Kelvin Kiptum
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Kelvin Kiptum’s meteoric rise from humble beginnings

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Kelvin Kiptum of Kenya celebrates after setting a new world record time of 2:00:35 at the Chicago Marathon on October 8, 2023.

Photo credit: File | Reuters

Fallen world marathon record holder Kelvin Kiptum rose steadily from obscurity into legendary status after competing in three marathons that catapulted him to global acclaim in Valencia, London and Chicago.  

Kiptum, who has been training in Chepkorio in Elgeyo Marakwet County under the watchful eye of his Rwandese Coach Gervais Hakizimana, had competed in three marathons since he ventured into the distance.

Kelvin Kiptum

Kenya's late Kelvin Kiptum during a press conference ahead of the 2023 London Marathon.

Photo credit: File | Reuters

Kiptum died in an accident, together with his coach Hakizimana, after their vehicle veered off the road and landed in a ditch before hitting a tree. The two died instantly.

But how did Kiptum launch his glittering career?

Kiptum’s journey, unlike many other Kenyan elite athletes, broke away from the tradition of honing skills on the track, going straight into road running where he would compete in various local competitions.

He was an average athlete at the start of his career.

In 2019, he launched his professional career at the Lisbon Half Marathon, his first international race, where finished fifth clocking 59 minutes and 54 seconds and competed in other races before winning the half marathon category of the Kass Half Marathon in the same year.

Kelvin Kiptum

Kenya's Kelvin Kiptum poses after a press conference on April 20, 2023 ahead of the London Marathon. 

Photo credit: File | Reuters

When he lined up for the first big race, the 2022 Valencia Marathon, Kiptum was there to “learn a few things” about marathon running but was confident he would triumph despite his rookie status.

By the end of the 42 kilometres, he had not only won the race but had also broken the course record in the flagship Spanish marathon with a time of two hours, one minute and 53 seconds, making him the fastest-ever debutant in marathon running.

Kiptum’s Valencia run took the athletics world by storm, and many wanted to know more about the soft-spoken-athlete who always did his training along the hanging cliff in Elgeyo Marakwet.

In an earlier interview, Kiptum admitted that indeed it was tough travelling to track sessions, disclosing that that’s why when he started running seriously, he decided to join other athletes who were doing road races.

“Travelling for track sessions to Eldoret in Uasin Gishu County needs a lot of resources and that is why I decided to join a group that used to train near my home. That’s how I ventured into marathon races,” he said then.

Kiptum wins London Marathon in second fastest time in history

And as the 2023 season started, he was lined up for the London Marathon race which was his first major marathon race in April.

He ran another course record of 2:01:25, lowering Eliud Kipchoge’s previous best time of 2:02:37 set in the English capital in 2019.

He would later continue with his training, deciding to shelve competing at the World Championships in Budapest last August to concentrate on his preparations for the Chicago Marathon on October 8 last year.

Nation Sport visited him at his training base in Chepkorio where he shared his journey on the athletics career and his goals ahead of the race where he revealed that he was aiming to lower the Chicago course record held by Dennis Kimetto.

True to his words, in his second World Marathon Majors race, Kiptum not only ran a course record, but he also smashed the world record by 34 seconds becoming the first man to run under 2:01 hours when he clocked 2:00:35.

Kelvin Kiptum

Kelvin Kiptum of Kenya celebrates after winning the 2023 Chicago Marathon professional men's division and setting a world record marathon time of 2:00.35 on October 08, 2023 in Chicago, Illinois. 

Photo credit: Michael Reaves| AFP

During the race, Kiptum broke away from his compatriot Daniel Mateiko and led to the tape.

This was the first time the world record was broken in Chicago since Moroccan Khalid Khannouchi clocked 2:05:42 on October 24, 1999.

Kiptum’s compatriot Benson Kipruto settled for second after clocking 2:04:02 while Belgium’s Bashir Abdi sealed the podium positions in 2:04:32.