Twenty-four-year-old world record holder in the men’s marathon, Kenya’s Kelvin Kiptum, has passed away in a road accident in his native country. The accident, which occurred on a road in Western Kenya on Sunday, also claimed the life of his coach, Rwanda’s Gervais Hakizimana.
Kiptum emerged as a notable competitor in 2023, showcasing his potential as a rival to renowned marathon runner Eliud Kipchoge, according to the BBC. In October last year, in Chicago, Kiptum surpassed Kipchoge’s feat by completing the marathon distance of 26.2 miles (42km) in two hours and 35 seconds.
Both athletes were selected for Kenya’s provisional marathon team for the upcoming Paris Olympics. Kipchoge expressed on X his admiration for Kiptum, pointing out that he was a rising star with immense potential for achieving remarkable success. He extended his condolences to Kiptum’s family after this tragic loss.
Kenya’s President, William Ruto, paid homage to Kiptum, hailing him as an exceptional athlete who had left a bold mark on the face of the earth. The road accident occurred on Sunday around 23:00 local time (20:00 GMT). According to police reports, Kiptum was driving at the time of the accident and lost control of the vehicle, veering off-road and entering a ditch on the left side.
“He drove in the ditch for about 60 meters before hitting a big tree,” a police statement said.
Kiptum and Hakizimana perished at the scene of the collision, while a young woman sustained serious injuries and was hospitalized.
Just a week ago, Kiptum’s team had announced his ambitious goal to attempt running a marathon in under two hours in Rotterdam in April, a milestone never achieved in open competition.
Kiptum’s ascent to prominence was swift; he ran his first full marathon in 2022 and immediately made waves, clinching the then-fourth fastest time on record (2:01:53) to win the Valencia Marathon. In April 2023, he set a course record of 2:01:25 at the London Marathon. Kiptum shattered the world record by 34 seconds in only his third marathon, which took place in Chicago in October.
He is known for his unique tactic of running alongside competitors for 30 kilometers before accelerating and leading solo for the remainder of the race. His journey to success began in 2018 when he competed in his initial major event, running in borrowed shoes due to financial constraints.
Kiptum was part of a fresh generation of Kenyan athletes who embraced a different approach to their careers, opting to start directly on the road instead of the traditional path of beginning on the track and transitioning to longer distances.
Kiptum revealed in an interview with the BBC last year that his decision stemmed from limited resources rather than a deliberate strategy.
“I had no money to travel to track sessions,” he explained.