castille for much younger than his then 39 years, and he recognized the talent.  Having rewritten the US Masters record book several times in the last two seasons, Castille reminds Hussein of himself.  Hussein ran his fastest marathon when he was 39 and imparts to his young pupil, one can still improve at an advanced age.

The marathon has been a tough teacher on Castille, however. Last year, after conquering every distance he ran on the track, Castille came into Twin Cities not thinking of just winning the Masters, but more lofty goals.  He got sick the day of the race, he says, and had to drop out at mile 17.  This year he returned wiser and more deferential of the distance, the challenge.

He didn't escape unscathed.  He had to make a "pit stop" during the race and work his way back up after that.  Both a mental and physical challenge.  Listening intently to the wisdom Hussain passed on he had approached the race differently.  Unlike last year he didn't chase "the younger runners."  Instead he concentrated on running Hussein's consistent, steady pace.  When he suffered the setback of the pit stop, he could have easily turned the run into another DNF. Instead he readjusted his race plan and slowly moved back up the field.

This year the goal was simply to "get to the finish."  "There's no such thing as easy when it comes to the marathon," was how he described his new found respect for the distance.  "It's mental.  You have so much time to talk yourself out of it."

And afterwards his sensi was soothingly telling him what could be ahead.  "I see in (Castille) the ability to win (both the Masters and overall)."  Soon we may see if Hussein is as good a teacher and judge of talent as he has been a World Class runner.


Robert J. said...

Kevin is from Lafayette, not New Orleans; and he is not exaggerating about training down here. You need to try it sometime.

jdf said...

Thanks. He said New Orleans during the interview, so I suspect he "relocates himself" in the Big Easy in interviews because he knows people are more familiar with that than Lafayette.

jdf said...

And, yes, I have been in New Orleans, but only in the winter to avoid the summer heat and humidity. Kevin also made it clear that he's not living there now, as training there would not be conducive to performance in distance races.