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Monday, November 30, 2009

Nyeri Half Marathon-Nyeri Town, Kenya

Only days after finally returning to her home outside of Nairobi, Catherine was off to her hometown of Nyeri with her husband, Anthony, and daughter, Jane to stand at the helm of the Nyeri Half Marathon. This is one race that she does not "run" as in compete; she "runs" it as in organizes the race with Anthony. This was the 13th year for the race and the event is held each year in the town near the village where she grew up and gives opportunity to runners that Catherine herself did not have when she was a young girl. It is a place where athletes can showcase their talents and possibly be noticed by one of the three organizations that employ athletes; the Prisons, Police and Armed Forces.

The race, however, is not limited to just locals, and athletes from all over come to participate.
Nyeri is located in the small Central Province of Kenya approximately 2 hours north of Nairobi. The course this year was more difficult than in past years and had more hills but despite the change, there were new course records set for both the men and women.  Ernest Kebenei (photo) won the men's race in 1:01:31 and he hails from Uasin Gishu district, which is the Rift Valley Province where Eldoret is the district capital and the training home to many elite runners. It is in Western Kenya. Gladys Kerubo, the women's winner with the course record of 1:11:44, is from Kisii which is the district capital of the Nyanza Province in Southwestern Kenya. (Here is a good map of the Kenyan provinces map)

Catherine mentioned that two boys she sponsors, Paul (her nephew) and John, did very well. She helps them with their training in Ngong and also provides them with uniforms. The boys ran 1:05 and 1:15 for the half marathon distance. Catherine's brother, Samuel ran the race in support of Catherine but he did not finish as it was not part of his training schedule at the time.

I sent a Kenyan crew to film Catherine and Anthony out among the locals to capture them in action and see how they interact with the villagers and athletes, and I can't wait to see the footage! When I spoke to Catherine, she said the event went very well however she was disappointed that the Vice President, who was scheduled to be their special guest, had to cancel and did not send an official in his place. I have found that this is a common occurrence with Kenyan officials; they are often canceling appearances and sometimes send a replacement but other times do not.

When I spoke to Catherine today, she was back in her home outside of Nairobi and is looking forward to time at home with her family which includes nieces, nephews and siblings. Her sister, Esther, also just had a baby girl named Maryanne and I know Catherine will enjoy helping out with her newest niece as well!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Farewell for now dinner...11/12/09

I really should have posted this a few weeks ago when it actually occured but I somehow missed it. I guess with all the postings on Facebook and twitter I neglected to post to the blog! Anyway, better late than never because I think everyone will enjoy some of these photos.

Three days before Catherine was to leave for Japan she invited me to dinner at the home where she lives while training in the United States several months each year (Norristown, PA). Most of the other athletes that normally share the house had already returned home to Kenya having finished their racing seasons before Catherine. There was only one other athlete still living in the house, Kellen. It was a great time for Catherine to spend some time with her best friend, Helen, who lives a few hours away in Maryland. They are extremely close (you may remember seeing Helen in some photos posted from our filming last year) and they used to train together. Helen is great; she's funny, smart and she and Catherine pray together almost every day and they can call each other any time even if it is in the middle of the night. They just don't get to spend much physcial time together because of the distance and Catherine's race schedules. Oh, and I forgot to mention, because Helen makes it so easy to forget, she is blind. You'd never know it though. She talks about "I have to see this" or "I loved the pictures; thanks for sending them" and she is an amazing person. She's also a very talented runner and has both bronze and silver medals in the Para-Olympics. Anyway, the point is not that she is blind, it is that she does not let it define who she is; similar to how Catherine did not let the village people define who she was as a young girl.

So, Catherine called me up to invite me and in order to entice me said she was making Mokimo; as if she needed to bribe me to come visit! Catherine's Mokimo is a real treat. It is her favorite meal and she doesn't make it very often while in the US so I was quite flattered to be invited! When I arrived, she and Helen were upstairs and when they came down, Catherine went to work making the preparations for the Mokimo.  
Catherine prepping the Mokimo



 only fresh ingredients

Making Mokimo the way Catherine likes it is hard work! It seemed like she mashed forever and her arm even got tired! (She said she's out of "Mokimo-making-shape" living in the US!)

I always have so much fun just hanging out with both Helen and Catherine; they are like two little giggly school girls! Don't get me wrong, I always enjoy being with Catherine but when the crew isn't around and we're not filming, there is a different level of relaxation and we all just revert into gigly schoolgirls. We had a blast and there were times that the two of them would slip into Swahili and Kellen and I would just watch them laughing and talking. I teased Catherine that we needed to take lots of photos for me to post on Facebook to tease her husband that the Mokimo was ready and make and waiting for him!
it's ready, come and get it!


Catherine and I shared a story with Helen (that I won't go into) but it had to do with an "interesting" day of filming a few months ago back in Catherine's hometown and the laughter was just incredible! We all know the public Catherine and how graceful, poised and humble she is but I wanted to share a more personal side of Catherine with the world which is one of the reasons I am making the film WinCatherine! I hope you enjoy the photos!

L to R: Kellen, Helen, Catherine

Monday, November 23, 2009

Chiba International Ekiden 2009

Earlier today, Catherine ran in the 2009 Chiba International Ekiden. Until I started learning about Catherine, I had never even heard of an Ekiden much less seen one! But, thanks once again to modern technology, I was able to watch the entire race last night live, online via my computer. Ok, I'll rephrase that because it really was not last night, it was very, very early this morning (the race ended around 1:30 am EST which was 3:30pm in Chiba). Regardless, it still fascinates me that I can watch live Japanese TV from my computer. Of course, I did not understand any of the commentating but every once in awhile I could distinguish "Ndereba" in the midst of all the Japanese!

For those of you who don't know what an Ekiden is, and for those who are just curious how this one went, an Ekiden is like a relay race. The entire race distance is broken down into segments and there are teams; each team member runs one leg of the race.

This race was marathon distance, was co-ed and there were 6 legs of the race; 1st was a 10k run by men, 2nd leg was women's 5k, 3rd leg another men's 10k, 4th leg a women's 5k, 5th leg men's 10k and then Catherine ran the anchor leg for Kenya which was a 7.195km leg. The Kenyan team came in third, Japan came in first with the Japanese Universities Team placing second. 

I haven't spoken to Catherine directly yet but I'm fairly certain that she ran within what her body would allow after running a full marathon just one week ago. The main thing is that Catherine LOVES to run Ekidens! She loves the team part of it and she has fun! She also loves running in Japan! 

If you'd like to read details about the race itself, here is a link to a good summary for those who are interested:

 (these photos were all screen captures from my computer screen during the live telecast on Fuji TV, Japan)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The REAL Story on Catherine Ndereba's 2012 Olympic Ambitions

I've been reading a lot of blog posts and online articles about Catherine's 2012 Olympic ambitions. Many of the comments just did not sound like anything Catherine would actually say: "Ndereba vows to be the oldest Olympic medalist at 40" or "Ndereba covets Gold....". These just aren't the type of statements that I could ever picture coming from Catherine so I set out to find the REAL answer. 

It may not make for such exciting headlines as some of the others but it goes like this: Someone asked if Catherine planned on retiring soon. Her reply was that she plans on running through the next Olympics if her body stays healthy.

Now that sounds more like the Catherine I've gotten to know over the past fourteen years. I was surprised to see the word "covet" in relation to her; the only time I would ever expect to see that word in the same sentence as Catherine would be if it were in citing a bible passage. It's interesting how things get twisted around for the sake of good headlines. Fortunately, I don't claim to be a "writer" and mostly consider my writings here as thinking out loud. 

(And for the record, when Catherine does run at the Olympics in 2012, she'll be 41!)

Post Yokohama Report

I spoke with Lisa, Catherine's manager, last night. Ahhh, the wonders of the internet! We chatted briefly via facebook before she had to leave for the airport to fly back to Philadelphia. She has been traveling with all of her athletes on and off for the past six weeks and is very anxious to get back home! Catherine will remain in Japan with her coach, Mostafa and travel to Chiba for next weekend's Ekiden. Catherine's husband, Anthony, left Tuesday night (they are 14 hours ahead of where I am in Philadelphia, PA)

Since Catherine had not seen Anthony is many months, I did not want to call her and take up time she could be spending with hubby so I asked Lisa how Catherine was feeling and how she felt the race went. She said Catherine was extremely pleased with her run in Yokohama, especially since she had not been able to conduct her speed workouts in the weeks leading up to the race due to a nagging hip flexor problem. She was being treated for it by her amazing chiropractor (Dr. Johnny King-Marino) and through massage therapy but had to back off of the speed work. I am happy to report, however, that she was pain free throughout the race and feels great afterwards! Many people wonder, and many also ask if she is disappointed if she does not take first place in a marathon, but those who know her know that she is never disappointed as long as she runs well and is healthy. She is always happy for whoever wins and is content to know that whatever happens was Gods plan for that day. This is what attracted me to Catherine's story in the first place. She doesn't just "say" those words; she BELIEVES them and you can tell it is completely genuine! She also never uses excuses and has never dropped out of a race; she listens to her body and adjusts. Rather than look at her hip problem as the reason she did not take first place, she is pleased that she has recovered from a common problem among runners, was able to run well and pain free and still take  third place. Not too shabby in my book! (notice I did not say she didn't "win", I said she did not "take first place" because first, second, third or 100th, she is still a winner in that same book of mine!)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Yokohama Women's Marathon results

The internet never stops amazing me! Here I was, sitting in my Pennsylvania home, watching the Yokohama Women's Marathon LIVE online via a player called Keyholetv that allowed me to watch the Japanese TV Asahi, while chatting on Facebook with a friend from Chile and talking on the phone to a friend in PA and watching the Pittsburgh Panthers football game on the tv :)  The resolution on the marathon online was not great, and I couldn't understand a word of the commentating, but what was important was that I could actually WATCH Catherine run a race on the other side of the world!

It was an exciting race and for most of it she ran in her usual spot at the back of the pack. It was nice just like Catherine said before going there; the women got all the attention because there were no men so I didn't have to worry that the coverage would focus on the men and not the women's race (which happens all too often!) When the pack broke up, Catherine ran in second behind the Russian Inga Abitova until Japan's Kiyoko Shimahara caught her near the end and Catherine took 3rd. It was great to watch Anthony out there at the finish give her a big hug as always! The photos are not that clear but you can see exactly what I saw on my screen!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Yokohama reunion

Catherine, her manager Lisa Buster and her coach El Mostafa Nechchadi all arrived safely in Yokohama earlier in the week in order for Catherine to acclimate to the time zone. Today, her husband, Anthony arrived as he is always there to support her for a marathon. It always amazes me how dedicated he is to her career and what an important part of Catherine's success he has been! He left Kenya on Thursday, arriving in Japan on Friday evening. Before his body adjusts to the time difference, he will be back on a plane on Monday for the long trip back to Kenya. It's quite a long way to go for a weekend! But he would never have it any other way; he re-arranges his work schedule, he misses classes at the university where he is studying at night, and he drags his tired butt across the world because he WANTS to and he loves being Catherine's support. I have spoken with many elite athletes over the past year and there is a common theme whenever I ask what makes them successful and what is most important about being an accomplished athlete. Each and every one has stated that it is a strong support system that is key to their success. Catherine is fortunate to have a rock solid support system in Anthony, Lisa and Mostafa!

Good luck to all the participants on Sunday at the Yokohama Women's Marathon and Go Catherine!