Kenyan marathon world record-holder Kelvin Kiptum has died in a road traffic accident at the age of 24.
Kiptum’s coach Gervais Hakizimana, who was in the car with the Kenyan distance runner, also died in the accident along Eldoret-Kaptagat Road on Sunday.
Kiptum was one of the most exciting new prospects to emerge in road running in recent years. He grabbed headlines when he made his marathon debut in December 2022, clocking 2:01:53 to win in Valencia. Less than a year later, in just his third marathon, he smashed the world record with 2:00:35 to win in Chicago.
That performance, along with his victory earlier in the year at the London Marathon in a course record of 2:01:25, led him to be named 2023 World Athlete of the Year for men’s out-of-stadia events.
Born and raised in Chepsamo village in Chepkorio, 30km from Eldoret in the Rift Valley, Kiptum worked on his family’s cattle farm in his youth. He started running at about the age of 13 and would follow local marathon runners on the local trails and roads.
Soon after, he entered his first half marathon – the Eldoret Half Marathon – and placed 10th overall. Just five years later, in 2018 at the age of 18, he won the race.
He made his international debut in 2019 while still a teenager, and clocked 59:54 to finish fifth at the Lisbon Half Marathon. Before moving up to the classic distance, Kiptum reduced his half marathon PB to 58:42 at the 2020 Valencia Half Marathon. Between 2019 and 2021, Kiptum broke 60 minutes for the half marathon on six occasions.
But it was at longer distances where he excelled, and that soon became apparent at the 2022 Valencia Marathon. He ran with the large lead pack through the half-way point, which was passed in 1:01:42, but he started to ramp up the pace at about the 30km mark.
A few kilometres later, Kiptum was out in front alone. After covering the second half in an incredible 1:00:11, he crossed the line in a course record of 2:01:53 – the fastest debut marathon in history and good enough for third place on the world all-time list behind distance legends Eliud Kipchoge and Kenenisa Bekele.
A speedy second half soon became Kiptum’s trademark approach to marathon running. At the 2023 London Marathon, he once again made a decisive move at 30km and covered the second half in 59:45 to win in a course record of 2:01:25.
He adopted a similar approach at the Chicago Marathon just six months later, where he ran splits of 1:00:48 and 59:47 to cross the line in a world record of 2:00:35, taking 34 seconds off Kipchoge’s world record from 2022.
He hadn’t raced since last year’s Chicago Marathon, but he had been due to compete at the Rotterdam Marathon in April this year, where he was hoping to become the first man to break two hours for the marathon on a record-eligible course.
“We are shocked and deeply saddened to learn of the devastating loss of Kelvin Kiptum and his coach, Gervais Hakizimana,” said World Athletics President Sebastian Coe.
“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, we will miss him dearly.”