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From A Nanny To Winning Medals For Israel: The Story Of Kenyan-Born Runner Lonah Chemtai

Lonah Chemtai Salpeter is a Kenyan-born runner who competes for Israel. She made history on Monday, July 18, 2022, by becoming the first ever person to win a medal for Israel at a global championship. She won bronze at the World Athletics Championships in Eugene, Oregon, USA.

She competed for Israel in the 2016 and 2020 Summer Olympics. She has won the 10,000 metres during the European Athletics Championships.

Lonah boasts a personal best of 2:17:45 during a marathon in 2020, making her the 6th fastest woman in the marathon in history, the second-fastest European all-time, and set a new Israeli national record.

Here is her story as told by WoK.


Lonah was born on December 13, 1988, in a small village in West Pokot County, Rift Valley Kenya. She grew up and went to school in the area.

Lonah Chemutai: Meet Kenyan-Born Runner Making History Competing For Israel
File image of Lonah Chemtai, her husband and trainer, Dan Salpeter, and their son. |Photo| Courtesy|

Move to Israel

She immigrated to Israel in 2008 to work as a nanny to the children of the then Kenyan Ambassador to Israel. It is there that she met running coach Dan Salpeter in 2011 and the two fell in love.

They married in 2014 and together have a son, Roy, who was born in December 2014. The family resided in Moshav Yanuv, in central Israel, and later relocated to Shoham in central Israel.

Chemtai attained Israeli citizenship in March 2016 on account of marriage to an Israeli citizen, eight years after she began residing in Israel, and a few days before the cut-off to qualify for the 2016 Summer Olympics.


Lonah began her running career at a very young age, but at the time, she ran short distances. After meeting Dan who is also a former middle-distance and mountain runner and now her coach, she began running long-distance races in 2014.

Chemtai won the 2016 Tel Aviv Marathon clocking 2:40:16 smashing the qualification time for the 2016 Olympics. She then proceeded to represent Israel at the 2016 Summer Olympics in the marathon.

She left the race at the 33rd kilometre and ranked 90th.

“Unfortunately, I was forced to stop by a shoulder problem. As you all know, I’m still nursing my 20-month-old son. During my training in Kenya, I tried to stop, but it caused me pain and a shoulder problem due to running with breasts full of milk. This limited me in the European championships in Amsterdam (a half-marathon) and happened again today. I promise to attain respectable achievements in the future and am going forward with head held high,” Chemutai explained on Facebook.

Lonah Chemutai: Meet Kenyan-Born Runner Making History Competing For Israel
File image of Lonah Chemtai Salpeter. |Photo| Courtesy|

The 33-year-old competed in the 2017 London World Championship Marathon and came in 41st.

Lonah won the 2018 European 10,000m Cup in London, clocking a time of 31:33.03, a new Israeli national record. In July 2018 she won the 1500 m at the Israeli National Championships with a time of 4:11.69.

Chemutai won the 10,000 meters 2018 European Athletics Championships in Berlin on 8 August 2018. She ran a time of 31:43.29. She became the first Israeli athlete to win a gold medal at the championships.

On 12 August 2018, she missed out on a medal after she stopped a lap early in the final of the 5,000 meters at 2018 European Athletics Championships in Berlin. Before she mistakenly stopped, she had been in close second place.

Lonah won the Florence Marathon on 25 November 2018, setting an Israeli national record and course record of 2:24:17. It the fifth marathon she was competing in. As of November 2018, Chemutai held Israeli national records for 1,500, 3,000, 5,000, and 10,000 meters, as well as the half marathon.

She won the Roma-Ostia Half Marathon in Rome, Italy, with a time of 1:06:40 in March 2019. In April 2019 she finished second in the Sportisimo Prague Half Marathon in Prague, clocking a time of 1:06:09.

On 5 May 2019, she won the Prague Marathon, with a course record 2:19:46 time. It was an Israeli record, the fourth best ever time in Europe, and the 24th best in history among women.

She bagged a silver medal in the 2019 European 10,000m Cup in London setting an Israeli national record of 31:15.78. In September 2019, she ran the second fastest time in history, 30:05, over 10,000 meters to break the European record by 17 seconds. She ran the women’s marathon at the IAAF World Championships in Doha.

Lonah Chemutai: Meet Kenyan-Born Runner Making History Competing For Israel
File image of Lonah Chemtai Salpeter. |Courtesy| Athletics Illustrated|

Lonah won the women’s event at the 2020 Tokyo marathon with a time of 2:17:45, setting a new record in the women’s race. She proceeded to compete for Israel at the 2020 Summer Olympics.

She also won the Tuscany Camp Half Marathon in Siena, Italy, with a time of 1:07:09. On March 14, 2021, she won the Agmon Hahula Marathon in Hula Valley with a time of 2:22:37 and qualified for the Tokyo Olympics.

Lonah finished 66th in the women’s marathon at the Tokyo Olympics Marathon on August 6, 2021, with a time of 2:48:31. She lost pace in the race during the final four kilometres due to menstrual cramps.

“Women, we struggle sometimes with this kind of situation, Not every day is good for us because every month we receive this period and some ladies, they’re ok with it, and some are not good with it. This is our nature, so [some women], they don’t feel comfortable to say it. I also feel uncomfortable saying it, but I say it’s nature, I don’t have to hide anything just because the men cannot feel the way we feel,” She explained afterwards.