By Ben Ochieng
NAIROBI, May 27 (Xinhua) -- The retirement of Kenyan four-time Boston Marathon winner, Catherine Ndereba from international duty for her country marks the end of an era in Kenyan athletics.
The 41 year-old Ndereba announced last Saturday in Nairobi after the Kenya Prisons Athletics Championships that she has hang her spikes and will no longer represent Kenya in international events so as to give room for upcoming runners.
"I have done enough duty for my country and I am now handing over the baton to Edna Kiplagat and others to also play their part, " Ndereba announced after finishing ninth in the 10,000m during the championships.
"I am optimistic of a smooth transition from the old guard to the current crop of newcomers because Kenya has an abundant pool of young talent," Ndereba said.
Ndereba, who is also two-time world champion and has twice been Olympic silver medallist, said she took part in the Kenya Prisons Championships to exhibit her loyalty to the department that made her into what she is.
"Apart from also testing my level of fitness after recovering from an injury, it was also a form of encouragement to upcoming runners, many of whom had initially expressed desire to race against me," Ndereba, a prisons sergeant said.
Benjamin Njoga, chairman of Athletics Kenya Prisons hailed Ndereba as a role model who has put the name of Kenya and that of the institution she serves under in the world map.
"At an appropriate time, we will reward her for her contribution to athletics and the encouragement she has been to the upcoming athletes, who should emulate her level of discipline if they want to last long in their career's like Ndereba did," said Njoga, who is also the Deputy Commissioner of Prisons.
Gideon Chirchir, Prisons head coach paid glowing tribute to Ndereba saying she has set the bar high in marathon running.
"We will consider giving her a coaching role so that she can pass over pertinent tips to her proteges."
The Kenya Prisons Service motivates its sportspeople by awarding promotions to those who perform well in addition to absolving them from normal duty while they are still active in sports.
Ndereba was the last woman standing in active athletics among her peers after her former marathon colleagues such as Margaret Okayo (2001 New York Marathon winner), Salina Kosgey (2009 Boston Marathon winner) and Edith Masai (three-time world cross country champion) had since called it a day.
Known as "Catherine the Great", Ndereba, who has variously been described as the greatest woman marathoner of all times, has been participating in road races since 1995.
In 2004 and 2005, she was named as Kenyan sportswoman of the year and was also awarded the Order of the Golden Warrior by President Mwai Kibaki in 2005.
Currently living in Nairobi with her husband Anthony Maina and daughter Jane, Ndereba's brother Samuel and sister Anastasia are also marathon runners.