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'We couldn't quit global stage without a good bye'

Women-only Marathon World record holder Mary Keitany displays medals she won in different world competitions at their residential home in Ten Elgeyo Marakwet County yesterday. 23.09.2021 [Peter Ochieng, Standard]

Like many other professions, some world beating athletes also make official statements to announce their exit from the global stage.

Whether by design or default, some of them communicate to newsrooms or issue press statements through their agents and managers.

In most cases, injuries force some of these top guns into early retirement, while others are either caught up with age or opt to pursue other interests. In isolated cases, some are forced out after testing positive for doping, as was the case with former World Marathon Record holder Wilson Kipsang.

Here The Nairobian shares distinguished athletics careers of athletes who announced their retirement.

Mary Keitany

She announced her retirement at the age of 39 because of a back injury early this year.

Keitany holds the world record for a women-only marathon with a time of 2:17:01, which she set when winning her third London Marathon in 2017.

She only competed in two World Marathon Majors races consistently – London and New York marathons.

She won the New York Marathon four times. “Now is the time to say goodbye - if only as an elite runner - to the sport I love so much,” she said as she announced her retirement.

After my successful 2019, when I had some good results, including second place in New York, I was hopeful that I could still be very competitive internationally for many more years, even though I am in my late 30s,” Keitany said in her statement.

“However, I am sad to say a back injury that I suffered in late 2019 made a decision about my retirement for me.

“I couldn’t get the treatment I wanted in Europe because of the pandemic-related travel restrictions last year and every time I thought I had got over the injury and started training hard, it became a problem again.

“As for the future, I haven’t fully decided on my plans, but I am looking forward to spending more time with my family - my children are currently 13 and eight. In addition, I am involved with some local charitable enterprises.”

Keitany’s first global success came in 2007 when she won an individual Silver and team Gold at the World Half Marathon Championships in Birmingham, UK.

A year after the birth of her first child in 2008, she claimed the World Half Marathon title. Her efforts also helped Kenya win the team title once again.

In 2010, she moved up to marathons and finished third in the New York on what was her debut, and then a year later she won the first of her London Marathon titles.

Her second child arrived in 2013 and she once again made an impressive return to competition as she won three consecutive times in New York between 2014 and 2016 before winning or a fourth time in 2018.

She also set a world record at the 2011 RAK Half Marathon in the United Arab Emirates, a mark that stood for three years until it was broken by her compatriot Florence Kiplagat at a race in Barcelona.

One disappointment during her illustrious career was a fourth place in the London 2012 Olympic Games marathon.

Felix Limo

The 2006 London Marathon winner is way off the running tracks and roads where he made his money and fame.

But he has no regrets, as he is where he loves to be most: near his dairy cows. He holds a degree in Animal Science from University of Eldoret.

Limo won Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Berlin, London and Chicago marathons.

When he retired from athletics in 2012 aged 32, his next stop was the Kenya Methodist University in Meru, from where he graduated with a Diploma in Animal Health and later joined University of Eldoret for his bachelors degree.

“I picked up injury in 2007, which persisted. I decided not to stress this body anymore, as I still needed it to do other work and look after my family. I decided to invest in dairy farming to run away from failure,” said Limo.

John Kelai

The 2010 Commonwealth Games Marathon champion said he would retire from active athletics in December.

Kelai, popularly referred to as pastor in the athletics cycles due to his prayerfulness, said he had been competing for the last two decades and hanging his running spikes and concentrating on other matters of life.

“I have been competing on the roads for the last two decades and it’s high time I retired  and concentrated on other matters of life,” said Kelai. He holds a masters degree in Theology.

Patrick Makau

Former marathon world marathon record holder Patrick Makau retired from athletics in 2018.

A recurrent patella tendon injury forced Makau out at age 33. Before then he had won Berlin Marathon twice; in 2010 and 2011 with a world record time of 2:03:38.

“I know this is the right time to say it is enough,” said Makau in an emotional statement.

Makau, who ran his maiden marathon in Rotterdam in 2009, finishing fourth, then said with age catching up and a persistent patella-tendon injury, he had to withdraw from last year’s Boston and Berlin marathons.