2012-07-27 / Community

Families prepare to host Beach to Beacon runners

By Jack Flagler
Staff Writer


Mbarak Hussein of Kenya walks through the Old Port with Max Patterson (left) and Nate Patterson. After Hussein finished second in the 2010 Beach to Beacon in the Master’s age division of runners age 40 and over, he gave the ceremonial check he received to the Patterson boys with the message, “To Max and Nate- Good luck and wish you all the best – Mbarak Hussein.” (Jack Flagler photo) Mbarak Hussein of Kenya walks through the Old Port with Max Patterson (left) and Nate Patterson. After Hussein finished second in the 2010 Beach to Beacon in the Master’s age division of runners age 40 and over, he gave the ceremonial check he received to the Patterson boys with the message, “To Max and Nate- Good luck and wish you all the best – Mbarak Hussein.” (Jack Flagler photo) Max Patterson, 10, and his brother Nate Patterson, 8, both attend Pond Cove Elementary School in Cape Elizabeth. They live with their mother Terri, father Tyler and dog Wiley on Surf Road, about two and a half miles away from school. For the Patterson boys, that means their commute to school every day involves a drive of approximately 10 minutes.

Mbarak Hussein, the distance runner the Pattersons hosted when he ran in the TD Beach to Beacon 10k Road Race two years ago, also lived about two and a half miles from his school in Kenya as a child.

But for Hussein, that distance probably seemed a lot longer. Hussein told the Pattersons he would run every day to school, run home for lunch, run back to school for the afternoon, and finally run home. That amounted to 10 miles of running in his daily commute. Every day. Barefoot.

The Pattersons are one of more than 20 families that will host a runner over the weekend of Beach to Beacon this year. The race will take place the morning of Saturday, Aug. 4.

“Having two boys, we bring somebody into our house and they give them a sense of a whole different culture. They also teach them about going after something that’s very important to them, and dedicating their lives to it,” said Tyler Patterson.

Max and Nate will participate in the Kids Fun Run the Friday before the race. In previous years, the runners the Pattersons hosted have come out on that evening before their own race to cheer the boys on.

“I like (hosting a runner) because I really like running,” Max said. “So it’s good to have somebody who can teach you more about running and pacing yourself.”

Tyler Patterson is also a runner. He has participated in the Beach to Beacon in years past, and plans to run again this year. He said on top of the cultural education, the host family program allows him to have someone to talk to about running.

“I’ll spend part of the time just picking their brains. So what does your training plan look like? How do you go about this? Even simple things, where an average runner might think about running an eight-minute mile, do you push it do seven? Some of the men are just over four minutes. It’s a whole different world,” he said.

Kathy Tarpo is the host family coordinator for the race. She said the feedback she gets from most families is just as positive as what she has heard from the Pattersons.

“No family or runner has had a ‘they would never do it again’ kind of experience. They all usually like it,” Tarpo said. “It doesn’t matter who the runner is, sometimes the runner won’t speak a lot of English, so it’s kind of like going to a foreign country in your own house. It’s kind of a bonding that happens over the weekend.”

All of the host families live in either Cape Elizabeth or South Portland, which is important, Tarpo said, because runners often like to become familiar with the Beach to Beacon course beforehand. The families are required to provide meals for the runners and a place to sleep. The Pattersons said they generally take runners to the beach and to dinner at Flatbread, a pizza restaurant in the Old Port that is Max and Nate’s favorite.

Tarpo said she also tries to place runners who have trained together in houses close to each other so they can continue to run together throughout the weekend. She starts off the placement process by putting returning runners with the same families they stayed with in years past.

Last year, the Pattersons hosted Diane Nukuri Johnson, a runner from Burundi who finished with the fourth fastest time among women in the race. This year, Nukuri Johnson will not be returning to the Patterson residence. Instead, she will represent her native country as a marathon runner at the London 2012 Olympic games.

When Johnson, 27, was a child, Burundi became involved in a civil war that lasted more than a decade and killed about 300,000 people. Johnson moved to Canada in 2001, and then moved on to run for the University of Iowa, where she met her husband, Alex Johnson. In 2005, Burundi chose a president in its first parliamentary elections.

“She had family members that were killed, and she had an opportunity to go to Canada and run, and she attributes running to saving her life,” Terri Patterson said.

Recently, Nukuri sent the Pattersons a picture of her with the other Burundi Olympians, standing in front of the “London 2012” sign.

That’s not the only remembrance of the runners the Pattersons have in their home. Max ran upstairs to get the oversize fake check that Hussein received for his second-place finish in the master’s age group of runners age 40 and older. He gave it to the boys, and they have kept it for the two years since the race.

The Pattersons will host a runner from Ethiopia this year, although they’re still not sure exactly who that will be as Tarpo is still working to finalize plans. The family doesn’t know anything about the English skills of the runner, the back story or what their runner hopes to achieve in his or her future career. But finding those things out is part of the appeal.

“Those stories and anecdotes that are just a part of their lives, that just opens up a whole new world for all of us,” said Tyler Patterson. “It’s great for (Max and Nate) to see and hear, but it’s great for us too.”

Staff Writer Jack Flagler can be reached at 282-4337, ext. 219.

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