Kelvin Kiptum, perhaps the most talented marathon runner of all time, is dead: The 24-year-old Kenyan died late on Sunday evening in a car accident near Kaptagat in Kenya’s western highlands. Kelvin Kiptum had taken the marathon world elite by storm and achieved a series of performances never before seen over the classic distance. In his third marathon in Chicago in October, he set the current world record with 2:00:35 hours and took the record from Kenya’s superstar Eliud Kipchoge.
2024 was supposed to be a year in which Kelvin Kiptum – one of several world track and field athletes of 2023 – wanted to make sports history. The Kenyan’s goal was to be the first runner to run under two hours in a regular race at the Rotterdam Marathon on April 14th. He would have started as the favorite at the Olympic Games in Paris in August.
Kiptum lost control of his car
But on Sunday evening Kelvin Kiptum’s life was tragically taken away. As Kenyan media report with reference to police statements, Kelvin Kiptum himself was behind the wheel of a Toyota Premio and was driving towards Eldoret. Apparently without another car being involved, the world record holder lost control of the mid-size car, veered off the road, crashed into a tree and ended up in a ditch. As The Nation newspaper reports, Kelvin Kiptum and his Rwandan-born trainer Gervais Hakizimana, who was sitting next to him as a passenger, died instantly. As a result, a woman sitting in the back of the car survived the accident in the completely destroyed car. She was taken to hospital in Eldoret with serious injuries.
Kiptum grew up in a farming family
Kelvin Kiptum came from the town of Chepkorio, which is not far from Kaptagat and Eldoret. He grew up in a farming family and helped his parents work with the livestock. A number of Kenyan world-class runners come from the area. Chepkorio is also the hometown of multiple half marathon and cross-country running world champion Geoffrey Kamworor, who became a role model for Kelvin Kiptum. He started running training at the age of 13, joined Kamworor’s training group and has already run a half marathon in Eldoret. He took tenth place. As a result, he trained with Gervais Hakizimana, who was still active at the time and later took over the role of trainer. As an 18-year-old, Kelvin Kiptum won the half marathon races in Eldoret and Kakamega.
Road racing career in Europe
Soon afterwards, in spring 2019, he started in Europe for the first time. Kelvin Kiptum immediately concentrated on the road races. Speaking to World Athletics, he explained that he had no opportunity to train on a track because there simply wasn’t one near his location. The classic long-distance route to the marathon was therefore not an option for him.
With Kelvin Kiptum, international running has lost an absolutely exceptional athlete.
Just 15 months ago you couldn’t do much with the name Kelvin Kiptum. He was one of many top Kenyan runners. Although he had achieved a top-class half marathon best time of 58:42 minutes in Valencia in 2020, there was nothing to indicate that Kelvin Kiptum could immediately advance into areas in the marathon that seemed reserved for Eliud Kipchoge.
He surprisingly won the 2022 Valencia Marathon and initially stormed to one unofficial debut world record of 2:01:53 hours. At that time, he immediately became the third fastest marathon runner of all time. In his second marathon he came in one splendid victory in London last April to within 16 seconds of Eliud Kipchoge’s world record (2:01:09). Kelvin Kiptum ran 2:01:25 after running the second half of the race in 59:44, posting the second-fastest time ever. “I think he is Kipchoge 2.0,” Martin Keino – the son of Kenya’s running legend Kip Keino works as a journalist after his own running career – told BBC Sport Africa at the time.
World record in the third marathon: 2:00:35 hours
In his third marathon race, Kelvin Kiptum stormed in Chicago to the world record of 2:00:35 hours, that was in October 2023. After a first half of 60:48 minutes, he ran the second section in 59:47. Kelvin Kiptum seemed to have the potential to be able to beat the two-hour marathon barrier that Eliud Kipchoge broke in a non-record-breaking race in Vienna in 2019 (1:59:40.2) in an official run.