Kenya’s marathon world record holder, Kelvin Kiptum, and his coach met a tragic end in a vehicular accident in the Rift Valley on Sunday.
Kiptum achieved the world record for the marathon at the Chicago Marathon in October 2023, recording a time of two hours and 35 seconds. He surpassed the previous 2:01:09 set by fellow Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge in Berlin 2022.
Kiptum, known for recording three of the seven fastest marathon times in history, had aspirations to break the two-hour barrier in official race conditions at the Rotterdam marathon in April and to participate in his first Olympic games in Paris in July.
World Athletics President Sebastian Coe expressed his condolences, recognizing the immense loss of both Kiptum and his coach, Gervais Hakizimana. “We are shocked and deeply saddened by the devastating loss,” Coe stated, extending sympathy to their families, friends, and the Kenyan community.
The accident occurred as Kiptum drove his Rwandan coach and Sharon Kosgey near his birthplace in the Rift Valley. While Kiptum and Hakizimana died at the scene, Kosgey survived with serious injuries and received treatment at a local hospital.
According to Citizen TV Kenya, the local police commander, Peter Mulinge, described the incident as a self-involved accident.
The news prompted tributes from Kenyan political figures and the global athletics community, with former Kenya Prime Minister Raila Odinga lamenting the loss of a “remarkable individual” and a “true hero” of Kenyan athletics on social media.
Kiptum, originating from Kenya’s high-altitude region known for producing world-class distance runners, began his international career on the half-marathon circuit in 2019. He significantly impacted his full marathon debut by winning the 2022 Valencia Marathon with the fourth-fastest time on record (2:01:53).
His approach to marathons, characterized by pacing with the pack before accelerating in the latter stages, led to victories in both the London Marathon, where he set a course record of 2:01:25, and the Chicago Marathon, where he broke Kipchoge’s world record by 34 seconds.
This victory in Chicago marked his last race before his untimely death, which occurred shortly after World Athletics ratified his world record.
Hakizimana, 36, a former distance runner holding Rwanda’s record for the 3,000 meters steeplechase, had collaborated closely with Kiptum, particularly in preparation for last year’s London marathon. Kenya’s David Rudisha, a two-time Olympic champion and 800m world record holder, expressed his shock and sadness over the loss, highlighting the significant impact on athletics.