• Kiptum said his landmark performance in Chicago was not by mere fluke, but rather, an outcome of resilience, consistency, and the high level of discipline he invested in practice.
• It was in the forest, while herding their family's cattle, that Kiptum discovered his aptitude for long-distance running.
Kenya's marathon sensation Kelvin Kiptum appears unstoppable after sensationally smashing the world record at the Chicago Marathon in October.
Only last Tuesday, the decorated athlete cracked the coveted list of the five finalists for men’s World Athlete of the Year honours.
Kiptum, 23, grabbed the global headlines after storming the Chicago Marathon title.
He clocked two hours and 35 seconds to shatter compatriot Eliud Kipchoge's world record of 2:01:09 set at the 2022 Berlin Marathon.
"I already feel like a winner just making it to the final list but I hope to achieve a lot more and possibly win the accolade," Kiptum remarked in an exclusive interview.
Kiptum said he was not surprised by his masterstroke performance in Chicago last month, claiming he always believed in his potential to attain new heights over the distance. "I always knew one time I'd be a world record holder," Kiptum remarked.
It was the first time a world record was shattered in Chicago since Moroccan Khalid Khannouchi’s exploits of 2:05:42 on October 24, 1999.
Kiptum initially shot to global acclaim in December last year after storming the Valencia Marathon title in 2:01:51, the sixth fastest time in history.
He added another feather to his cap following another scintillating performance that saw him beat Eliud Kipchoge to sixth place, on his way to the London Marathon title in April.
He iced his cake with yet another splendid display of athletics prowess when he breasted the tape in 2:00:35 at the Chicago Marathon to smash Kipchoge’s world record of 2:01:09.
Kiptum said his landmark performance in Chicago was not by mere fluke, but rather, an outcome of resilience, consistency, and the high level of discipline he invested in practice.
“I worked hard for the good results. Getting to this point was not all that easy. I've always prayed to God to guide me through this whole journey that demands quite a lot,” Kiptum said.
He has thrown down the gauntlet to Kipchoge, saying he is ready to take the battle to his doorstep again at the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris after making light work of him at the London Marathon.
"Going up against Kipchoge again will be fascinating. He has motivated a lot of athletes. I'm prepared to fight him. My goal has always been to shatter the world record. Kiptum remarked,
"I'm hoping to be selected for the Olympic team next year."
Born on December 2, 1999, the athlete who stands at 5 ft 11 in and weighs 65 kg, began honing his skills during his formative years at Chepsamo Primary School in Keiyo South, Elgeyo-Marakwet County.
It was in the forest, while herding their family's cattle, that Kiptum discovered his aptitude for long-distance running.
"On the pathways through the forest, I could compete with my peers," Kiptum recalls.
It is interesting to note that he occasionally trains in the same woodland. Kiptum asked his father to let him focus on athletics after finishing primary school, indicating that he had little interest in going to high school.
His resolve to drop out of school caused a rift in the family, and it needed the involvement of church elders to try to get him back in class.
Kiptum, however, made it obvious that he did not want to attend secondary school and instead enrolled in an artisan course in electrical wiring at a local youth polytechnic.
Kiptum's uncle, Kiplagat Cheruiyot, recounted how he dropped out of school to concentrate on running.
"His father was extremely resentful of him for dropping out of school. We tried all we could to convince him to return to school but, apparently, he already had his mind made up," Kiplagat said.
As efforts to persuade Kiptum to return to school continued in earnest, his father clung to the hope that his son would alter his mind and complete his secondary school education.
Kiptum signed up for an artisan course at the Chepkorio Polytechnic after much persuading. He spent three months in the institution and graduated with a certificate in wiring.
However, his father, who was deeply committed to education, was not pleased with the heights he had attained and wanted him to advance in his studies.
Determined, Cheruiyot eventually visited Eldoret Polytechnic and asked a friend of his who worked as a lecturer if his son might be admitted to the school.
But his attempts were in vain because Kiptum's love of running eclipsed everything else.
Kiptum said he was inspired by great Kenyan athletes such as Timothy Cherigat who would always run past their home at Chepsamo village in Chepkorio while training.
He eventually embarked on a serious training regimen even as his family continued to cast aspersions on his aptitude to make it to the big stage.
“We sat him down and demanded to know what his plans were and at some point even dismissed him as a worthless boy who had no future,” Kiplagat said.
But Kiptum remained unfazed in the heat of pessimism and went on to borrow sporting shoes from the three-time World Cross-country champion Geoffrey Kamworor, who happens to be his nephew.
“I went to Kamworor and asked him if he could get me some nice running shoes. He promised he would buy me a pair," Kiptum remarked.
With the rift between him and his father growing wider and the tension at home hitting a fever pitch, Kiptum moved out of the family home and went on to rent a house in Chepkorio, where he intensified his training.
Feeling ripe for action, Kiptum finally registered for the Eldoret Half Marathon race in 2018 and blazed to victory, much to everyone’s surprise.
From then on, he never looked back. "I thereafter enrolled for the Kass Half Marathon and won again.
Somehow, my family mellowed down after noticing my victories in the race and they started supporting me," Kiptum remarked.
Kiptum ultimately signed up with the Golazo Sports Management company in 2019.
The company's CEO Bob Verbeeck, has tipped Kiptum to run under two hours shortly, stating it was baffling to see him smash the world record after contesting just three marathons.
“He won three marathons in Valencia, London, and Chicago which is quite commendable. He can crack 1:58,” Verbeeck said.
Kiptum who trains under Rwandan coach Gervais Hakizimana, is married to Asenath Rotich and they have two children.
So far, Kiptum has stormed three marathon titles, including two top-tier World Marathon Majors (WMM), held between December 2022 and October 2023.
He has also achieved three of the six fastest times in history. He ran the fastest-ever marathon debut at the 2022 Valencia Marathon, becoming only the third man in history to break two hours and two minutes time. Months later, he followed up his masterstroke act with the second-fastest marathon in history at 2:01:25—16 seconds outside the world record, at the 2023 London Marathon (WMM).
That was only six months before he wrote a new chapter in history after breezing to the Chicago Marathon (WMM) victory in October, where he broke the world record by 34 seconds with a time of two hours 35 seconds.
Kiptum contested his first competitive race at the Family Bank Eldoret Half Marathon in 2013, aged only 13, finishing 10th and placing 12th the following year.
After winning for the first time in 2018 with a time of 62:01, the self-coached teen prodigy debuted on the international stage at the Lisbon Half Marathon, Portugal, in March 2019, where he secured a fifth-place finish with a new personal best of 59:54.
In his debut World Marathon Major race at the London Marathon in April, Kiptum triumphed decisively in rainy conditions with the second-fastest mark in history at 2:01:25, a course record that was only 16 seconds outside the world record.
He beat Geoffrey Kamworor by nearly three minutes and Kipchoge's course record of 2:02:37 by more than a minute.