After an eight-year absence, "Catherine The Great" is returning to the Cooper River Bridge Run on Saturday.
Catherine Ndereba, now 38, earned her nickname with four wins at the Boston Marathon, two at the Chicago Marathon and silver medals in consecutive Olympic marathons, in 2004 and 2008, among other major accomplishments.
The Kenyan, who lives part-time in Philadelphia, won the Bridge Run for females in 2000, 2001 and 2002 with times of 31 minutes, 41 seconds, 32:33 and 31:53. She followed those first two victories at the Bridge Run with wins at Boston. And in 2002, she finished second in America's most prestigious marathon.
In a phone interview Thursday, she did not remember the Bridge Run-Boston combos of 2000 and 2001, but said that the race, once again, will serve as a tuneup for yet another bid at Boston, set for April 16.
"I'm happy to be able to get back to Charleston after all these years," said Ndereba, adding that her racing schedule has prevented her from returning in recent years.
The Bridge Run also will serve as a comeback race for her, as well. In the inaugural Woodrow Wilson Bridge Half Marathon in Alexandria, Va., last September, she twisted her ankle at mile 9 and still won in 1:13:17. A resulting bone bruise kept her from racing until Saturday.
"I have no particular goals for the Bridge Run," said Ndereba, who is seeded sixth. "I just plan to run the race and finish strong."
Janis Newton, who coordinates the elite athletes for the Bridge Run, said she is excited to have Ndereba return and that her record "stands alone" among female runners. It also contrasts with many Kenyan athletes who come to the Bridge Run.
"Many are up-and-coming runners who are just starting to race in the United States," said Newton.
For example, the No. 2 seed is a 21-year-old Ethiopian, Lelisa Desisa, who is her personal pick to win the Bridge Run. Newton said Desisa set a new half marathon personal record of 59:37 two weeks ago in the Netherlands, despite coming off of a car accident in which an air bag deployed and burned his chest.
"Overall, he is a great kid with tons of energy and a tremendous and deadly finishing kick in competition," said Newton.
Catherine Ndereba's bio
Residence: Philadelphia and Nairobi, Kenya.
Physical profile: 5-2, 98 pounds.
Personal records: 5K 15:07; 10K 31:02; 10 miles 52:09; half marathon 1:07:54; marathon 2:18:47.
Major achievements: Silver medals in Olympic marathons, 2004 and 2008; only woman to win the Boston Marathon four times, 2000, 2001, 2004 and 2005; won Chicago Marathon in 2000 and 2001; named Runner's World No. 1 runner in the world in 1996, 1997, 1998, 2000 and 2001.
Bridge Run Top 7 seeds
F1. Janet Cherobon, 31, Atlanta, Ga. (formerly of Kenya)
F2. Tigist Tufa, 30, Ethiopia
F3. Shewarge Amare, 24, Kenya
F4. Aliyu Aziza, 26, Ethiopia
F5. Anne Kingori, 23, Kenya
F6. Catherine Ndereba, 38, Kenya
F7. Allison Grace Morgan, 28, Lexington, Ky.
For a complete listing of top seedings, go to postandcourier.com/blogs/running