Legendary Kenyan athlete Mary Keitany is the epitome of hard work and success for women in society and the country as a whole. She boasts 10 gold, 4 silver and 2 bronze medals.

Growing up, she faced many challenges that shaped her path to success.

Keitany was born on January 18, 1982, to Juda and Jane Chepkeitany in Kiplombe location, Baringo County. She was raised in a humble family.

Mary Keitany is feted with the Order of the Grand Warrior (OGW) award, by President Uhuru Kenyatta on December 12, 2019. |Photo| Courtesy|

During a past interview with Daily Nation in 2018, the track legend narrated the challenges she faced growing up, taking the publication to where she used to herd their goats.

She revealed that she would fetch water kilometres away and carry it to where the animals were, or to their homestead.

"We were too poor for a donkey, so we had to carry," she laughed as she recalls the days of hardship.

Growing up in the hills locals called Makilany, the world athletics legend would run 20 kilometres daily to and from school.

After completing her primary education, her family did not have the money to finance her secondary education, so resorted to working as a househelp to make ends meet.

Keitany moved in with a family in the area and was a nanny to the family's three children, all who were below 7 years old.

She would wake up in the morning to prepare the children for school, prepare lunch for them, wash the family's clothes, cook, clean dishes, and keep the house tidy.

“It was not an easy job. But I was getting money to give to my parents. I was thinking, ‘If I don’t do this, then what?" She narrated.

File image of legendary athlete Mary Keitany. |Photo| Courtesy|

Keitany would go for months without seeing her family but always made sure she got them something whenever she visited.

She would walk for two hours from where she worked to her parents home. Each time she made sure that she bought gifts for her dear parents and 3 sisters (Ann, Priscah, and Sarah).

“I couldn’t go home empty-handed,” she recalled.

Her life changed for the better in 2001 when she was enrolled into the National Hidden Talents Academy, a private secondary school in Dagoretti Constituency in Nairobi County for orphans and underprivileged children.

Keitany recounted that former athlete Linah Chesire pushed her to pursue education and counselled her on what to do. Chesire made her understand that despite her world-class talent, she needed the education to be able to make good of her future earnings.

She opted to pursue a professional running career in 2006 after completing secondary school.

Linah took Keitany to Iten, Elgeyo Marakwet County, and introduced her to Christine Chepkonga and stayed in her house along with fellow athletes Gladys Chepkirui and June Jepkoech.

"I said to Chepkonga, ‘This lady is better than all of us. She will be the champion, we need to support her.’ And Chepkonga agreed," she told Daily Nation.

The three trained together while living in Chepkonga's house.

Less than a year later, Keitany won the Seville Half Marathon (Spain), which marked the start of her legendary career.

File image of legendary athlete Mary Keitany. |Photo| Courtesy|

She went on to win championships across the world while setting new records.

In 2008, she took a hiatus from running to give birth to her son Jared Kipchumba. A year later, she won gold at the Birmingham half-marathon, a fete that left New York City Marathon race director, Mary Wittenberg amazed.

"Mary was fearless and ferocious in her first world championship half marathon win in Birmingham. Just over a year after giving birth to her son, she dictated the pace and terms of that race and dominated in a blazing 66:36. I knew I was watching a one of a kind athlete," Wittenberg stated.

Keitany set a World record in half marathon at the Ras Al Khaimah half-marathon recording a time of 65:50.

She took time off again and gave birth to her second child Samantha Jerop on April 4, 2013. A year later, she won gold at the New York City marathon and repeated the fete the following year.

According to reports, each of the wins comes with a Ksh10 million prize.

Despite the success, Keitany recalls the hardships she faced growing up and appreciates where she is from. She adopted her nephew, Hezron, who she raises alongside her children Jared and Samantha.

"Yes, I have come a long way. But I will never forget home and what they taught me," she stated.

As a way of giving back to society, she opened the Mary Keitany School in Elgeyo Marakwet on August 11, 2018. This school offered young boys and girls the opportunity to realise their dreams through education and talent.

"If I can win a few more marathons, that's well and good," Keitany stated in the build-up to the New York 2019 marathon. "But I want to try to remember how I felt when I ran everywhere as a kid. I want that feeling of freedom and the air on my face, and I want to run this marathon for the love of it all," she narrated.

On December 12, 2019, Keitany, was feted with the third-highest civilian state commendation, the Order of the Grand Warrior (OGW) award, by President Uhuru Kenyatta.

In September 2021, she announced her retirement after a recurring hip injury stopped her from competing over the last two years.

"After a lot of soul-searching, we decided with my manager (Italian Gianni Demadonna) that it was better for me to retire," Keitany told AFP.

"I picked up a hip injury in my last London marathon race in 2019, which has restricted my training and I've not been able to compete effectively since then," she stated.

File image of legendary athlete Mary Keitany. |Photo| Courtesy|