Sammy Wanjiru, the half-marathon world record holder and 2008 Olympic Marathon gold medalist, is living proof that it is possible for a single runner to excel under different periodization systems. Wanjiru is Kenyan by birth, but he spent his teenage years in Japan, where he took up running, before returning to Kenya as an adult. The standard Japanese and Kenyan periodization systems are very different.

The Lydiardian system is deeply entrenched in Japan (in fact, the president of the Lydiard Foundation is Japanese). Kenyan periodization is based on the camp system and is different from both Lydiardian and Western nonlinear periodization. It is perhaps best summarized as a boot camp approach, where runners are subjected to brutally intense, high-volume training for a concentrated period of time and then sent off to recover and race.

Wanjiru performed equally well under both systems, setting his world record at age 18 under the Japanese system and earning his gold medal under Kenyan training. I once asked Wanjiru which system he preferred. In Kenya we run very hard, he said. The best place for training is in my country, Kenya. In the context of our conversation, I took this remark to mean that Wanjiru preferred training in Kenya because there he had lots of other very fast runners to push him. So his preference for the Kenyan training system really had nothing to do with the system itself. His concrete answer to my airy question was yet another reminder from a great African runner that it is the simple things that matter most. For all I have said here about developing your own optimal training formula, I believe that most runners can excel equally on somewhat different training formulas as long as they are running hard and having fun.


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