4 Runs a Day as a Child – The Training of Lydia Cheromei

© 2017 Runner’s Tribe, all rights reserved.

“I had to run to school because I was usually late leaving the house. If I arrived late there would be a caning for me”Lydia Cheromei.


  • ‘Train Hard, Win Easy. The Kenyan Way. By Toby Tanser. We highly recommend this classic book to anyone who is yet to read it. 

The late Frank Horwill, founder of the British milers club and legendary British coach, used to lament British distance runners over their work ethics. He commonly compared their training programs to that of a girl in Kenya who reportedly trained 3 times per day. It is not clear who Horwill was referring to, but it could have very well been Lydia Cheromei. Her story is typical for Kenya and shows just how hard Kenyan kids work, and how much mileage they accumulate, from a very young age.

Cheromei’s career spanned from 1991 to 2013.

Cheromei rose to fame at the age of thirteen with a win at the 1991 IAAF World Junior Cross Country Championships. She then placed 3rd in the same race the following year.

Cheromei enjoyed success over cross country, on the roads, as well as the track.


  • Date of birth: May 11, 1977. Tonrongo, Kenya.
  • World Junior Cross Country 1st 1991 and 3rd
  • Kenyan National Junior Cross Country champion 1991 and 1992.
  • Kenyan and World Junior record holder over 5000m (1995).
  • 1997 World Championships 5000m 5th
  • 2000 World Cross Country Championships, 4th.
  • 2000 Sydney Olympics 5000m 6th.
  • 2001 World Cross Country Championships, 3rd.
  • 2004 World Half Marathon Championships 2nd.
  • Winner of Amsterdam Marathon 2008.
  • 2012 World Half Marathon Championships 4th.

Personal Bests

  • 1500m: 4:13.06 min (2000)
  • 3000m: 8:29.14 min (2000)
  • 2-mile: 8:13.45
  • 5000m: 14:46.72 min (1997)
  • 10,000m: 31:41.09 min (1992)
  • Half marathon: 1:07:26 hrs (2012)
  • Marathon: 2:21:30 hrs (2012) 

Training During Her School Years

Cheromei started young. She had to run school, home for lunch, back to school, then home again. 5km each way – resulting in 20km of distance covered, 5 days a week, even during her primary school years.

Cross Country Training – All about Quality

“It is better to run with runners who can push you” – Lydia Cheromei.

Self coached, once Cheromei’s school days were behind her she started a more structured training regime. All of her training was done at Iten, altitude 2300m. She preferred to remain on dirt roads as much as possible.

Cheromei did no junk mileage, every run was quality.

A typical week of training leading into a major cross country race is outlined below:

  • Day 1
    • M: 45 minutes fast
    • Midday: 30 minutes fast
    • M: 6km fast
  • Day 2
    • M: 35 minutes fast
    • Midday: Rest
    • M: 8km fartlek
  • Day 3
    • M: 35 minutes fast
    • Midday: 30 minutes steady
    • M: 7km fast
  • Day 4
    • M: 30 minutes fast with hill work
    • Midday: Rest
    • M: 6km fast
  • Day 5
    • M: 35 minutes fast
    • Midday: Rest
    • M: 6km fast.
  • Day 6
    • Rest day
  • Day 7
    • M: 35 minutes fast
    • Midday: 30 minutes steady
    • M: 7km fast
  • Day 8
    • M: Long run 2 hours.

Training for 5000m and 10,000m

A few months prior to target 5000m or 10,000 races Cheromei would add in track sessions. Initially she would start with two sessions per week and then progress to three per week once she felt that her body could handle it.

Cheromei would typically complete the track session in the morning then do a 35 minute brisk run in the afternoon, or vice versa.

Examples of track sessions include:

  • 8 x 400m with short jog recoveries.
  • 10 x 200m with short jog recoveries.
  • 2 x 800m, 2 x 600m and 2 x 400m with short jog recoveries.
  • 3 x 1000m with short jog recoveries.

Recovery at Home Not Via Easy Runs

 “There is a time for training and a time for resting; the resting should not be mixed with the training” – Lydia Cheromei

Like many Kenyans Cheromei believes that the best kind of recovery is not running easy, but hanging out at home resting. When she trains, she makes it count and runs hard. If she is too tired to run a quality run, then she just rests at home. It’s all about quality, not quantity.

Note: Cheromei tested positive for doping in 2006, she served a 2 year ban.
  • ‘Train Hard, Win Easy. The Kenyan Way. By Toby Tanser. We highly recommend this classic book to anyone who is yet to read it.



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