- The men’s world marathon record holder, Kelvin Kiptum has died in a road accident aged 24, in Kenya, his home country.
- Born in the Rift Valley, Kenya’s long-distance running bastion, Kiptum was barely a teen when he began following elite athletes training in the legendary high-altitude region.
- At just 24 Kiptum was one of the most exciting road-running prospects in recent years.
The men’s world marathon record holder, Kelvin Kiptum has died in a road accident aged 24, in Kenya, his home country. The grisly road accident also claimed the life of Kiptum’s coach, Rwandese Gervais Hakizimana, with a third occupant of the vehicle, Sharon Kosgey, surviving the crash and rushed to hospital.
The police have reported that Kelvin Kiptum, lost control of his vehicle while driving in Kaptagat Uasin Gishu County, in the southwestern part of Kenya, at 11 pm local time.
According to the local county commander, Peter Mulinge, Kiptum lost control of the vehicle and hit a tree before landing in a ditch.
“This was a self-involved accident where one Kelvin Kiptum, the world marathon record holder, was driving his vehicle with two passengers,” Mulinge added. “Kiptum and Hakizimana died on the spot and the third person was rushed to Racecourse hospital in Eldoret.”
Kelvin Kiptum’s rise to stardom
Born in the Rift Valley, Kenya’s long-distance running bastion, Kiptum was barely a teen when he began following elite athletes training in the legendary high-altitude region. While young and new to the circuit, Kiptum had already run three of the seven fastest marathon times ever recorded and was seen as a rare talent.
He burst onto the marathon scene in 2022 with a stunning debut in the 26.2-mile (42.195-km) distance in Valencia where he clocked 2:01:53. World Athletics called it the “fastest debut marathon in history”.
Kiptum made a breakthrough in 2023 as a rival to compatriot Eliud Kipchoge – one of the greatest marathon runners. The 24-year-old won the London Marathon in April before setting a new world record in the Bank of America Chicago Marathon in October 2023, bettering Kipchoge’s achievement by clocking the 26.1 miles (42km) in two hours and 35 seconds.
Kiptum stellar performance at the 2023 London Marathon was only his second-ever marathon race and nearly broke a world record then. Beforehand, Kiptum had predicted breaking a course record, but he did not expect to become a world record holder.
“A world record was not in my mind today… but I knew one day, one time I would be a world record holder,” Kiptum said after finishing the Bank of America Chicago Marathon in October. In Chicago, Kelvin Kiptum became the first man to run under two hours and one minute in a record-eligible race.
At just 23 years old, Kiptum’s 2:00:35 shaved 34 seconds off Kenyan compatriot Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge’s previous record. The two compatriots were anticipated to run together for the first time this summer at the Paris 2024 Olympics. Kiptum and Kipchoge were expected to provide an enticing all-Kenyan battle for marathon gold in this year’s Olympics.
Last week, Kiptum’s world record was ratified by World Athletics. Known for maintaining a gruelling training schedule that sometimes surpassed 300 kilometres a week, Kiptum only recently announced he hoped to smash the mythic two-hour mark in Rotterdam in April.
Kenya’s loses yet another promising athletics star
At just 24 Kiptum was one of the most exciting road-running prospects in recent years. His death reverberated through Kenya, where athletics is the country’s biggest sport. But Kelvin Kiptum was also the latest Kenyan star to die in devastating circumstances.
David Lelei, an All-Africa Games silver medalist, succumbed in a car crash in 2010. Marathon runner Francis Kiplagat was among five people who died in a crash in 2018. Nicholas Bett, who won gold in the 400-meter hurdles at the 2015 world championships, also died in a car crash in 2018.
Olympic silver medalist Paul Tergat, David Rudisha, 800m world record holder, and former 10,000 meters world champion Moses Tanui have all survived serious road accidents in their home country, Kenya.
Kenyans were perhaps most shocked when Agnes Tirop, a multiple cross-country world champion, was stabbed to death in her home in 2021, allegedly by her husband. He was charged with murder.
But perhaps the most devasting is the passing of Samuel Wanjiru, the 2008 Olympic marathon champion who was also tipped to be an all-time great. Wanjiru died in 2011 at the age of just 24 after falling from a balcony at his home in Kenya.
Tributes to the global athletics icon
Kenya’s President Dr William Ruto was among those who paid their respects, writing on X, formerly Twitter: “Kelvin Kiptum was a star. Arguably one of the world’s finest sportsmen who broke barriers to secure a marathon record. He was only 24 yet, as a hero, triumphed in Valencia, Chicago, London and other top competitions. His mental strength and discipline were unmatched. Kiptum was our future. An extraordinary sportsman has left an extraordinary mark on the globe. Our thoughts are with the family and the sporting fraternity. Rest In Peace.”
Sebastian Coe, president of the World Athletics, sent a condolence note on X: “We are shocked and deeply saddened to learn of the devastating loss of Kelvin Kiptum and his coach, Gervais Hakizimana. On behalf of all World Athletics, we send our deepest condolences to their families, friends, teammates, and the Kenyan nation. It was only earlier this week in Chicago, the place where Kelvin set his extraordinary marathon World Record, that I was able to officially ratify his historic time. An incredible athlete leaving an incredible legacy, and we will miss him dearly.”
Kenya’s opposition leader, Raila Odinga, also paid his respects: “Devastating news as we mourn the loss of a remarkable individual, Kelvin Kiptum, world record holder and Kenyan athletics icon. Together with his coach, they tragically passed on in an accident tonight. Our nation grieves the profound loss of a true hero.”
Those sentiments were shared by Kenya’s minister for sports, Ababu Namwamba, who added on X: “Devastatingly sickening! Kenya has lost a special gem. Lost for words.”