NAIROBI, November 1 – Eleven years after her debut in the Big Apple race, Catherine Ndereba will be looking to win one of the few crowns that have eluded her in her glittering career when she lines up in this year’s New York marathon on Sunday.
‘Catherine the Great’ as the two time World champion is christened has finished second twice (1999 & 2003), third once (2006) and fifth once (2007) and will be looking to rectify that anomaly when she approaches Tavern on the Green’ in Central Park.
The first woman to win two marathon world titles, first woman to win four Boston marathon crowns, and has finished on the podium in all but two marathons in her career, its no wonder that Phillip Hersh of Chicago Tibune ranked Ndereba as the greatest women’s marathoner of all time.
Last year’s race through the five boroughs was one to forget though as Ndereba’s fifth place finish was officially the second worst ever marathon result in the 36 year old’s career.
Not that it has put her off, if anything she will be just as determined when she makes her fifth attempt and she remains very keen on her first Big Apple victory.
“I am looking forward to improving my record in New York and am not afraid of giving it another chance. New York is the only major marathon in the US that I haven’t won so hopefully this will be the time.”
Just like last year when she went to New York after her heroics in Osaka, the mother of one goes into Sunday’s race two and half months after her Beijing silver medal winning performance, which is less than ideal –she prefers to have atleast three months between races.
“My preparations have gone on well and I am looking forward to the race though it’s not the kind of time I would want to have between races but I will give it my best.”
“I want to win it, whenever you get to a race, chances are 50-50, you either go there and win or not. I am going there targeting to win but even if I don’t win, then so be it."
As always, the field in New York is of the highest quality with the world record holder and reigning New York champion Paula Radcliffe, 2005 Boston Champion Rita Jeptoo, Irene Mikitenko, Gete Wami and Kenyan veteran Tegla Loroupe all in contention.
“The field is very competitive, I normally like the kind of field they put together in New York because it always has the best competitors and ensures that it will be a very high quality race with good times,” said Ndereba.
Radcliffe has been Ndereba’s chief rival for most of this century and is expected to again wage a huge battle over who gets to the tape first.
“From what I have read, she has completely recovered from Beijing. “She is ok, and will be a huge favourite especially as she won BUPA run last weekend.”
A win in the race will also give Ndereba a chance at winning the women’s World Marathon Majors Series. She currently lies third with 41 points and could win the crown if she wins and current series leader Gete Wami does not finish in second place.
“Its not part of my goal, if it comes well and good but if it doesn’t then so be it. I am not going to let anyone or anything put any pressure on myself. In fact I haven’t thought about it at all. All I want is to go there and have a good race.”
Ndereba won her second Olympic silver medal in Beijing but feels she could have done better had she known that eventual winner Constantina Tomescu Dita had broken away from the field.
“I was running behind the crowd and when I got to the leading pack, I settled because I thought we were all there. I didn’t know that Dita had gone. If I noticed, I would have made an attempt to chase her and atleast close the gap; I would not have let it go without a fight.”
“I asked my colleagues, did you know she was ahead, and everybody knew-even Martha Komu! they all knew apart from me.”
“It was one of the toughest races I have ever raced and when I realised that Dita was way ahead, I decided then I would fight every inch for the silver. The last 100 metres was very painful as I was cramping all over but I just had to beat Zhou Chunxiu.”
So will she have another go at an Olympic gold? Will she be back for 2012?
“I am hoping to run in London as my last Olympics, I mean Constantina did it at 38 so why not Catherine to do it in her 40s?”
Before then there is the small matter of the 2009 World Athletics Championships in Berlin but Ndereba feels that she has achieved all there is to achieve at the Worlds.
“I have not decided about Berlin yet. I think that the two world titles are in enough for me and maybe I should do something else next year.”