Updated 1 May 2008
Faith MACHARIA, Kenya (800m)
Born 9 February, 1976; Karatina, Nyeri
Height: 165 cm (5' 5"); Weight: 50kg
Manager: Ricky Simms
For more than a decade, Faith Macharia, who hails from an area not known to produce athletes, helped to keep Kenya on the world map in the women’s 800m and can be considered to be the first lady of the two lap event from her country. She has inspired almost all present female runners, particularly those who come from the central regions.
Now, a new 800m star, Janeth Jepkosgei (world champion and national record holder) is on the rise but the veteran Macharia still feels she has a few years left to shape a golden legacy before she passes the baton. “The 800m women’s race is getting competitive here and I am happy for Kenya,” Macharia said. “For ten years, I had no company in the event and I foresee that, within the next three years, this event will be very difficult to win here.
“We will challenge the Russians, who are so many that they can afford to enter up to ten athletes in the A and B races of big grand prix, and it’s pleasing that Jepkosgei has been able to catch up and beat them.”
As an experienced athlete, Macharia has been a role model for young runners. Already former World junior champions, Veronica Nyaruai and Lucy Kabuu, as well as double Africa junior gold medallist, Mercy Njoroge are training under her watchful eye.
“I take time to advise and mentor them so that they can last long,” Macharia said. “Most of our girls go down the drain at an early age because of distractions and bad company.”
With budding two-lappers, such as Pamela Jelimo and Charity Wandia joining Jepkosgei, Macharia can approach the last leg of her career in the knowledge that what she built is in safe hands.
The third born in a family of nine, Macharia is married to 2000 Olympic 1500m champion Noah Ngeny. She attended Kabiruini Primary School (1983 to 1990) before joining Kabanga Primary (1991) for Standard 8 and moved on to General China Secondary School (1992-1995) for her O Levels. At General China, the tiny Macharia started out as a 400m runner, “I just found myself running and running since it just felt right,” she recalls.
As a student, Macharia reached the National Schools Championships in the 200m, 400m and Heptathlon events in Machakos. “I stopped participating in Heptathlon since I was very poor on the Shot Put owing to my small frame but I was a good jumper,” she explains.
In 1996, soon after completing school, then weighing only 45kg, Macharia was invited to Europe for her first GP events in London, Stockholm and Rieti where she won the junior races. “I was young and naive so, when I returned home from my first races, I gave away all my prize money to my elder sister,” she said. “Then, I had no idea how to use it or how it was earned.”
At the National Championships of that year, she took part in the 200m, 400m, 4x100m and 4x400m but, after the event, she decided to concentrate on the two-lap race. The following year saw her try the 800m at the National Championships and finish 16th at the National Cross Country Championships as well as race in various European meets including a second appearance in Rieti where she ran the 1500m race in 4:18.96.
In 1998, the globetrotting Macharia went to a string of GPs including Doha, Rieti and Linz where she ran her season’s best time of 2:07.14 in the two lap race.
That continued in 1999, where she ran her SBs of 800m (2:01.09), 1500m (4:08.04) in Rovereto (Italy) and Koln (Germany).
The next year, a cold infection locked her out of the Olympic trials for Sydney but by then, she had already run her 1500m season’s best (4:09.57) in Brisbane, Australia in February as well as over 800m (2:01.09) in Milan (June).
Macharia considers the 2001 season to be the best in her career to date. She won ten races over the two lap race in the European circuit. She also won her first national 800m title. And she finished just outside the medals at the World Championships in Edmonton, Canada, where she ran 1:58.98 before finishing seventh at the IAAF Grand Prix Final in Melbourne (2:01.33). Her 800m season’s best of 1:58.34 was recorded at the Monaco GP in July.
In 2002, Macharia retained her National 800m in 2:04.18 in June. At the Commonwealth Games, in Manchester, her run ended at the semi-finals. “I had a foot injury that did not recover sufficiently to enable me challenge for medals,” she said.
The World Championship year of 2003 saw Macharia have a busy season in Europe, featuring in eight GP meets, including a season’s best 1:59.23 in Lausanne, before she won the National Trials for the World Championships in Paris. For further build-up, she returned to Europe but her run in Paris ended at the semis after clocking 2:01.30 to finish in fifth.
“I guess I just burned out after running all over the place,” she said. “It was difficult balancing between national duty and making a living because, then, athletes were being offered little incentives,.” She then checked in for the Van Damme Memorial in Brussels where she placed seventh (1:59.68) before taking fourth (2:00.44) in that year’s World Athletics Finals in Monaco. At the All Africa Games, in Abuja, she finished fourth (2:03.44).
In spite of finishing fourth (2:06.1) at the 2004 Olympic trials, she was selected for the event but bowed out in the heats. Her 2004 campaign had started in familiar globetrotting fashion. “I knew that was my best chance to get an Olympic medal but that performance means I have to work extra hard this year to improve my form and achieve that dream,” she said ahead of the 16th African Championships in Addis Ababa.
In 2005, Macharia missed the Helsinki World Championships due to pain in her feet that saw her skip the National Trials. In 2006 she continued to struggle with her foot injury, although she did record a victory (2:02.00) in Lappeenranta during a season in which she failed to break two minutes.
In 2007, in spite of finishing second behind Jepkosgei at the trials for the World Championships in 2:02.79, Macharia was not selected. She set her season’s best in Madrid where she clocked 2:01.15 to finish second in the B race.
This year, Macharia is focused on qualifying for the Beijing Olympics since her nagging injury is now behind her. “All I want to do is to get my form back to running sub 2:00 so that I hit the Olympic qualifying times,” she said.
In the absence of Jepkosgei, who gave the Addis Ababa event a bye, as she prepares her own assault at the Olympics, Macharia clocked 2:04.86 to finish third at the AAC trials but got the nod to represent her country. “I will use the continental event to launch my path to Olympic qualification,” she said.
As a runner who competed against the great Olympic and World champion ‘Maputo Express’ Maria Mutola in her prime, Macharia says of her, “She was an invincible force in her day and I doubt any present runner would beat her if she turned back the clock. She was phenomenal but now age is catching up with her.”
800m: 1:58.34 (2001)
1000m: 2:35.39 (2001)
1500m: 4:08.04 (1999)
800m: 2:04.52 (2004)
800m: 1998 - 2:07.14; 1999 -2:01.33; 2000 - 2:01.09; 2001 - 1:58.34; 2002 - 2:00.74; 2003 -1:59.23; 2004 -2:00.50 ; 2005 - 2:02.08; 2006 -2:01.76; 2007 2:01.15.
1000m: 2001 - 2:35.39; 2002 - 2:37.67; 2007 -2:39.26.
1500m: 1997 - 4:18.96; 1999 - 4:08.04; 2000 - 4:09.57; 2001 - 4:20.51; 2002 -4:14.26.
2001 4th World Championships (800m)
2001 7th IAAF Grand Prix Final (800m)
2003 4th World Athletics Final (800m)
Prepared by James Wokabi and Mutwiri Mutuota for the IAAF ‘Focus on Athletes’ project. Copyright IAAF 2008