Kelvin Kiptum’s Life and Career: A Timeline

The greatest "what if" the running world has ever seen

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Following the untimely and unfortunate passing of marathon world record holder Kelvin Kiptum, we look back on his humble beginnings in the sport, becoming the greatest marathon runner of his time, and everything in between.

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Kelvin Kiptum's Life and Career: A Timeline 1

1999 – Humble Beginnings

Kelvin Kiptum is born on Dec. 2, in Chepsamo, Chepkorio, Kenya, in a small farming hamlet right in the heart of the Rift Valley, where many of the world’s greatest marathoners live and train. He is an only child of farmers.

Kiptum told the BBC in 2023 that he was too poor during his childhood to afford shoes, and could not explore racing on the track.

2006-2009 – He Discovers Running

Kiptum joins other village children in running with an elite steeplechaser and cross-country runner, Rwandan Gervais Hakizimana, who is training in the area, doing hills around the farmland where Kiptum lives; Hakizimana is forced to leave Kenya during political instability in the region, relocating to France.

2013 – Kiptum’s First Races

At the age of 13, Kelvin Kiptum, participates in his first half marathon, the Family Bank Eldoret Half Marathon in Kenya, where he finishes in 10th place.

Even though the teenager shows incredible promise, Kiptum studies to be an electrician upon finishing primary school, according to his father, as the family can not afford to finance a track career.

Later, Kiptum’s family takes a big risk, betting on their son and helping him while he tries to gain a footing in the road racing scene, training in the area full time.

2014 – A Teenager Trying to Turn Pro

The following year, Kiptum returnes to the Family Bank Eldoret Half Marathon and places 12th.

2017 – 2018 – Young Fatherhood, and His First Big Win

Kiptum’s first child, Caleb, is born. In 2018 Kiptum secures his first victory in the Family Bank Eldoret Half Marathon, clocking in at an impressive time of 62:01 at altitude and against a highly competitive field.

Around this time Kiptum also reconnects with Hakizimana, first via WhatsApp, asking for training advice and a plan.

2019 – Kiptum Begins Racing Internationally

Despite being self-coached at the time, Kiptum’s determination leads him to debut on the international stage at the Lisbon Half Marathon in March, finishing fifth and achieving a new personal best of 59:54.

Throughout 2019, Kiptum continues to hone his skills, participating in six other races across Europe and claiming victory in the challenging Kass Half Marathon in November.

Kiptum and his wife also have their second child, Precious, either in 2019 or 2020.

Kelvin Kiptum's Life and Career: A Timeline 2
Kiptum and his coach, Gervais Hakizimana, at the 2023 Chicago Marathon

2020 – Half Marathon Breakthrough

Kiptum starts formally working with coach Gervais Hakizimana while the Rwandan former elite was waylayed in Kenya during the pandemic. Hakizimana and Kiptum had sporadically trained together since 2013, and they begin his transition to marathon preparation.

December 2020 marks a significant milestone for Kiptum, setting a personal best at the Valencia Half Marathon with an impressive time of 58:42, securing a sixth-place finish.

2021 – Sub-60 Halfs and International Attention

Kiptum continues a remarkable progression, with notable performances including a first-place finish in the Lens Half Marathon with a time of 59:35 and an eighth-place finish in the Valencia Half Marathon with a time of 59:02.

2022 – The Marathon Debut

Kiptum’s career reaches new heights in December 2022 when, at the age of 23, he makes his marathon debut at the Valencia Marathon, clinching victory with a remarkable time of 2:01:53, becoming the third man in history to break two hours and two minutes in the marathon and recorded the fastest marathon debut in history.

Kelvin Kiptum's Life and Career: A Timeline 3

2023 – London and a World Record

April 2023 marks another triumph for Kiptum as he dominates the TCS London Marathon, setting the second-fastest time in history at 2:01:25 and smashing the course record.

The young superstar also becomes something of a folk hero in running circles, as his jaw-dropping training log is shared by Hakizimana on the internet, revealing that Kiptum runs north of 180 miles per week.

Kiptum’s dominance continues into October 2023 when he sets a new world record at the Chicago Marathon with a blistering time of 2:00:35, becoming the first man to run under 2:01 in a record-eligible marathon.

Kiptum, who had been a Nike athlete since at least 2019, becomes a prominent brand representative following his world record in Chicago.

In December 2023, Kiptum attended The Running Event in Austin, Texas (alongside some of our editors) to represent Nike and their latest super shoe, the Alphafly 3. He seems poised as the heir apparent for Eliud Kipchoge, who has long been the face of marathon running and one of Nike’s pillar athletes.

Kelvin Kiptum's Life and Career: A Timeline 4

2024 – The Historic Promise of a Sub-2, and a Tragic End

Kiptum was slated to run the Rotterdam Marathon on April 3, 2024, where he announced that he would be attempting to run under the elusive two-hour barrier in a record-eligible marathon.

World Athletics, the international governing body, formally ratifies Kiptum’s marathon world record on Feb. 6.

On Feb. 11, at approximately 11:17 p.m. local time, Kiptum crashes his car near where he lived and trained, dying immediately along with his coach Gervais Hakizimana.

What could have been of that day, and the rest of his career, will remain unknown. Sadly, Kelvin Kiptum will arguably be the greatest ‘what if’ the running world has ever seen.

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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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