Past experience of being tripped led to Catherine Ndereba picking the pace up in the last five miles of today’s World Championships women's marathon.
The former world holder of the fastest time ever for the marathon was seen to point angrily at her rivals after 34km but it triggered her winning move as she went on to set a championship record of 2:23:55.
With three sub-2:20 marathons under her belt – although on two of those occasions she was beaten into second by Paula Radcliffe – she was the clear favourite, but she became increasingly concerned during the race when getting clipped by her rivals.
“All the race some of the girls kept stepping on my shoes and I was getting worried that I might fall down. I have experience of falling and bruising myself, as I had a very bad fall in the Beach to Beacon Race in America once. I suffered nasty bruising that day so I decided to get away from any trouble and tried to pick the pace up.
“I felt strong so instead of risking a fall I decided to make my move. I put my trust in God today. In have never run a championship marathon, so I said to God ‘I do not know what to do, I need your help.”
When Ndereba knelt on the track after winning the gold medal, she was thanking God for helping her win. She says: “God deserves the glory for my win today. Without him I could do nothing.”
Ndereba has always tended to run championship marathons but agreed to compete for her country in Paris because she was threatened that she may otherwise be left out of the Kenyan team for next year’s Olympics.
But her victory not only lifted Kenyan spirits after a disappointing championships but kicked off a day of improved fortunes with Eliud Kipchoge going on to add another Kenyan gold two hours later when defeating Hicham El Guerrouj and Kenenisa Bekele in the 5000m.
Ndereba spends much of the time in the States, where she trains in Pennsylvania, her days working for the Kenyan Prison services now long behind her. Ndereba is the third of nine children and younger sister Anastasia is also showing a talent for the marathon and won in Turin last year.
She has some way to go before she matches Catherine, who has won around 70 road races in the USA. The 31-year-old, who is married to three-time Kenyan prisons cross country champion Anthony Maina, is coached by former London Marathon runner-up El Mustahpha Nechchadi.
Her marathon debut came in Boston four years ago and she has now won that event twice as well as Chicago on a couple of occasions, but she admits: “I have never won anything on this scale before. It was wonderful to come into the packed stadium to hear all the cheering.
“I would love to experience the same thrill of winning in the Olympics next year.”