Kelvin Kiptum was just gearing up for another remarkable feat – and creating history was his destiny


All Kelvin Kiptum knew was winning – breaking barriers and demolishing records on the path to marathon superstardom.

Only three marathons were ever run by the Kenyan – in Valencia, London and Chicago – and he created history in all of them.

Such was his destiny.

Born in the high-altitude Kenyan region that is the heartland of long-distance running, Kiptum did what everyone there seemed to do – run.

And on the trails and roads, between herding the family’s cattle, the talent was honed before setting himself apart as the Rift Valley’s most extraordinary talent.

The 24-year-old will be remembered for how much was achieved so stunningly quickly, so young – and how races he was destined to dominate for years to come will feel his absence.

It was a mark of his standing in Kenya that his death in a car accident in the Rift Valley on Sunday night provoked an instant outpouring of tributes from political leaders, despite the late hour.

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National mourning for a sporting icon who burst onto the scene and made the most of his talent before his life was so cruelly cut short.

“I had to find time for my running,” he once recalled of growing up in the village of Chepkorio.

Those who followed his half-marathons internationally from 2019 saw the brilliance emerging.

But it was only 14 months ago in Valencia that he ran his first marathon. It was the fastest marathon debut run ever.

He announced himself to the Marathon Majors in astonishing fashion.

In only his second marathon, on the streets of London, Kiptum swept over the finish line at Buckingham Palace having smashed the course record.

FILE - Men's race winner Kelvin Kiptum of Kenya holds a trophy together with women's race winner Sifan Hassan, unseen, of the Netherlands after the London Marathon in London on April 23, 2023. Kiptum was killed along with his coach in a car crash in Kenya late Sunday, Feb. 11, 2024. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali, File)
Kiptum with the London Marathon trophy in April 23, 2023. Pic: AP

It was the second-fastest marathon of all time, missing out on the world record by 16 seconds.

His trademark running style became clear – running with the pack for the first half of the race and then accelerating clear to glory.

“I’ll go back home, have a little rest and talk with my team,” Kiptum said in London. “Maybe then we will think of the world record.”

He did not have to wait long to claim that landmark from fellow Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge.

Oct 8, 2023; Chicago, IL, USA; Kelvin Kiptum (KEN) celebrates after finishing in a world record time of 2:00:35 to win the Chicago Marathon at Grant Park. Mandatory Credit: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports
Kelvin Kiptum at the Chicago marathon in October. Pic: Patrick Gorski/USA TODAY Sports/Reuters

The milestone that is his legacy was secured in just his third marathon in Chicago in October.

Until this US trip, no man had run 26.2 miles in under two hours and one minute before.

Kiptum did more than just achieve that, crushing the world record by 34 seconds.

The mark of two hours and 35 seconds was only ratified last week by World Athletics president Sebastian Coe.

And Kiptum died – along with Rwandan coach Gervais Hakizimana – with more history in his sights.

Oct 8, 2023; Chicago, IL, USA; Kelvin Kiptum (KEN) celebrates after finishing in a world record time of 2:00:35 to win the Chicago Marathon at Grant Park. Mandatory Credit: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports
Kelvin Kiptum with his world record time. Pic: Patrick Gorski/USA TODAY Sports/Reuters

He was in training for an attempt at another remarkable feat – eyeing the first official marathon run under two hours in Rotterdam in April.

“That might look ambitious, but I’m not afraid of setting these kind of goals,” he said.

“There’s no limit to human energy.”

Always pushing his body with discipline, desire and determination.

In this Olympic year, the Paris marathon will seem a diminished field without Kelvin Kiptum.

He leaves a legacy of records tinged with tragedy and the brilliance lost.

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