Kelvin Kiptum
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Coach: ‘In final training session, Kelvin Kiptum insisted we take photographs...’

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World marathon record holder Kelvin Kiptum (centre) with coaches Nahashon Kibon (left), Nicholas Chemogos (right) and other foreign athletes after a 35-kilometre long run training session in Kaptagat, which turned out to be his last long run on February 8, 2024.

Photo credit: Pool

On Saturday, Kelvin Kiptum was full of energy, attacking his morning training session in Kaptagat with deep focus.

At one point, one of the coaches on his pool, Nahashon Kibon, urged him to “take it easy”, but the world marathon record holder insisted that he wanted to finish the session on a high.

It was an 18.2-kilometre “fartlek” session.

“Fartlek” is basically a training method that involves random variations of speed, bursts of intensity moderated by slower recovery spells of jogging.

Among the training group at the fartlek session was Timothy Kiplagat, runner-up at last year’s Rotterdam Marathon, who had, alongside Kiptum, been picked in Kenya’s team to this year’s Paris Olympic Games where the marathon will be ran on August 10.

“Timothy was one of Kiptum’s greatest friends and training partners. They had become like brothers because of training,” Kibon, the man behind the nurturing of many talented athletes narrated to Nation Sport on Monday morning, hours after the sad news of Kiptum’s tragic demise filtered through.

Kelvin Kiptum

World marathon record holder Kelvin Kiptum (centre) with, among others, coaches Nahashon Kibon (second left) and Nicholas Chemogos (second right) after a 35-kilometre long run training session in Kaptagat, which turned out to be his last long run on February 8, 2024.

Photo credit: Pool

Kiptum, 24, and his coach from Rwanda, Gervais Hakizimana, 37, died on the spot after the saloon car the world marathon record holder was driving veered off the road and crashed along the Eldoret-Ravine road in Kaptagat at about 11pm on Sunday.

A third passenger, identified by police as 24-year-old Sharon Chepkurui Kosgei, was rushed to the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital in Eldoret for treatment.

“I followed them in my car during Saturday’s training session and midway, I told them to reduce the pace because the distance to be covered was still long.

“But he responded that ‘coach, we are about to finish’, and I told him it’s OK.”

Kiptum and co. were still full of energy despite having tackled a 35-kilometre long run on Thursday. It was to be the world marathon record holder’s final long run session….

Kelvin Kiptum

World marathon record holder Kelvin Kiptum with coach Nahashon Kibon after a 35-kilometre long run training session in Kaptagat, which turned out to be his last long run, on February 8, 2024.

Photo credit: Pool

After Saturday’s session, Kibon told the team that they would break up and reconvene for another big group session on Tuesday.

“We are usually three coaches (Kibon, Gervais and Nicholas Chemogos) and when the training group is big, we split ourselves into three groups and plan.”

Meanwhile, after finishing the Thursday long-run session, Kiptum had insisted that they take photographs.

“He told me, ‘coach, you have helped me a lot… come, let’s take some photos’ and added that ‘photographs are a good treasure, and they remind you of people…

“I told him, no problem, and we took several photographs.

“On Saturday, we then had the fartlek session and the intensity was high! The other coaches asked me to remain behind and look after the lady athletes.

“So, we split ourselves with one coach with the lead pack, the second in the middle and I remained behind with a group that included Sharon Lokedi (2022 New York City Marathon winner).

“After the session, Kiptum was quite upbeat and we agreed to meet for another group session on Tuesday because we usually have group workouts on Tuesdays and Saturdays.

“Last night I received a call about the accident and rushed to the scene… I had to handle Timothy carefully because he’s devastated… he was close to Kiptum… I don’t know what we shall do…”

“Looking back, I wonder why he insisted that we take photographs after Thursday’s long run… it’s unbelievable how things happen… he was really grateful to us coaches for helping him in his training.

“We told him we are still around and will prepare each and every athlete for their races.”

Kibon had linked Timothy Kiplagat with Kiptum’s training sessions so that they could push one another as Kiplagat is scheduled to compete alongside double Olympic marathon champion Eliud Kipchoge at the Tokyo Marathon on March 3 as a final build-up to the Paris Olympics.

At last year’s Rotterdam Marathon, Kiplagat improved his personal best time by 90 seconds, clocking two hours, three minutes and 50 seconds, finishing in second place, just three seconds behind world and Olympic bronze medalist Bashir Abdi of Belgium (2:03:47).

Also in Kiptum’s group training sessions were seasoned athletes who included Edward Cheserek, a 17-time USA collegiate champion, a born miler who is cutting his teeth in the marathon, Caroline Chepkwony and Eunice Chebichii.

On Monday morning, Kibon was assembling the training group to travel to Eldoret to view Kiptum’s body at the Racecourse Hospital Mortuary.