Kenyan long-distance runner Kelvin Kiptum has tragically died at the age of 24 following a car accident, just five days after his astonishing marathon world record was ratified by World Athletics.
Kiptum had achieved a staggering time of 2 hours and 35 seconds at the Chicago Marathon back in Ocotober.
Running over the marathon distance for just the third time, Kiptum took 34 seconds off the previous record held by compatriot Eliud Kipchoge.
Kipchoge, the two-time Olympic champion, had set the previous mark of 2:01:09 at the 2022 Berlin Marathon.
Kiptum had improved his personal best by 50 seconds to smash the world record in Chicago, one of several statistics highlighting the remarkable performance by the then 23-year-old.
Marathon world record holder Kelvin Kiptum died after hitting a tree on Sunday
Kiptum made history last October when he clocked 2:00.35 to win the Chicago Marathon
World Athletics ratified Kiptum’s staggering world record last week, five days before his death
Kiptum had produced an average pace of 14 minutes 17.3 seconds for each five kilometres during the race or 4:36 per mile.
The Kenyan had been on world record pace after 10km of the race, after going through the opening two 5km splits in 14.26 and 14.16.
He had initially been joined by seven other runners, with Kiptum reaching the half-marathon mark in a time of 1:00.48.
Kiptum then continued his trend of producing a negative split in the marathon – running the second half quicker than the first.
He pulled away from compatriot Daniel Mateiko to go solo after 30km, before producing his fastest spilt of of the race.
Kiptum achieved a 5km split of 13:51 to reach the 35km checkpoint, running 39 seconds faster than Kipchoge did in his record setting run at the same stage of the race.
The split set Kiptum up to achieve the world record time of 2:00:35.
Kiptum’s time meant the Kenyan averaged 2:51 per kilometre, covering each 100m of the race in just over 17 seconds.
His staggering time further raised the prospect that a sub two hour marathon could be achieved in legal conditions.
Kipchoge had become the first man to break the two hour barrier, acheiving a time of 1:59:40 in the 2019 Ineos 1:59 challenge.
Kiptum averaged two minutes 51 seconds per kilometre during his Chicago Marathon triumph
The Kenyan star raised the possibility of acheiving a sub two hour time in legal conditions
Kiptum shaved 34 seconds off the previous record in only the third marathon of his career
Kiptum was hoping to be the first man to break the two-hour barrier for a marathon in Rotterdam in April
The Kenyan great had been supported by rotating pacemakers in a controlled enviroment in Vienna, meaning the feat was not recognised as a world record by World Athletics.
Kiptum had won last year’s London Marathon in a time of 2:01:25, the third fastest marathon of all-time.
His debut marathon time of 2:01:53, set in Valencia back in 2022, is the seventh fastest in history.
Kiptum had announced his aim to lower the world record further by competing at the Rotterdam Marathon in April, ahead of competing at the Paris 2024 Olympics.
The runner passed away on Sunday at the age of 24 in his native Kenya, with his coach, Rwanda’s Gervais Hakizimana, 37, also killed in the road accident near Kaptagat, an area in the south-west of the country renowned as a training base for distance runners.
The news has rocked the athletics world, with World Athletics president Seb Coe leading the tributes to Kiptum on Sunday night, saying he was ‘an incredible athlete leaving an incredible legacy’.
The details of the crash have now been revealed, with a female passenger, Sharon Chepkemoi, 32, surviving the incident after being taken to Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital in Eldoret.
According to Kenneth Kimaiyo – one of the first responders at the crash site – via Nation, Kiptum’s body was found under the vehicle with the runner already dead, and Hakizimana still alive on a hill.
It is said that Kiptum lost control of his vehicle at Kaptagat area along the Eldama Ravine-Eldoret on his way back from Eldoret in Uasin Gishu County
Kenyan journalist Kipruto Lagat has published what he has said are photos of the crash site on social media
Lagat shared two images of a tree and what appeared to be debris of a vehicle nearby
Jackson Tuwei, President of Athletics Kenya, said the vehicle veered off the road into a ditch before hitting a big tree 60 metres from the main road.
He said that the bodies were taken to the hospital for an autopsy which will begin after the families had been briefed and ‘all agreements are done’.
He added that the accident happened at 8pm GMT on Sunday, 11pm local time, and that the vehicle was ‘extensively damaged’ and towed to a local police station for ‘inspection and police further action’.
Police commander for Elgeyo Marakwet County in western Kenya Peter Mulinge confirmed that the two men that died ‘on the spot’ were Kiptum and Hakizimana, with Coe leading the tributes to the 24-year-old.
Coe wrote on X: ‘We are shocked and deeply saddened to learn of the devastating loss of Kelvin Kiptum and his coach, Gervais Hakizimana.
‘On behalf of all World Athletics we send our deepest condolences to their families, friends, teammates and the Kenyan nation.
‘It was only earlier this week in Chicago, the place where Kelvin set his extraordinary marathon world record, that I was able to officially ratify his historic time.
‘An incredible athlete leaving an incredible legacy, we will miss him dearly.’
World Athletics president Seb Coe led the tributes to the 24-year-old on social media
Former world record holder Kipchoge joined the tributes to Kiptum following his tragic death
Former world record holder Kipchoge, who would likely have battled Kiptum for Olympic gold at Paris 2024, joined the tributes.
‘I am deeply saddened by the tragic passing of the marathon world record holder and rising star Kelvin Kiptum,’ Kipchoge wrote on X.
‘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 his trying time.’