FILE – Kelvin Kiptum of Kenya holds a trophy 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. (Image: AP)
Kelvin Kiptum is dead. He was 24. In a brief marathon career of just three races, he touched the tape with one or the other record. The fastest of them all over the distance of 42.195 km (26.2188 miles) ever since Greek messenger Pheidippides had run 26 miles sometime in 490 BC.
Alas! The boy from the Chepsamo village in Chepkorio, near the Rift Valley, in Eldoret Kenya, also completed the journey of his life too soon, too fast.
Athletics world, followers of marathons worldwide were not prepared for the news broke by Kenyan runner Micah Chemos on early Monday morning (India time). Marathon’s world’s best talent had gone when the world was waiting for him to break the two-minute barrier precisely two months from the date of his demise.
Each of his road races, since becoming the fastest debutant in the history of the sport when he clocked 2:01:53 in Valencia in December 2022, has grabbed a headline for a landmark.
Kiptan created the 2 hour, 1 minute and 25 record for the London Marathon in April last year, becoming the fastest in the history of the 42-year-old prestigious event. In the process, he had also emerged as the second fastest marathoner ever behind compatriot Eliud Kipchoge (2:01:09).
Six months later, all eyes and cameras were focused on Kiptan, running only his third career marathon. He bettered Kipchoge’s world record by 34 seconds, becoming the first race runner ever to complete a marathon in less than two hours and one minute. He had touched the finishing line tape in 2:00:35. A marathon had never been run in less than two hours and one minute till then.
He has bestowed the honour of the “World Athlete of the Year for men’s out-of-stadia events” for the London and Chicago highs.
Coming from a family of cattle farmers in Kenya, Kiptum had started following, literally on the road, marathon runners on local trails around the farms as a 13-year-old. Five years later, still in his teens, he had won his first half marathon in 2018.
Kiptum had moved to the full-distance race as an exceptional talent, having a record sub-60 minute finishes in six half marathons.
The boy with that reputation of unprecedented speed in the second half of marathon running hadn’t competed in a road race since creating the world record at Chicago last year.
The world, marathon fraternity, athletes, fans and followers, were waiting for him to run at the Rotterdam in April. There he was expected to break the two-hour barrier for the first time.
He was training for that ultimate glory with his Rwandan coach Gervais Hakizimana, also killed in the crash. The duo were together when the car crashed in Western Kenya in a high-altitude region with the reputation of a well-known training base for distance running.
Kiptum didn’t live to be a sub-two-hour marathoner, but his legend will live forever. Name Kelvin Kiptum will invoke millions of emotions on the finishing line of a marathon event for a long time to come.