Coach Raises Concerns About Longevity In Athletics After Kiptum’s Chicago Marathon Buildup is Revealed

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Last weekend at the Chicago Marathon, Kelvin Kiptum stole the show after setting a new marathon world record. The 23-year-old Kenyan clocked a time of 2:00:35 to better the previous world record set by Eliud Kipchoge one year ago at the 2022 Berlin Marathon of 2:01:09.

Kiptum’s meteoric rise in the world of marathon running has come as a surprise to many. When Kipchoge broke the marathon record just one year ago, no one had heard of Kiptum. He had never raced a marathon, and his most notable result at the time was at the 2020 Valencia Half Marathon, where he placed sixth with a time of 58:42.

Since then, Kiptum has raced just three marathons, all of which have been top-10 all-time marathon times.

2:00:35Kelvin Kiptum (KEN)Chicago Marathon, 2023
2:01:09Eliud Kipchoge (KEN)Berlin Marathon, 2022
2:01:25Kelvin Kiptum (KEN)London Marathon, 2023
2:01:39Eliud Kipchoge (KEN)Berlin Marathon, 2018
2:01:41Kenenisa Bekele (ETH)Berlin Marathon, 2019
2:01:53Kelvin Kiptum (KEN)Valencia Marathon, 2022
2:02:37Eliud Kipchoge (KEN)London Marathon, 2019
2:02:40Eliud Kipchoge (KEN)Tokyo Marathon, 2022
2:02:42Eliud Kipchoge (KEN)Berlin Marathon, 2023
2:02:48Birhanu Legese (ETH)Berlin Marathon, 2019
Top-10 All-Time Marathons

To many, it feels like Kiptum came out of nowhere. Compared to when Kipchoge hit the marathon scene, he was undoubtedly talented but did not win his second marathon and only set his first world record on his eleventh marathon. 

Kiptum has yet to lose a marathon and has set a world record after only racing three.

An inside look into Kiptum’s training leading up to the record-breaking run shows why he is capable of such an incredible feat.

Kiptum has been coached by Gervais Hakizimana for the last two years, with Hakizimana taking on a more prominent role at the beginning of this year.

Hakizimana, a 36-year-old Rwandan, also a runner, has a number of notable results himself. He currently holds the national record of Rwanda in the steeplechase (8:39.05) and, in 2015, ran a road 10k of 29:15. In 2007, Hakizimana placed 38th at the World Half Marathon Championships, with a personal best time of 62:43.

Hakizimana says he met Kiptum in 2013, when young Kiiptum would follow barefoot. In 2020, the pair grew much closer, as Hakizimana remained in Kenya for an extended period as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic

Prior to his win at the London Marathon, Kiptum reportedly ran three weeks, each at over 300 kilometers. Compared to many elite marathoners today, this mileage is not unheard of but is certainly higher than most.

Hakizimana explains that there is concern for Kiptum’s longevity in the sport. Kiptum runs not just long, but also hard, which Hakizimana says puts him at risk of early burnout. 

“He’s in his best years but at one point I’m afraid he’ll get injured. At this rate he risks breaking, I suggested he lower the pace but he doesn’t want to, he talks to me about the world record people all the time. I told him that in five years he would be done, that he must calm down to last in athletics.”

Hakizimana details Kiptum’s training further, saying that Eliud Kipchoge typically completes 180 to 220 kilometers per week, whereas Kiptum completes between 250 and 280 kilometers per week and occasionally more than 300 kilometers (as he did before London). 

His buildup to a marathon is prepared over four months, with intensity rising as Kiptum gets closer to race day and volume decreasing slightly as a result.

His coach provides a typical week of training for Kiptum:

Monday – Jogging in the morning between 25 and 28 km, at a pace ranging from 4:10 per kilometer to 3:40, 12 km jogging in the afternoon.

Tuesday – track session or fartlek (alternating between fast and slow paces). For example 3′ fast/1′ slow/3′ fast/1′ slow, all for an hour. 12 km of jogging in the afternoon.

Wednesday – Similar to Monday, between 25 and 28 km in the morning, and around 12 km in the afternoon.

Thursday – Difficult day. Between 30 and 40 km close to marathon pace. Nothing in the afternoon.

Friday – Jogging between 25 and 28 km in the morning, 12 km in the afternoon.

Saturday – Similar to  Tuesday, track or split on the road, jogging in the afternoon.

Sunday – Difficult, similar to Thursday. Between 32 and 40 km at a fast pace. Nothing in the afternoon.

His coach spoke on when Kiptum takes rest, “There is no weekly rest. We rest when he gets tired. If for a month he doesn’t show signs of fatigue or pain, we continue.”

“He only runs, eats, sleeps. There is a small group that gathers around him, but I only take care of him. The others have the right to follow. During difficult sessions, he is alone, that’s where he goes fast.”

Kiptum’s meteoric rise in marathon running is like nothing seen before; what are your thoughts on his training and risk of burnout?

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Jessy has been active her whole life, competing in cross-country, track running, and soccer throughout her undergrad. She pivoted to road cycling after completing her Bachelor of Kinesiology with Nutrition from Acadia University. Jessy is currently a professional road cyclist living and training in Spain.

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