Updated 11 August 2008
Catherine NDEREBA, Kenya (Half-Marathon / Marathon)
Born 21 July 1972 in Gatung’ang’a, Nyeri District, Central Province
1.60m / 45 kg
Coach: Mastafa Nechchadi; Manager: Lisa Buster; Team: Kenya Prisons
Lives in Nairobi , trains in Pennsylvania
Known as Catherine the Great, Catherine Ndereba’s spread of success is unmatched even by the World record holder and World champion, Paula Radcliffe. Not only is Ndereba a former World record holder and a top-two finisher in four of the five World Marathon Majors, she is the only athlete to win the World Championships marathon gold twice.
It is hard to know where to start when listing Ndereba’s achievements. She was the first woman to run under 2:19, the first African woman to win the marathon at the World Championships (2003) and 2005 and silver in Olympic Games (2004).
The first woman to win the Boston Marathon a record four times, Ndereba is also a double Chicago Marathon winner. With two second-place finishes in the New York City Marathon, and a runner-up spot in the London Marathon, only the Berlin Marathon in the WMM series has yet to experience her brilliance.
Twice Kenya’s sportswoman of the year, 18 Half-Marathons wins, 17 podium finishes out of 19 marathon starts, the deeply spiritual Ndereba is one of the most dominant figures in marathon. In her trademark sunglasses, Ndereba’s typically cautious start, followed by strong surges in the second half, has become a hallmark in road running - as has the image of her on her knees, arms stretched in prayer, at the end of every race.
The third born in a family of nine, Ndereba was born in Gatung’ang’a village, Nyeri district. With her father having been an athlete who won household goods in community races, Ndereba caught the athletics bug early in life and started competing while at Kahiraini primary school in Gatung’ang’a.
In 1990 she joined Ngorano secondary school in Nyeri where her burgeoning talent continued to grow. Specialising in 3000 metres, she reached the national secondary schools finals. By the end of her secondary school education, she had attracted attention from several teams and Kenya Prisons moved in recruiting her to Kenya Prisons training college in 1994.
It was here that she met her future husband Anthony Maina. She graduated in 1995 and the couple was posted at Nairobi West prison as wardens. In 1995 Ndereba represented Kenya internationally for the first time at a women's relay race in Seoul and set a 10K personal record of 31:35, at the Richard S Caliguiri/City of Pittsburgh Great Race.
Ndereba won 13 races of her 18 races in 1996, the year she married,.and took the following year off, giving birth to daughter Jane Wairimu, on 12 May.
Ndereba returned in 1998 and, in 1999, ran the world’s fastest times at 5K (15:09), 15K (48:52), 12K (38:37), 10 miles (53:07). She also represented Kenya at the World Half- Marathon Championships, winning an individual bronze medal and playing a part in team gold. She made her debut in the Boston Marathon in April finishing sixth (2:28:27) and in New York in November, finishing second (2:27:35).
On April 17 2000, Ndereba claimed her first win in Boston, taking the lead from Ethiopian Fatuma Roba in the last mile and winning in 2:26:11. "What I was pretty much concentrating with was finishing the race being strong and also I didn't want to lose the race like last year when I faded the last few kilometres," Ndereba said.
Later in the year, Ndereba won Chicago Marathon on her debut. Just like in Boston, she trailed race leader – this time Kenya’s Lornah Kiplagat – by 15 seconds but then closed in before taking the lead with two miles to go. Her winning time (2:21:33) was the fastest time of the year and the fifth fastest of all time.
In 2001, having run the fastest Half-Marathon of her career even until now (The Hague, 1:07.54), Ndereba repeated her Boston-Chicago double. In Boston she dropped the field early to win in 2:23:53, three minutes clear. In July that year, she set shattered a ten-year old event record in the Boilermaker 15K in Utica, New York setting a new Kenyan record of 48:06.
It was in Chicago on 7 October that Ndereba broke the World record (2:18:47) becoming the first woman to go under 2:19. She broke clear after 10 miles and steadily built her lead to over a minute by the 15th mile. By the finish the gap was almost five minutes. Ndereba’s mark eclipsed the previous World record of 2:19:46 set by Japan 's Naoko Takahashi a week earlier. A week later she won the Avon Global championships 10K race in a personal record of 31:02. To crown it all, she was named the 2001 woman athlete of the year by IAAF.
In 2002 Ndereba claimed her maiden victory in Japan when she won the Kyoto Half Marathon in March (1:08:48) followed by the Sapporo Half Marathon in July (1:08.57). In between she lost her Boston title when she finished second behind countrywoman Margaret Okayo in April. The two broke away in the last one and a half miles before Okayo went ahead to win (2:20.43) well ahead of Ndereba (2:21:12). The year did not get any better for Ndereba as, in October, she lost her Chicago title as well as her World record to Paula Radcliffe. Ndereba timed 2:19:26, Radcliffe 2:17.18.
In April 2003, Ndereba finished second in the London Marathon (2:19:55) behind another Paula Radcliffe World record (2:15.25). In July, Ndereba successfully defended her Sapporo Half Marathon title in a course record (1:08:23). On August 31, Ndereba won the marathon gold at the World Championships in Paris. Representing Kenya at the World Championships for the first time, and without Radcliffe present, Ndereba pulled away from the field at 35 kilometres to win in 2:23.55, a championship record. Less than three months later, Ndereba took to the streets of New York finishing second in 2:23:03.
In April 2004 Ndereba made it three Boston wins (2:24.27) after overcoming stifling temperatures. She deployed her usual tactic, running from behind before launching a furious attack in the second half of the race. She moved into top gear on 21 miles (34km) winning with a 16 second margin in the end. In August, she took her bow at the Olympics finishing second in a difficult race. Carrying an injury, she fought back from way behind, reining in on the leaders to claim silver in 2:26:32, 12 seconds behind Mizuki Noguchi, of Japan. She was also named Kenya sportswoman of the year.
In April 2005 Ndereba recorded her fourth Boston win, starting slowly and trailing the race leader Elfenesh Elemu by 1:20 at halfway. But she shifted through the gears in the second half catching up with Elemu on 38km mark. Ndereba then accelerated away in the final three kilometres (2:25:13).
Ndereba then recorded her Sapporo Half-Marathon wins with another dominant win in July 3 (1:09:24). In August, she defended her World title in Helsinki but was beaten by Radcliffe. In November she was part of the Kenyan team that won the International Chiba Ekiden relay and she was named Kenya’s sportswoman of the year for the second year running.
Starting 2006 on a high, winning the Osaka Marathon on January 29 (2:25:05), Ndereba skipped Boston marathon in April. In July she went in search of her fourth victory in Sapporo Half-Marathon but suffered from stomach cramps and finished 8th. On August 27, 2006 Ndereba edged out Australia’s Benita Johnson in a thrilling finish to win the inaugural New York City Half Marathon. In November, Ndereba went in search of her first New York City Marathon victory at the third attempt but was never in contention finishing third (2:26:58). A few weeks later, she led Kenya to second consecutive win in Chiba Ekiden.
In January 2007 Ndereba, won the 8km race at the Kenyan Prisons Cross Country Championships. On August 5, she finished second in the New York Half Marathon in a closely contested race won by countrywoman Hilda Kibet. Ndereba’s time (1:10.33) was just 1 second slower than the winner’s.
In Osaka, she battled the oppressive heat pulling clear in the final two kilometres to clinch her second World crown in 2:30:37.
Three months later, Ndereba was in New York for the Big Apple race. But having had very little time to rest, she recorded her second worst result in marathon ever finishing fifth in 2:29:08.
She has not run much in 2008, concentrating her efforts on getting ready for Beijing. But in July, she won New York half marathon in a time of 1:10:18.
Ndereba comes from a family of athletes and three of her siblings run - Anastasia Ndereba won the 2005 Toronto Marathon. She organises a Half Marathon in her home town of Nyeri named after Field Marshall Dedan Kimathi- freedom fighting hero in Kenya’s struggle for independence.
Half-Marathon / Marathon: 1996 – 1:10:40; 1998 – 1:09:46; 1999 - 1:09:23 / 2:27:35; 2000 – 1:09:02 / 2:21:33; 2001 – 1:07:54 / 2:18:47; 2002 – 1:08:48 / 2:19:26; 2003 – 1:08:20 / 2:19:55 ; 2004 – 1:10:52 / 2:24:27; 2005 – 1:09:24 – 2:22:01; 2006 – 1:09:43 / 2:25:05; 2007- 2:29:08/1:11:51; 2008 -1:10:18
Half-Marathon: 1:07.54, The Hague (2001)
Marathon: 2:18.47, Chicago (2001)
1999 6th Boston Marathon (2:28:27)
1999 2nd New York Marathon (2:27:35)
1999 3rd World Half-Marathon Championships (1:09:23)
2000 1st Boston Marathon (2:26:11)
2000 1st Chicago Marathon (2:21:33)
2001 1st Boston Marathon (2:23:53)
2001 1st Chicago Marathon (2:18:47)
2002 2nd Boston Marathon (2:21:12)
2002 2nd Chicago Marathon (2:19:26)
2003 2nd London Marathon (2:19:55)
2003 2nd New York Marathon (2:23:03)
2003 1st World Championships (2:23:55)
2004 1st Boston Marathon (2:24:27)
2004 2nd Olympic Games (2:26:32)
2005 1st Boston Marathon (2:25:13)
2005 2nd World Championships (2:22:01)
2006 1st Osaka Marathon (2:25:05)
2006 3rd New York Marathon (2:26:58)
2007 1st World Athletics Championships (2:30:37)
2007 5th New York Marathon (2:29:08)
Prepared by James Wokabi and Mutwiri Mutuota for the IAAF ‘Focus on Athletes’ project © IAAF 2008.