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Four ‘unidentified people’ were looking for marathon great in days before death, father says

Kiptum, 24, was regarded as a once-in-a-generation talent after winning his first three marathons, including setting a course record in London in April before becoming the first man to go under two hours, one minute when he set a new world record in Chicago in October.

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He was favourite for Olympic gold in Paris and had told his father that he was ready to become the first man to run the 26.2-mile distance in under two hours in an official race at the Rotterdam Marathon this April.

“He told me someone will come and help us build a house – he said that his body is now fit, and he can now run for 1:59,” said Cheruiyot.

Kiptum died on the road between Elodret and Kaptagat, an area that is home to many of the best endurance runners in the world, including Eliud Kipchoge, the previous world record holder and the reigning double Olympic champion. A first head-to-head race between Kipchoge and Kiptum was expected to be one of the highlights of the Paris Olympics.

“I am deeply saddened by the tragic passing of the marathon world record holder and rising star Kelvin Kiptum,” said Kipchoge. “An athlete who had a whole life ahead of him to achieve incredible greatness. I offer my deepest condolences to his young family. May God comfort you during this trying time.”

Fellow Kenyan long-distance runners, including double Olympic champion Faith Kipyegon were pictured visiting the Racecourse Mortuary in Eldoret on Monday.

Ten fastest men’s marathon times on record

  • Kelvin Kiptum (Kenya), 2:00.35, Chicago, 2023
  • Eliud Kipchoge (Kenya), 2:01.09, Berlin, 2022
  • Kelvin Kiptum (Kenya), 2:01.25, London, 2023
  • Eliud Kipchoge (Kenya), 2:01.39, Berlin, 2018
  • Kenenisa Bekele (Ethiopia), 2:01.41, Berlin, 2019
  • Sisay Lemma (Ethiopia), 2:01.48, Valencia, 2023
  • Kelvin Kiptum (Kenya), 2:01.53, Valencia, 2022
  • Eliud Kipchoge (Kenya), 2:02.37, London, 2019
  • Eliud Kipchoge (Kenya), 2:02.40, Tokyo, 2022
  • Eliud Kipchoge (Kenya), 2:02.42, Berlin, 2023
  • Birhanu Legese (Ethiopia), 2:02.48, Berlin, 2019

Source: Runner’s World

Kiptum’s death has left Kenya, and the wider world athletics community, in a state of shock and mourning. Sir Mo Farah called Kiptum a “special talent” who would have gone on to have “an incredible career”.

“It’s like it was a given he would go under two hours,” Farrah said.

Emile Cairess, who was sixth in London last year behind Kiptum and the first British finisher, said the Kenyan could have become “Usain Bolt-esque” as a “figurehead of athletics”.

“It’s a massive blow because, at his level, someone can really capture the attention of people outside of the sport,” Cairess told the BBC.

“Many people thought they would never see a sub two-hour marathon in their lifetimes but since he came along, it’s like it was just a given that he would do it.”

Kelvin Kiptum died on Sunday.

Kelvin Kiptum died on Sunday.Credit: Getty

Kiptum was named the “off track” athlete of the year by World Athletics in December and, having begun serious running barefoot while also herding cattle, had never set foot on an athletics track.

“I had no track to train on,” he explained. “I was a herdsman for many years. It was my life, as it was for a lot of others. But I had to find time for my running.”

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Sebastian Coe, the president of World Athletics, said that Kiptum was “an incredible athlete leaving an incredible legacy”.

Hugh Brasher, the London Marathon event director, said that he “was set to redefine the boundaries of our sport”.

Kiptum is survived by his wife Asenath Rotich and their two children.

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