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World-beater Mutwa on a mission to nurture athletics talent in Kitui

Catherine Mutwa, who is the wife of former world marathon record holder Patrick Makau is helping to grow athletics talent in Kitui County. [Courtesy]

Catherine Mutwa, a former world-beater, a KDF soldier and the woman behind Patrick Makau’s record-breaking moment in 2011, is on a mission to grow athletics in Kitui County.

Mutwa, a meteoric performer in distance running, having won numerous road races is determined to inspire youth in her county to venture into athletics, a rare sport in her community.

“I did lots of research before starting an athletics camp, the camp is situated in Kea, Mwingi West, and the area has an elevation of 2000m above sea level, which makes it an ideal area for endurance training. Currently, the camp which started in 2020 has over 50 athletes for both juniors and seniors.

“I have talked to many juniors and they want to become professional athletes, this motivated me to start this project,” said Mutwa, a mother of four and wife to Patrick Makau, the former world marathon record holder.

Mutwa, who is a senior sergeant at Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) is also the forces’ head coach and picked up running while at Kyanya primary school in Kitui.

She later joined Kithyoko Secondary School before the current Athletics Kenya (AK) senior vice-president Paul Mutwii offered her a scholarship to join the sports-rich Kwathanze High School in Machakos County.

“My primary school games teacher, encouraged me to pursue the sport despite being the only girl who was running, my determination paid off when I got the chance to join Kwathanze High School thanks to Mutwii, who continued to nurture my talent until I won my first race abroad at Birmingham UK Women League in 2006,” Mutwa said.

After her victory in the United Kingdom, she joined KDF the same year and later moved to Ngong where she met Patrick Makau, a novice runner who was trying to find his space in the world of athletics.

“I developed an interest in him, I decided to help him with training, even financially just like my brother. We trained together with other athletes, and because I was already an elite runner, with the help of my then Manager Ian Ladbrooke, I paid for Makau’s air ticket to race at the Bristol Half Marathon in the United Kingdom in 2006 and he won,” Mutwa recalls.

The same year they both participated in the Tarsus Half Marathon in Armenia and both won.

“That was the most memorable moment in my running career, I paid for his air ticket for the second time and we both won our races. Later,  as our career progressed we decided to become husband and wife,” Mutwa said.

Due to frustrating injuries, Mutwa opted to retire from running in 2010 and concentrated on supporting her husband’s running career as his coach, raising the kids and her job at KDF.

Makau produced an exhilarating performance breaking Haile Gebrselassie’s mark by 21 seconds at the 2011 Berlin Marathon.

His time of 2:03:38, was the world record for two years until it was broken by Wilson Kipsang at the 2013 Berlin Marathon.

“This was a glorious moment for us, my husband broke the record in Berlin on the same day we got our twin kids, it was a joyous moment,” she said.                                                     

“Makau has been instrumental in my life, she encouraged me to start this athletics camp and he supported it fully financially. The camp is growing and we are appealing to wellwishers to support us to enable us to support more youth.

“The camp has also become a rescue centre for girls who are running away from early marriage and female genital mutilation,” she said.

Kea Athletics Camp is among the 26 camps countrywide which were identified by AK in conjunction with the Ministry of Sports as training centres for Under-20 athletes ahead of the World Championships in Cali, Colombia August 1-6.

“We are the youngest athletics camp in Kenya, we are thankful for the recognition by AK to give us a chance to prepare the young athletes. The athletes are motivated and will give their counterparts in Rift Valley good competition for the slots,” Mutwa said.

Among the athletes at the camp who have shown that the future is bright is Josephine Kalekye, a form three student at Kikiini Secondary School who was the fourth finisher at the Under-18 National Cross Country Championship in Eldoret in February.

“I want to be the next Faith Kipyegon, I want to dominate 1,500m and my immediate hope is to be among the athletes who will carry the national flag to Colombia,” said Kalekye who hopes to join the National Police Service.

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