As brilliant as the marathon world record that he established last October 8 in Chicago (2h 0 min 35 s), the passage in the life of Kelvin Kiptum, a Kenyan athlete who died Sunday at the age of 24 and 72 days at 11 p.m. when he lost control of the Toyota Premio he was driving and crashed into a tree on the Champions Highway, Eldoret-Kaptaglat, the main artery of the Rift Valley, the East African Rift in which the greatest marathon runners in the world were born. history. At the same time as Kiptum, his coach, Rwandan Garvais Hakizimana, died. Sharon Kosgey, a woman who accompanied them in the vehicle, was seriously injured, according to Elgeyo Marakwet provincial police commander Peter Mulinge and reported by France Presse. It was a talent blessed by the gods and punished by destiny, therefore an artist’s talent.
He was born, and the universe has already proclaimed him, to become the first man to climb the Everest of athletics, running a marathon in less than two hours. He died exactly two months and three days before the appointed date, April 14, when it was announced that in Rotterdam an ideal flat course would achieve this.
Throughout his short sporting life, Kiptum, a prodigy of precocity, was a specialist in leaving the world with his mouth open in admiration and scratching his head, because, as happens with geniuses, no one knew how to find a rational explanation for this phenomenon. mystery of his enormous talent. And like geniuses too, Kiptum was determined to break all the codes established in just over a century of existence of the marathon, the 42.195 kilometer event, as the pinnacle of endurance and speed athletics.
None of the greatest in history, Abebe Bikila, the barefoot Ethiopian, nor Eliud Kipchoge, the master of distance, an exact blend of mysticism and rationalism, and with the help of the technological development of sneakers, have achieved greatness in such a short time. Bikila was 28 years old when he broke the world record (2h 15m 16s) by winning Olympic gold in front of the Coliseum in Rome, on September 10, 1960. Kipchoge, from Kaptagat precisely, the town where the road on which is located he Kiptum died, he was about to turn 34 when he achieved his first world record in Berlin, in 2h 1m 39s, on September 16, 2018.
Only his compatriot Sammy Wanjiru, Olympic champion in Beijing 2008 at the age of 21, a race in which he defied the heat and suffocating humidity of the Chinese capital by running in a way that was then described as madness, alone, in front of everything the world, unfazed from the start, and beating the Olympic record (2h 6m 32s), he could compete in genius, precocity, life and death, excess and tragedy. Chicago, at the age of 23, was also the last race of a lifetime in which he was the youngest to win four major marathons, and he also died at the age of 24, from complications of trauma, from a fall from the balcony. from a second floor, drunk and mysterious.
Kiptum had time to run three marathons. All three made him legendary before becoming an everlasting legend with his untimely death. The three made exceptional news, all three in less than two hours and two minutes, a barrier that only four athletes in history (with Kiptum and Kipchoge, the Ethiopians Kenenisa Bekele and Sisay Lemma. The first, in Valencia, the December 4, 2022, just turned 23, 2h 1m 53s which put an end to the myth that to be good in long distance events you had to be a mature, wisely trained athlete, with a body already beaten and used to intense training. five months later, in London, 2h 1m 25s, and no one had ever run so fast on the banks of the Thames, and the third, in Chicago, last October, in which he established as dogma that of being the best in the marathon You had to run the first half-marathon very quickly (and you did it in 60m 48s) and even faster, which we thought impossible, the second half.
To reach the record of 2h 0m 35s, and he ended up smiling, almost, while pointing at the spectators who were cheering him, Kipchoge-style, and fresh as a lettuce, he ran the second half in Chicago in 59m 47s, a time that would have been enough to be sixth in the World Championship in the specialty, and only 8 seconds slower than the Spanish record of Carlos Mayo. 2 min 52 s per kilometer, or almost 21 kilometers per hour. If shoes with carbon plates and large, very light foam soles were not foreign to the wonders of their time, and to their elegant stride, so bouncy and fluid, only Kiptum, among so many thousands of athletes blessed by the technology, was able to bring the marathon into another dimension. The irrational dimension. The opposite of established reason.
Suspicions of doping were inevitable. Anyone who, in their first marathon, sets the second record in history is either a prodigy or a cheat, and in Kenya, where the marathon is the best way out of poverty, the world anti-doping agency Athletics discovers dozens of positive points every year. The coach who also died in the accident, Garvais Hakizimana, a Rwandan who lived in Lyon, France, most of the year, responded seriously. “The best explanation of his time is his desire to escape hunger and poverty and a physiological capacity amplified by his life at altitude,” explained Hakizimana in L’Équipe a few months ago. “And he passed dozens of doping tests. I even remember one day when he took a blood test at 10 a.m. and another four hours later.
Hakizimana discovered Kiptum in 2009, when the deceased athlete was just 10 years old and still trying to keep up with the Rwandan, who spent every day training outside his home in Chepkorio, in the Rift Valley, 2,600 meters of altitude. And like every year he trained on the same track, Hakizimana saw him grow and progress constantly. In 2014, when Kiptum was 15 years old, Hakizimana finally decided to start training. “I put half the burden of what I did into it. If I had 15 kilometers, he did seven, and still, very quickly, he was able to follow my pace,” the Rwandan explained to the French newspaper.
Eleven half marathons between 2018 and 2021, between the ages of 19 and 22, lasting an average of one hour and 13 seconds, preceded his three marathons, the three works of art for which he will forever be remembered, and for the lament of the premature death of such a great talent, which will force to delay the arrival of man on the moon marathon, 42,195 kilometers in two hours less a second.
Subscribe to continue reading
Read without limits