RBR Interview: Stefani L. Weiss, Documentary film maker of WinCatherine, by Larry Eder

Catherine Ndereba, 2009 ASICS London 10k, photo by PhotoRun.net.

Stefani L. Weiss is a documentary film maker. Her labor of love is a film called WinCatherine. WinCatherine is a documentary film about Catherine Ndereba, arguably, the greatest women marathon racer of all times.

Consider this: Catherine Ndereba won the Boston Marathon in 2000, 2001, 2004 & 2005. Ndereba won silver Olympic medals in 2004 and 2008. Catherine also won silver medal at the 2005 World Championships (Helsinki), however, she also added two golds, one in 2003 (Paris), and 2007 (Osaka). In 2001, Catherine Ndereba broke the world record in Chicago, running a fine 2:18:47. In 2009, finishing seventh in London, Catherine tied Katrin Dorre with 21 sub 2:30 marathons. Catherine has a bold racing style, coming from behind, with a ferocious finish. Catherine Ndereba is also a trailblazer for Kenyan women.

Stefani L. Weiss has followed Catherine for fourteen years, Her film, a labor of love, needs support from our sport. In order to finish the film, Stefani needs to raise more money. Read the interview and note the link listed at the bottom to support this worthy cause.


RBR, 1: Why did you do this? Developing a film such as Wincatherine is a thankless task, what about the story that convinced you that it needed to be done?


Stefani L. Weiss: When I first met Catherine almost 14 years ago, I didn't know much about her other than she was a runner who was really good. I would hear about her winning various road races, hear about her having a baby, yet didn't really "know" her all that well. Once I got to know her, the first thing I was struck by was how committed she is to her faith; I had never met anyone that committed to the point where she gives God all the credit for her talent and success. She truly believes that God has given her this talent and it is her responsibility to use it to give back to others. Catherine is never disappointed if she doesn't win a race and is genuinely happy for the person who does; she accepts that as being God's plan for the day. At the time I was a typical "soccer mom" and it was so refreshing to see that even though someone is a great competitor, it wasn't all about the win.


The more I learned about Catherine and where she came from, the more I became fascinated with her. Not only that she is a great athlete, but when I started learning about what she had to overcome to get to where she is today I was amazed. There is a big misconception that all Kenyans run; this is not true. The area where Catherine came from was not known for running, in fact, the tribe she is from is known for being business people. In addition, women were expected to only raise children and run the household; they did not work outside the home and certainly did not have careers. But Catherine did not let these conventions stop her from doing what she loved. She didn't even know that there were professional runners anywhere in the world when she was growing up; she just wanted to run. And she was teased by her classmates all the way up through high school but never once let that stop her from doing what she loved to do. I was teased as a child as were my own children and know how hard it is to put that aside. Catherine never let what others said about her stop her from doing what she wanted. I know how cruel kids can be and it's no fun being teased; Catherine relates so well to children and I know that her story will allow them to identify with what she went through and see that they too can move past it. I also know how children look to sports figures as role models and many of these athletes do not truly live their lives "off the playing field" in exemplary ways. Catherine lives her life in private exactly the way we see her in public. I wanted to bring Catherine's story to the world to show that we do not have to let what others say about us define who we are, to show that with faith, hard work and determination we can accomplish our dreams and to let more people know about this woman so they too can be inspired.


RBR, 2: The nine minute piece you provided showed that Catherine is really a trail blazer, tell us about that?

Stefani L. Weiss: Catherine has become a role model to many Kenyan girls and women for defying the conventions of a male dominated society. Her family has been instrumental in supporting her along the way and did not pressure her to conform to the traditional role of Kenyan women which was to raise children and run the household. She and her husband, Anthony, stand as role models for the modern Kenyan couple as well. It was certainly not the norm for a wife to work outside the home and especially not to leave a baby behind with her husband for several months each year so she could train in the US and pursue a career. It takes a special man to withstand public disapproval and Anthony has had the courage to support Catherine every step of her career. Together they have paved the way for many other Kenyan couples.

RBR, 3:Can you give us an example of how she is viewed in her country?

 Stefani L. Weiss: Catherine is considered a national hero yet athletes in Kenya are not revered the way our athletes are in the US. Our athletes here are put on a pedestal and celebrated. Up until just a few years ago, the Kenyan athletes were barely recognized by the Kenyan government or the media. It is only in recent years that the athletes are receiving more recognition. In past years much of this could be attributed to the lack of modern communication means. While there are still areas where people do not know of her because they have no way to learn of her triumphs, she is widely known and recognized in most areas and is considered a celebrity. Catherine is a well respected woman known for giving back to her community, for her commitment to God and for being a great role model to women.

RBR, 4: How are women athletes treated in Kenya?

Stefani L. Weiss: It seems as if the female athletes in Kenya are now receiving more equal treatment these days. I have heard stories, however, of a time when even though the girls were training alongside the men at training camps, the men still expected the women to serve them.

RBR, 5: If you could tell RBR readers anything about the project, what would you say?

Stefani L. Weiss: I would ask people to support the project because it is the first film of its kind; an inside look into the life of an elite Kenyan athlete. It does not just focus on Catherine's athletic achievements; those have all been well documented. The film gives us a look at the inside world of arguably the greatest female distance runner to date. We meet Catherine's family, learn what obstacles she faces, how she overcomes them, what sacrifices she has made and what her plans are for the future. The film will appeal to a broad range of audiences who will all be inspired it different ways. I'd also like to show that not all stories that come from Africa are about oppression and gloom; that there are also beautiful stories of courage and triumph.

For more on the film, please check out www.WinCatherine.com.

For more on the sport, please check out www.runningnetwork.com.

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