NAIROBI, Kenya — Marathon world record-holder Kelvin Kiptum died in a car crash in Kenya late Sunday, according to a fellow athlete who went to the hospital and saw the body.
Kiptum’s coach was also killed in the crash, Kenyan runner Milcah Chemos said. The crash happened on a road between the towns of Eldoret and Kaptagat in western Kenya, she said, in the heart of the high-altitude region that’s renowned as a training base for long-distance runners.
Chemos said she was among a group of athletes who had gone to the hospital in Eldoret after hearing the news of the crash. Family members of Kiptum, 24, were also with them to identify his body, Chemos said.
Kiptum was the first man to run the marathon in under 2 hours, 1 minute. He set the new world record of 2:00.35 at the Chicago Marathon in October, beating the previous record set by fellow Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge.
Kiptum’s record was ratified by international track federation World Athletics last week, which called him “one of the most exciting new prospects” in the running world.
“We are shocked and deeply saddened to learn of the devastating loss of Kelvin Kiptum and his coach, Gervais Hakizimana,” World Athletics President Sebastian Coe said in a statement. “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.”
Carey Pinkowski, executive race director of the Chicago Marathon, said the running community is “shocked and saddened” by Kiptum’s death, and he offered thoughts and prayers to the marathoner’s family.
“Kelvin was a once in a generation athlete at the front of his career, and there is no doubt in my mind that his greatest achievements were ahead of him,” Pinkowski said in a statement to the Sun-Times.
“We were lucky to witness his greatness on the streets of Chicago. While he will be celebrated for his record-breaking performances, I will remember him as an incredible talent and as an even more magnificent person. The sport of marathon running has suffered a tragic loss.”
Nick Gornick, a Villa Park physical therapist and running coach, saw Kiptum cross the halfway point of the Chicago Marathon last year on the way to his record-breaking finish.
He said it had seemed Kiptum had a “real shot” at finishing the marathon in less than two hours in 2024, and that he was “just getting started.”
“Setting a world record that young in a marathon usually means you have more to give,” he said. “It’s sad we’ll never get to see what else he was capable of.”
Contributing: Violet Miller