Lonah Chemtai Salpeter: Why running is in my DNA


Lonah Chemtai Salpeter: Why running is in my DNA
Lonah Chemtai Salpeter wins the 10,000m at the European Championships in Berlin (Getty Images) © Copyright

In Summary

  • European 10,000m champion Lonah Chemtai Salpeter of Israel talks about her passion and enthusiasm for distance running.
  • Running well is a great feeling and it always reassures me that I have made the right decision to become a professional athlete.

European 10,000m champion Lonah Chemtai Salpeter of Israel talks about her passion and enthusiasm for distance running.

I was born in the village of Kapkanyar in West-Pokot County in Kenya, the same area as Tegla Loroupe (former world marathon record-holder). I started out running at primary school, although back then it was just for fun and not too serious. I remember I won some races and lost others. I competed at all distances from 800m to 10,000m and even in relays.

Moving on to high school, I tried several other sports including football, but after clashing heads with a player from another team, I decided I no longer wanted to play that sport.

I also competed in the heptathlon, finishing sixth as a combined eventer at my provincial championships, although my big weakness was the field events. Back then, I also recall qualifying for the 800m final at my high school but I told my teacher I was scared to compete against children who wore spikes because I was only competing barefoot.

I only started to take distance running more seriously after I left school and arrived in Israel 10 years ago to work as a nanny. Slowly, I got into long distance running but it was only after meeting my husband and coach, Dan Salpeter, (a former middle-distance and mountain runner) that I started to enjoy real success.

For me, the best thing about running is that is makes me physically healthy and it gives me more energy. Whenever I stop running, I don’t feel good and I feel sluggish.

Running well is a great feeling and it always reassures me that I have made the right decision to become a professional athlete.

The sport has also given me the chance to travel the world and since winning the European title I’m now recognised by many people. I recently bought a travel adaptor at Tel Aviv Airport when the shop owner recognised me. He was so happy at my European victory, he gave me the adaptor as a gift for free!

I don’t run for free gifts, though. I run because I love it. Running helps free my mind and I would encourage anybody else to try running. In the past two to three years, I have run with a much more positive attitude and this, I believe, has earned me great rewards.

Steve Landells for the IAAF

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