A quick dive into the scriptures, Psalm 118:22- “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.” Well, what if I throw this to you guys, in Kenya there was this GREAT marathon runner who despite her rejection rose from the rejection to become one of the greatest athletes the nation has ever had. I am referring to “The Great” Catherine Ndereba.

Let’s look at how Ndereba became the iconic figure she is despite the adversities in her way.

Catherine Ndereba had running DNA since she was born. In her own words, Ndereba admitted that she wanted to repeat her high school education just to run since that was the only opportunity by then that was available for her to run.

She discovered she could run back In grade four at her primary school known as Ng’orano School in her village called Gatung’ang’a in Mathira, Nyeri County.

Imagine lapping all of your schoolmates and other mates from other schools at just grade four. Incredible right? That’s how special of a talent Ndereba was.

Despite her incredible raw yet generation talent, making it to the top wasn’t that easy. Having a chance to represent Kenya at the major Athletics championships was not some milking business. She had to work for it in the most untypical ways.

Catherine Ndereba herself admitted that were it not for her, mental fortitude and unerring desire to make it no matter what she could have never made it.

Fast Forward on April 15, 1999, when the world would start to recognize her. She was making her Boston Marathon debut. Not having any experience in any marathon event, she managed to finish sixth with an incredible time of 2:28.27. This was sensational from an athlete who throughout her life majored in the 1500 and 3000 meters.

So, why did she participate in a marathon event when she was a specialist in the 1500 and 3000 meters? She had to pick any piece on the athletics field since she was told she was not good enough to represent Kenya in the World Cross Country, Olympics, and the World Championships by Kenya Athletics Federation (KAF).

By the time KAF told Ndereba that her strange running style was not good enough to compete at the highest level.

This made Ndereba switch to Marathon where one’s running style was not a barrier to representing Kenya.

“I tried to make the Kenyan team for ten good years, I tried in the Cross Country, but it never worked, even to run the marathon it wasn’t by choice. It was because I could not fit anywhere in the cross country, and everybody kept on criticizing my running style, and I felt that I was not good. That’s when I told myself, let me do a marathon since I guess people don’t care what time you finish and at what kind of style you are running. I remember I told my manager in 1999 when I failed to qualify for the World Cross Country to register me in the Boston Marathon.” She said in an interview.

Little did she know, that she was led to her path that would illuminate her talent in the whole wide world to the extent that the same KAF that rejected and ridiculed her would come knocking on her doors for her to represent Kenya in the 2001 World Championships.

Take a minute to guess what her answer was. Well, she humbly rejected the proposal. It’s mad, right? Having all your life dreaming of representing your country in the track and field championships and when the opportunity finally represents itself you throw it under the carpet.

According to Ndereba, refusing to accept the offer almost brought her problems. However, her decision to turn down the offer was valid since the same year during the Chicago Marathon on October 7, 2001, she made the World know her big time.

She broke the World record after clocking an astounding time of 2:18:47. Well, I am sure KAF cooled down after her exploits in the Chicago Marathon.

From there sky was Ndereba’s limit, using the mantra “Train, eat, sleep, and go to church,” she went on to have an incredible career where she bagged numerous accolades.

Honors – Olympic Games

2.Marathon2:27:06National Stadium, Beijing (CHN)17 AUG 2008
2.Marathon2:26:32Olympic Stadium, Athina (GRE)22 AUG 2004

Honors – World Championships

1.Marathon2:30:37Yammer Stadium Nagai, Osaka (JPN)02 SEP 2007
1.Marathon2:23:55Stade de France, Paris-St-Denis (FRA)31 AUG 2003
2.Marathon2:22:01Olympiastadion, Helsinki (FIN)14 AUG 2005

Honours – World Half Marathon Championships

3.Half Marathon1:09:23Palermo (ITA)03 OCT 1999

Honors – Major Marathon

1.Marathon2:25:13Boston, MA (USA)18 APR 2005
1.Marathon2:24:27Boston, MA (USA)19 APR 2004
1.Marathon2:18:47Chicago, IL (USA)07 OCT 2001
1.Marathon2:23:53Boston, MA (USA)16 APR 2001
1.Marathon2:21:33Chicago, IL (USA)22 OCT 2000
1.Marathon2:26:11Boston, MA (USA)17 APR 2000
2.Marathon2:23:03New York, NY (USA)02 NOV 2003
2.Marathon2:19:55London (GBR)13 APR 2003
2.Marathon2:19:26Chicago, IL (USA)13 OCT 2002
2.Marathon2:21:12Boston, MA (USA)15 APR 2002
2.Marathon2:27:34New York, NY (USA)07 NOV 1999
3.Marathon2:26:58New York, NY (USA)05 NOV 2006
5.Marathon2:29:14New York, NY (USA)02 NOV 2008
5.Marathon2:29:08New York, NY (USA)04 NOV 2007
6.Marathon2:26:22London (GBR)26 APR 2009
6.Marathon2:28:26Boston, MA (USA)19 APR 1999

Honors – National Championships

1.10,000 Meters33:22.27Nairobi (KEN)16 JUN 2005

Without a doubt, Catherine Ndereba is one of the greatest Athletes that the World has ever seen.


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