World marathon record holder Kelvin Kiptum has died in a car accident two months before his planned attempt to run a historic sub-two hour marathon, prompting tributes from around the world.
Kenyan authorities confirmed the 24-year-old died in a road accident in Eldoret in Kenya’s Rift Valley at 11pm on Sunday night. He aimed to become the first man to run an official marathon in under two hours at the Rotterdam Marathon in April.
He broke his legendary compatriot Eliud Kipchoge’s world record last year when he ran a time of 2:00:35 at the Chicago Marathon. Kiptum was also set for a highly anticipated face off against Kipchoge at the Paris Olympics later this year.
His Rwandese coach, Gervais Hakizimana, also died in the accident. One other passenger survived and was taken to a nearby hospital. Police say Kiptum lost control of his vehicle and veered into a ditch before crashing into a tree.
“I would like to grow further, and so, inevitably, break the barrier,” Kiptum told Gazzetta dello Sport in December on his goal for the Rotterdam Marathon.
News of Kiptum’s death has prompted an outpouring of grief from Kenyans mourning the loss of one of the country’s greatest talents and the world of athletics. “Kiptum was our future,” said Kenyan President William Ruto. The country’s sports cabinet secretary Ababu Namwamba said Kenya had “lost a special gem.”
Sebastian Coe, president of World Athletics, sent his condolences saying they were “deeply saddened to learn of the devastating loss”.
Kiptum began his athletics career over the half marathon, which he first ran at age 13 in Kenya. He ran several half marathons in Kenya and Europe before switching his focus to the marathon in 2020 under the tutelage of his coach. He went on to run three of the seven fastest marathons in history, including the fastest marathon debut in history in Valencia in 2022.
Last year he won the London Marathon at his first attempt, in a time of 2:01:25. But it was his next marathon that put him in a class of his own, as he won the Chicago Marathon in a time of 2:00:35, shaving 34 seconds off Kipchoge’s record and becoming the first man to run a marathon in under 2:01.
His victory saw him receive a hero’s welcome in Kenya and he was widely seen as the natural successor to Kipchoge.
Kiptum is survived by his wife and two children.