Kelvin Kiptum’s luminous passage across the earth: he was about to accomplish the greatest feat of the marathon and an accident ended his life

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When Samuel Wanjiiru She won the Beijing Olympic marathon in 2008 at the age of 21 and set the Games record (2:06:32) – thus becoming the youngest champion since our Zabalita – the world of the queen of long distance distance racing was open to him. . In that impressive talent pool emerging from the highlands of Kenya, Wanjiiru seemed to be the most talented of all. Three years later he died, following a domestic accident about which nothing was ever clarified (not even with the murder versions). Born even from the most extreme poverty and the harshest conditions, Kenyan talents have covered and dominated the world of major international competitions for decades, but the “other side” is usually very sad too. As happened to Henry Rono, who set an unprecedented series of world records on the track in the late 1970s, and who was demolished shortly thereafter by alcoholism. Or the doping cases that have overshadowed so many successes in recent times…

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About what Kelvin Kiptum He goes to get another ride. A real catastrophe. Ready to accomplish the greatest contemporary feat of the marathon (he had decided to do 2 hours in two months in Rotterdam and then seek Olympic gold in Paris), a car accident put an end to his life this Sunday.

Perhaps we need to go back almost half a century, to May 1975remember a car tragedy that took the entire life of a star: in that case, Steve Prefontainethe most charismatic distance runner in US athletics.

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Kelvin Kiptum, at 23, has only run three marathons in his life, each better than the last. And the last one, in October, allowed him to remove from the ranking none other than the greatest in historyhis compatriot Eliud Kipchoge (Abebe Bikila also enters that championship…).

The Kipchoge (40)-Kiptum duel promised to be one of the most exciting in Paris, but we will never see it.

Kiptum’s record of 2 hours 35 seconds in the Windy City, taking advantage of the circuit, the climate and even ultra-modern footwear, made him a celebrity in his home country, with a crowd welcoming him to Nairobi until he returned home his home in the southeast.

Kelvin Kiptum achieved the record in London.  Photo: AFPKelvin Kiptum achieved the record in London. Photo: AFP

Kiptum was trained by Gervais Hakizimana, a former Rwandan runner, who has been trying to tone down his ferocious pace of accumulating kilometres. “I knew him as a boy, a farmer who walked barefoot through the fields and helped on his father’s farm,” the man said.

From that moment on he built his passion for racing – he had a cousin as a point of reference, Haile Gebrselassie’s training partner – but he had to convince his father to let him continue (instead of studying to be an electrician).

Kiptum didn’t even have the means for cheap sneakers., nor did he have a nearby track where he could do speed sessions. “I started training hard on the road and soon decided to take up the marathon.”, he once said, with a somewhat surprising determination. Bold, because cross-country skiers only dare to tackle longer distances when they gain consistency, experience and maturity over distances ranging from 5,000 meters to a half marathon.

Hakizimana himself asked him several times to “lower a gear” and not to accelerate his progression: “He trains a lot and risks getting injured. I told him to be slower, but he doesn’t want to. If he insisted on training so much, in five years he would be finished with athletics. And in this sport, to last, you have to have patience, calm down.”

While the weekly sessions of a star like Kipchoge fluctuate between 180 and 220 km. weekly, Kiptum did 250km sessions. before his record in Chicago.

Eliud Kipchoge and the mourning that there will not be in Paris, after Kiptum's death Photo: AFPEliud Kipchoge and the mourning that there will not be in Paris, after Kiptum’s death Photo: AFP

But he always took him as an athlete model: “When I was little I saw Eliud training and he told me: ‘one day, once, I will be like Eliud‘. He was an example for us,” Kiptum said after his record.

Like many Kenyan runners, he dabbled in cross-country and road running as a youth, albeit without great results. He began competing with some regularity in 2016 and two seasons later he had already won a half marathon in 1:02:01 at Eldoret, the “temple” of Kenyan marathon runners and close to the site of this Sunday’s catastrophe.

At 20, Kiptum was already running a half marathon in under an hour (59:53 in Belfort, France), after reaching that milestone weeks earlier in Copenhagen. At the end of 2020, after inactivity due to the pandemic, he placed 6th in the Valencia half marathon with a personal best of 58:42 and then ran the same distance, winning in (59:35) and again taking eighth placed in Valencia (59:02).

In 2020, covid locked us up in Kenya, I stayed there for a year and trained him in the forest. I ran with him and then we started a marathon program in 2022,” the coach said.

Kiptum had a spectacular debut as a marathon runner in December 2022 in Valencia with 2:01:53. Obviously the fastest debut of any driver in the history of this test. On 23 April he finished the London Marathon in 2:01:25, suggesting that Kipchoge’s record was close. And finally, Chicago. Three out of three in his short and lightning-fast marathon, three big ones and in each one the bonus of improvement:

In Chicago he again covered the second half at a faster pace than the first and He left behind the record Kipchoge had set a year earlier in Berlin with 2:01:09. His split times in the return leg are astonishing: 59:45 in London, 59:47 in Chicago. And in the latter case, racing towards the record alone, given that his compatriot Benson Kipruto, in second place, clocked almost three minutes more.

He had concentrated for three months, accumulating kilometers at the altitude of Chepkorio and the plains of the Kerio Valley, Kenya.

In a recent interview with La Gazzetta dello Sport he stated syou plan to lower the 2 hours on April 14thin Rotterdam: “I will go there to run fast. The route is ideal and the crowd on the streets encourages you to do your best. I would like to be part of the rich history of this marathon. If the preparation goes in the right direction, with peaks of 270 kilometers a week, and the weather conditions allow it, I’ll try.”

He was born on December 2, 1999. Kelvin Kiptum had all the talent – immense – and the ambition to inscribe his name just like that of those legends, Kipchoge or Bikila, Nurmi or Zatopek, Gebrselassie or… even more, those which was great for long distance athletics. It will remain as a luminous passage – surprising, fleeting and why not, painful in the end – of that same story.

Source: Clarin

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