Catherine Ndereba: The marathon great who opened the door for Kenya’s female runners

Catherine Ndereba: The marathon great who opened the door for Kenya’s female runners

Abigael Wafula 06:30 - 11.07.2024

Catherine Ndereba, the first Kenyan woman to win the Boston Marathon, has opened up about being the voice of Kenyan women and how she started her marathon career.

Catherine Nyambura Ndereba, born in 1972 in Nyeri County, knew from a young age that she was destined for greatness in running and lived up to the billing.

Through her dominant exploits on the global stage, Ndereba placed Kenya on the world map and paved a way for female runners to make it on the big stage.

Ndereba was known for her prowess in marathon, and she ruled the roads between 2003 and 2008. The 51-year-old won two World Championships titles, claiming top honours in 2003 in Paris and in 2007 in Osaka.

She also claimed two Olympic silver medals, settling for second-place in the 2004 Athens Olympic Games and the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. Ndereba claimed a silver medal in the 2005 Helsinki World Championships.

A four-time Boston Maratho champion, Ndereba set the pace for Kenyan women to continue flying the country's flag high in the streets of Boston. Hellen Obiri has since taken the mantle, winning two back-to-back titles.

With her medals won, she became Kenya's first female multi-medalist. On top of her four Boston Marathon titles, she is also a two-time Chicago Marathon champion. She was not done writing history as she broke the women’s marathon world record in 2001, clocking 2:18:47 to cross the finish line.

Speaking on the Safari za Mabingwa show hosted by comedian Oga Obinna, Ndereba disclosed that her passion for running developed at a young age.

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“It was not something that I just woke up and decided, I just found myself doing it. I kind of fell in love with it and enjoyed it when I was in school and when I got done with high school, I didn’t know how to stop doing it,” she said.

“I would run twice a day and my parents never had any problem. They were very supportive and I thank God for them. My father also used to run in school but I doubt if he represented the country anywhere. My mother can walk very long distances and I also have siblings who run,” she added.

She hung her spikes after an injury that needed surgery to get back on track but she did not want it. This forced her to quit running competitively and focus on her healing.

“I kind of stopped unceremoniously because I developed some problems…It’s just like when you have a car it might develop some issues. For me, I developed an injury (torn ligament in the ankle) that really cost me and it could not be fixed there and then,” Ndereba said.

“It was something that needed attention and it needed surgery and I decided to just let it heal because I did not want the surgery,” she added.

Ndereba believes women have earned their place and are given equal treatment like men. She, however, feels women need to be taken care of and advised to stand up for themselves following Agnes Tirop’s murder.

“There are always such kind of stereotypes but in Kenya, I believe the sports men and women, I haven’s seen anybody who has been rewarded differently. If a number one is getting a million or Ksh500,000, everyone would get the same amount of money,” she said.

“I believe there is a need to take care of women and they also need to be educated to know their rights and in case someone has a problem, it should be okay for them to speak up."

“Unfortunately, Agnes Tirop was a wife to someone and she was afraid of speaking up because of the fear of the unknown. She was afraid of being gossiped about.”