The world witnessed the tragic loss of 24-year-old Kelvin Kiptum on February 11, taking with him the hope of being the first person to finish a competitive marathon in under two hours. Sebastian Coe, president of World Athletics, considers Kiptum’s remarkable accomplishments and the significant influence he may have had on the sports world as the world mourns the passing of this remarkable Kenyan athlete.

Kiptum, the current world record holder for the marathon distance of 26.2 miles (42km), had set his sights on surpassing his own record of two hours and 35 seconds at the upcoming Rotterdam Marathon in April. Coe expresses deep regret that the world will never witness Kiptum’s potential triumph, drawing parallels between breaking the two-hour barrier and iconic moments in history such as Roger Bannister’s four-minute mile and the historic ascent of Mount Everest by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay.

After achieving a world record in the men’s marathon, Kiptum proudly holds his medal alongside the clock, marking an outstanding time of 2:00:35.
© Michael Reaves/Getty Images

“It is disheartening for all of us that we won’t witness what I truly believe he was capable of,” Coe shares with BBC Sport Africa. “Without a doubt, he would have broken it. It would have been akin to both (Roger) Bannister and Edmund Hillary, wrapped into one.”

In October of last year, in Chicago, Kiptum broke the world record held by his fellow countryman Eliud Kipchoge, sealing his place in history. Because of the particulars of the event, Kipchoge’s historic accomplishment of finishing a marathon in under two hours in Vienna in 2019 wasn’t recognized as the official world record.

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Coe fondly remembers Kiptum as a “gracious, friendly, and humble” individual. Reflecting on their time together in Monaco during the Athlete of the Year awards, Coe remarks on Kiptum’s heartfelt discussion about his world record and the aspirations he had for the future.

Seb Coe: Photo by Philippe Fitte for IAAF

The funeral service for Kelvin Kiptum in the Rift Valley village of Chepkorio saw the gathering of political and sporting dignitaries, including Kenyan President William Ruto and Coe. Anglican Bishop Paul Korir, presiding over the service, emphasized Kiptum’s humility and his close ties to the local community, where he had worked as a livestock herder and trained as an electrician before becoming a professional runner.

Loved ones and companions encircle the casket of the marathon record holder, Kelvin Kiptum, as they gather for his burial in Elgeyo Marakwet, Kenya, on Friday, February 23, 2024. © Brian Inganga/Associated Press

Coe conveyed his deep condolences to the mourners, calling Kiptum’s death “one of the most somber days in the history of this great country.” He assured the audience that Kiptum’s achievements would be forever treasured in the annals of history and vowed that the World Athletics family would never forget him.


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To honor Kiptum’s memory, Jack Tuwei, the president of Kenya Athletics, announced the establishment of a foundation dedicated to continuing Kiptum’s humanitarian work. Additionally, local MP Gideon Kimaiyo has urged the government to consider building a stadium in honor of the late marathon record holder, ensuring that his legacy lives on in the hearts of the nation.