Kenya’s marathon world has been devastated by the tragic news of the passing of men’s marathon record holder, 24-year-old Kelvin Kiptum.
He, alongside his coach, Rwanda’s Gervais Hakizimana, died in a car crash near the town of Eldoret in his home country. Kiptum emerged as a formidable rival to his compatriot Eliud Kipchoge in 2023 and broke Kipchoge’s world record in Chicago last October, running the 26.1 miles in two hours and 35 seconds.
Kiptum’s potential was skyrocketing as his team had announced that he aimed to run the distance in under two hours at the Rotterdam marathon – a feat that has never been achieved in open competition.
The news of his passing has been met with widespread mourning and tributes from the global athletics community. Kenya’s opposition leader and former prime minister, Raila Odinga, described Kiptum as “a true hero” and “a remarkable individual and Kenyan athletics icon”. World Athletics president Sebastian Coe paid tribute to Kiptum, calling him “an incredible athlete leaving an incredible legacy, we will miss him dearly.”
Kiptum’s rise to fame was meteoric. He only ran his first full marathon in 2022 and began his career running in borrowed shoes as he could not afford a pair of his own. He was part of a new wave of Kenyan athletes who started their careers on the road, breaking away from the tradition of starting on the track before progressing to longer distances.
In a previous interview with the BBC, Kiptum shared that his decision to pursue long-distance running was due to a lack of resources, saying, “I had no money to travel to track sessions.”
The sudden and tragic loss of an exceptionally talented young athlete like Kelvin Kiptum is a reminder of the fragility of life and the depth of talent that sometimes goes unrecognized in the world of sport. He leaves behind a lasting legacy and will be deeply missed by the global athletics community.