Former Honolulu Marathon champion Mbarak Hussein says, as a child, he had to walk or run three miles to and from school in his native Kenya. In addition to having no bus, the school also had no cafeteria.
“We had to go back home for lunch and I was always hungry, so I always ran. That?s how I started running,” he told a group of first- and second-graders at Mid-Pacific Institute in Honolulu on Friday. He ran barefoot until he was in high school and got shoes, he said. He also said his tribe in Kenya is known for running.
When the students told him they run every day, he said, “I’m impressed. Running is good for your health.”
After sharing his experiences growing up in Kenya and in his running career, Hussein jogged on the school athletic field with the private-school students. “Some of you will be good runners. Keep it up,” he said.
The students had many questions about his life in Kenya. One student wanted to know if Kenya had Diet Coke when he was growing up. “No, but we had regular Coke and it came in bottles,” he said. He also told them he lived on a farm and drank a lot of milk. Families didn’t have running water, and had to carry water from the river.
Class members who are part of the elementary choir sang an African song learned as part of their study of the continent.
This year, Husssein will be one of the marathon pacemakers, saying he will guide the elite runners to the halfway point and then drop out. He explained that he won’t go the full distance because he will compete in the Olympic marathon trials on Jan. 14 in Houston. “I became an American citizen and now run for the U.S.” he said. The 47-year-old is the current U.S. Masters 10-kilometer champion.
Running is his profession and he trains every day, running twice a day, he said.
Hussein, who frequently visits local schools during his marathon visits, said, “It’s good to motivate the children and share with them another culture. It’s fun, too.”