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At 39 years old, Mary Keitany has retired from professional running, ending a 15-year career that left a lasting impression on the women’s marathon.
The Kenyan long-distance runner made the announcement on Wednesday in a statement obtained by Runner’s World, which described her struggles with a back injury she’s dealt with since 2019. She also posted the news on her Instagram account.
'Now is the time to say goodbye—if only as an elite runner—to the sport I love so much,' she said in the statement. '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 several more years even though I am in my late 30s. However, I’m sad to say, a back injury that I suffered in late 2019 made a decision about my retirement for me.'
From 2011 to 2018, the world half marathon gold medalist won seven World Marathon Majors; she’s a four-time New York City Marathon champion and a three-time London Marathon champion. During the 2017 London Marathon, she took 41 seconds off the women’s-only world record by running 2:17:01. Only world record-holder Brigid Kosgei and former world record-holder Paula Radcliffe have run faster over 26.2.
In 2019, Keitany finished fifth in the London Marathon with a 2:20:58 season’s best before placing second (2:23:32) in the New York City Marathon, her last race prior to retirement.
Before her runner-up finish in New York, ESPN published a feature on the record-holder in which Peter Ciaccia, former New York City Marathon race director, called Keitany a 'powerhouse' who is 'defining the current era of women in marathon racing.' Her rivals also paid tribute to Keitany as a fierce competitor.
'[Competing against Mary is] demoralising,' Des Linden, the 2018 Boston Marathon champion, told ESPN in 2019. 'I can have the best preparation of my life and be in top form, and even then I have to hope that Mary finds a way to beat herself. She’s an incredible talent, and I’ve seen her absolutely destroy the best in the world, particularly over the last six miles of the marathon when others are hitting the wall and she’s just getting going.'
In her statement, the mother of two and longtime ambassador for the Shoe4Africa school and hospital said she wasn’t able to receive treatment in Europe because of pandemic restrictions, and the injury continued to linger in her attempts to train at an elite level.
'As for the future, I haven’t fully decided on my plans but I’m 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,' she said.
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