Catherine Ndereba: Not Ready to Retire, Just Yet, by Justin Lagat

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Catherine Ndereba is one of the great women marathon runners in our sport's history. As Justin Lagat found out recently, Catherine is far from wanting to retire from the sport that she both loves and excels at, after so many years. 

Here is Justin's story on Catherine Ndereba....

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Catherine Nderiba, photo by PhotoRun.net

Catherine Ndereba Not Ready to Retire Yet:

The 10th edition of the UAP Ndakaini Half Marathon took place this weekend (September 16) in Thika, a town about 40km North-East to Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya. This event is one of the biggest annual events in Kenya that can only be on the same level with the Standard Chartered Nairobi Marathon, Safaricom Lewa Marathon, Sotokoto Half Marathon and the KassFm Marathon, among a few others.

Events of this magnitude in Kenya are often graced by many long distance superstars, perhaps more than may turn up in other big running events in other countries around the world because this is the country where most of them were born.

Catherine Ndereba was one of the elite athletes who turned up to participate in this event, only that she did the 10km distance and not the 21km main event. But, despite not being the main event of the day, the 10km was still a very competitive race and Ndereba ended up taking the 28th position. A journalist asked her soon after she crossed the finish line whether she had retired from competitive running and she replied that she hadn't and that she had not even thought of doing so. She added that she was in fact preparing herself to run in competitive half and full marathon races next year in spring. "When I will decide to retire, I will be the one to tell you personally," she told the journalist.

Born in July of 1972, Catherine has been able to accomplish so much in her running career: holding the marathon world record, being two times world marathon champion, two times Olympic silver medalist and four times Boston Marathon champion, among so many other titles and awards. What I remember most about Catherine Ndereba during her great performances is her kneeling down after the finish line, thanking God and always attributing her successes to God. And, even after finishing in 28th position in Ndakaini, she didn't fail to start by thanking her God before going ahead with the interview, the only difference being that she did not kneel down. She hasn't been able to make a major career highlight since 2009, but has always continued to participate in big competitions the last one being last year's Nagoya Marathon where she finished in 22nd position.

Other superstars who participated in the 10km event included Henry Wanyoike and Lucy Kabuu, the latter saying that she is not considering running any competitive race for now until next year as she still needs some time to recover after running in the harsh conditions during the world championship marathon race in Moscow. She said she is always happy to attend the UAP Ndakaini Half Marathon as it is this race that shaped her before she became an elite athlete.

From the great pre-race TV, radio and newspaper advertisements, social media presence, great communication with the prospective participants, efficient officials at the start and the finish lines and the live TV coverage of the event on one of the local channels that included an aerial view from a helicopter, the race was simply great. As if to answer my thoughts as to why the race is being recognized by IAAF as either a Bronze or a Silver label race, the organizer  assured the participants that there is already a team from the IAAF working on that and hopefully the race will be in the IAAF calendar from next year.

The race itself is one of the toughest half marathons in the world being run at an altitude of 2040m above sea level with many hills along the course. One Swedish athlete, who has been training in Kenya in preparation for the New York Marathon and got to participate in the race, said that despite being half the distance, she found the race tougher than the New York Marathon.

Bernard Kitur emerged the winner of the men's race in a time of 1:04:47, while Sarah Chepchirchir won the women's event in 1:14:35. Just to help show you how tough the race was, Bernard's time was about 4 minutes slower than his PB of1:00.59, while Sarah's was over 6 minutes from her PB of 1:08:07.

My regards go out to the organizers of the 10th edition of the UAP Ndakaini Half Marathon for staging such a great event with a good cause of conserving water catchment areas around Nairobi. Other race organizers ought to model them.


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