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Marathon runner and world record holder Kelvin Kiptum dies in car accident: A look at his career

The runner was just 24 years old and expected to vie for gold at the Paris Olympics this summer.
/ Source: TODAY

Kelvin Kiptum, a 24-year-old marathon record holder, died suddenly over the weekend in Kenya.

The star athlete, who specialized in long-distance running, was set to compete in the Rotterdam marathon in April, per NBC Chicago, and had hopes of winning a gold medal at the Paris Olympics this summer.

Car accident kills marathoner Kelvin Kiptum and his coach Gervais Hakizimana

Kiptum died in a car crash in Kenya on Feb. 11. The crash happened near Kaptagat in western Kenya, Kiptum’s home country. The runner was driving, and the car veered off the road into a ditch and hit a tree, police said, according to NBC Chicago.

Kiptum's coach, Gervais Hakizimana of Rwanda, also died in the accident, which occurred around 11 p.m. A third person, a 24-year-old woman, was in the car and taken to a hospital with "serious injuries," the outlet reported.

President of Kenya William Ruto put out a statement on X, formerly known as Twitter, in light of the sad news.

"Kelvin Kiptum was a star. Arguably one of the world’s finest sportsmen who broke barriers to secure a marathon record," the statement read. "He was only 24 yet, as a hero, triumphed in Valencia, Chicago, London and in other top competitions. His mental strength and discipline were unmatched. Kiptum was our future."

"An extraordinary sportsman has left an extraordinary mark in the globe. Our thoughts are with the family and the sporting fraternity. Rest In Peace."

How did Kelvin Kiptum die?

Kiptum died in a car accident in western Kenya on Feb. 11. He died at the scene, according to NBC Chicago, as did his coach. Kiptum’s friend Kenneth Kimaiyo told the outlet that Kiptum was thrown from the car due to the crash. The car was also severely damaged, photos of the scene show.

What was Kelvin Kiptum's marathon time?

In October 2023, Kiptum ran the Chicago marathon in 2:00:35 — his third-ever experience running an elite marathon.

His second elite marathon was in London in 2023, where he ran 2:01:25, missing the world record at the time by 16 seconds.

What world record did Kelvin Kiptum break?

In 2023, Kiptum claimed the world record for fastest marathon time. He set the world record when running the Chicago marathon in October 2023, with a final time of two hours and 35 seconds. It was previously held by fellow Kenyan and two-time Olympic gold medalist Eliud Kipchoge, who ran 2:01:09.

“A world record was not in my mind today ... but I knew one day, one time I would be a world record holder,” Kiptum said after finishing the Chicago marathon, according to NBC Chicago.

The news of his death comes just a week after the International Track Federation ratified the world record he set at the Chicago marathon.

"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," World Athletics president Sebastian Coe said in a statement via X about his death.

"An incredible athlete leaving an incredible legacy, we will miss him dearly."

Before setting the world record, Kiptum had only run two other marathons. While running the 2023 London marathon, he also set a record for the course. During the Valencia marathon in 2022, he ran the fastest time ever by someone in their marathon debut.