New marathon world record holder Kelvin Kiptum addressing journalists during a presser at Weston Hotel in Nairobi on October 10, 2023.

| Bonface Bogita | Nation Media Group

This man Kelvin Kiptum

What you need to know:

  • Kiptum fully turned his focus on the marathon after failing to win at the Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon in February last year.
  • He took Valencia by storm in December before winning in London in April.
  • And now, the 23-year-old father of two is the world record holder.

William “Philip” Kiplagat left those who attended Kelvin Kiptum’s press conference at Weston Hotel on Tuesday in stitches when he told the story the story of new marathon world record holder.

Just like any Kenyan family setup, Kiptum’s move to drop out of school did not sit well with his father, Samson Cheruiyot and his uncle Kiplagat, a former military man.

“He had disciplinary issues in school since he thought he had a calling in athletics and not education,” said Kiplagat. “That is something we didn’t want to hear from the boy, who didn’t have a coach or plan.”

Kiplagat said that Kiptum told them that if they wanted him to continue with school, he would only study how to repair electronics at the nearby Chepkorio Polytechnic, Elgeyo Marakwet County.

“He had this fascination with radios. He would actually repair them,” said Kiplagat, disclosing that Kiptum developed interest in athletics from his cousin Bernard Kiprop, who used to pace legendary Ethiopian long distance runner Haile Gebrselassie.

Kiplagat said that Kiptum’s father had him enroll at the village polytechnic, where he received a Grade I certificate in electronics.

“His father wanted him to advance after he secured him a place at Eldoret Polytechnic in 2010 to undertake Grade II but Kiptum declined. He rented a wooden house in Chepkorio to continue his athletics training there,” said Kiplagat.

“We were worried because the house Kiptum rented was close to a bar. We pleaded with him not to waste himself and he promised to return home but never,” said Kiplagat, adding that Kiptum used to run barefoot.

“At one time he borrowed running shoes from a known distance runner from the area. The runner, who is a former schoolmate, promised to get him a pair but never delivered,” said Kiplagat, drawing lengthy laughter from the packed room at Weston Hotel.

But things changed when Kiptum won the Family Bank Eldoret City Half Marathon in 1:02:01 in 2018 before running in four marathons outside the country in 2019.

“He brought in some money and we were able to 'greet him with both hands' was unbelievable,“ said Kiplagat to another, telling laughter.

“We then started supporting him in his venture,” added Kiplagat.

“What you have done is a great thing and I hope you also get to inspire everyone,” Kiplagat told Kiptum, who sat pensively, occasionally smiling.

Kiptum’s wife Asenath Rotich, who is fondly known as Mama Kigen, said they met in 2014. They have two children - Caleb Kigen, 7, and Precious Cherop, 4.

Kiptum's coach Gervais Hakizimana, a former Rwandese international, met Kiptum over a decade ago as a youngster. "I used to do my hill work training near their village where he used to follow me as he tended to his father's livestock, " said Hakizimana.

"He later joined me in training and I started sharing my training programme with him even when I was in France up to date," said Hakizimana.

Just on his third outing in a full marathon, the 23-year-old Kiptum obliterated the marathon world record by 34 seconds, winning the Chicago Marathon in two hours and 35 seconds on Sunday.

 Kiptum has run faster than Kipchoge, legends Haile Gebrselassie and Paul Tergat managed in their illustrious careers.

What is more intriguing is that Kiptum’s athletics career can only be traced to five years ago when he went straight into road running, winning the Eldoret Half Marathon.

Tergat, who represented Kenya for the first time at the 1991 World Half Marathon Championships, finishing fifth, ran his first 42km race at the 2001 London Marathon, where he clocked 2:08:15 for second place.

Tergat only got to break the world record after over two years when he ran 2:04:55 at the 2003 Berlin Marathon, becoming the first man to run under two hours and five minutes.

Gebrselassie, whose athletics career started in 1991, ran and won his maiden half marathon, the 2001 Addis Abeba Ethiopian Half Marathon Championships, which was the trials for the World Half Marathon Championships that he went on to  win the same year.

Gebrselassie made his bow in marathon at the 2002 London Marathon, finishing third.
He broke Tergat’s marathon world record four years later at Berlin 2007 after timing 2:04:26.

Unlike the previous races where the Chicago Marathon course has been windy and chilly, this year’s weather presented near-perfect warm conditions.

Kiptum would then obliterate Kipchoge’s world record time of 2:01:09, making history as the first man to run sub-2:01.

Compared to Kipchoge in Berlin last year, Kiptum was slow in the five-kilometre splits of the first half of the race, reaching halfway in 60:48 compared to Kipchoge’s 59:51.

Kiptum showed his mettle in the second half, posting negative splits with one of the fastest last seven kilometres. He hit 30km in 1:26:31 (14:27), 35km: 1:40:22 (13:51) and 40km: 1:54:23 (14:01).

Kipchoge hit 30km in 1:25:40 (14:32), 35km: 1:40:10 (14:30) and 40km: 1:54:53 (14:43).

It was the first time the world record is shattered in Chicago since Moroccan Khalid Khannouchi’s exploits of 2:05:42 on October 24, 1999.

From 1999, seven consecutive records have fallen at Berlin Marathon course.

Perhaps Kiptum’s feat was coming after he left many tongues wagging with a staggering 2:01:53 victory in Valencia 2:01:53 on December 4, last year, a time that was third fastest ever after Kipchoge’s 2:01:09 and Kenenisa Bekele’s 2:01:41.

The world was warming up for a new king in the history of marathons.

Four months later, nobody could have predicted under such poor weather forecast that a course record victory was in the offing at the London Marathon.

Nevertheless, Kiptum rewrote history books when he blew away the field to win in the British capital in 2:01:25 seconds, the second fastest time ever in marathon history.

That saw the Golazo Sports management athlete smash Kipchoge’s course record of 2:02:37 from  2019.

Before his marathon exploits, Kiptum, who hails from Chepsamo Village, Elgeyo Marakwet, had only run three 10,000m races in the track and 11 half marathons.

Interestingly, his half marathon career best came from Valencia in 2020 where he finished sixth in 58:42.

Kiptum's last half marathon race was the Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon in February last year, where he failed to finish.

After running one race in 2018, Kiptum went into half marathon races the following year, where he finished fifth in Lisbon (59:54), sixth in Gothenburg (1:01:36) and  11th in Copenhagen(1:00:38).

Kiptum finally netted his maiden victory abroad, winning Le Lion Montbéliard to Belfort Half Marathon in 59:53 in France.

Kiptum, who had failed to finish his 10,000m race at 2019 Stockholm Diamond League in May, would close his season with a second place at the Singelloop Utrecht 10km road race in the Netherlands on October 6.

He opened 2020 with an eighth-place finish at the Kagawa Marugame International Half Marathon in Japan and second at the NCPC Loop Den Haag Half Marathon in the Netherlands before Covid-19 struck.

He failed to finish the One Hour Challenge in September at the height of Covid-19 but ended 2020 with a career-best of 58:42 in Valencia.

Kiptum started 2021 with the 25 Laps to Tokyo 10,000m in Stockholm, where he finished eighth in May but would claim La Route du Louvre Half Marathon in 59:35 in France in October to end his year with victory.

Kiptum fully turned his focus on the marathon after failing to win at the Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon in February last year.

He took Valencia by storm in December before winning in London in April.

And now, the 23-year-old father of two is the world record holder.