2023 Chicago Marathon World Record Holder Kelvin Kiptum Dies in Car Crash at Age 25

February 12, 2024 - Reading time: 3 minutes

Marathon world record-holder Kelvin Kiptum, who was set to become a superstar of long-distance running, tragically passed away at the age of 24 along with his coach in a car crash in Kenya.

Kiptum had the world record he set last year at the Chicago Marathon ratified by international track federation World Athletics just last week. He was one of the most exciting prospects to emerge in road running in years and was a clear contender for gold in the marathon at the Paris Olympics in August.

Kiptum, who was Kenyan, and his Rwandan coach Gervais Hakizimana were killed in the crash at around 11 p.m. Another Kenyan athlete, Milcah Chemos, confirmed their deaths to The Associated Press. She was at the hospital mortuary where the bodies were taken and had seen Kiptum's body; she struggled to speak while breaking down in tears. "I have no words to explain the loss of Kelvin," she said.

The crash occurred on a road between the towns of Eldoret and Kaptagat in western Kenya, Chemos said, in the heart of the high-altitude region that's renowned as a training base for top distance runners from Kenya and across the world. Kiptum was born and raised in the area.

Kelvin Kiptum celebrates after winning the 2023 Chicago Marathon and setting a world record time of 2:00.35 last October. Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Chemos said she went to the hospital with other athletes and members of Kiptum's family after hearing the news. The family members, which included Kiptum's father, were there to identify his body. Denis Muga, the area police chief for Kaptagat, said Kiptum was driving and it was the only car involved in the crash.

Kenneth Kimaiyo, a friend of Kiptum, said he arrived at the crash scene soon after it happened and Kiptum had been thrown out of the car. It appeared the car had veered off the road at high speed and collided with a tree before rolling, Kimaiyo said. A third person, a woman, was also in the car and had been taken to the hospital with serious injuries, he said.

Photos from the scene showed the silver car with a badly mangled roof and one of the doors flung open. The Kenyan track federation expressed its sadness at announcing the deaths of Kiptum and Hakizimana.

Kiptum was the first man to run the marathon in under 2 hours, 1 minute in an official race when he set the world record of 2:00.35 in Chicago in October, beating the mark of fellow Kenyan and marathon great Eliud Kipchoge. He set the record in just his third top-level marathon.

Kiptum and Kipchoge were expected to provide an enticing all-Kenyan battle for marathon gold in Paris. Kiptum was due to start his season at the Rotterdam Marathon in April, which would have been his first event since breaking the world record. World Athletics president Sebastian Coe was one of the first to offer his condolences in a statement on X, formerly Twitter: "We are shocked and deeply saddened to learn of the devastating loss of Kelvin Kiptum and his coach, Gervais H

DW Staff

David Lintott is the Editor-in-Chief, leading our team of talented freelance journalists. He specializes in covering culture, sport, and society. Originally from the decaying seaside town of Eastbourne, he attributes his insightful world-weariness to his roots in this unique setting.