A dream cut short: Kiptum's aim to break two-hour barrier at Rotterdam Marathon

Kelvin Kiptum speaks during his homecoming celebration in Iten town, Elgeyo Marakwet County, on October 11, 2023. [Christopher Kipsang, Standard]

For Kelvin Kiptum, the chase for a special place in athletics history books began after his 2:00:35 World Record set last year in Chicago was ratified on Tuesday, February 6.

With the ratification of the men’s marathon world record, Kiptum - who had been sensational since his jaw-dropping win at the 2022 Valencia Marathon - was fired up for a sub-two-hour achievement under legal conditions in 42.129km.

Kiptum, 24, hoped to break that barrier at the Rotterdam Marathon on April 13, 2024. “Today is a great day in my career as my World Record is officially ratified. Indeed, the sky is the limit,” Kiptum said on Tuesday evening.

The dream was, however, cut short on Sunday, February 11, after the athlete and his coach were involved in a car crash in Kaptagat, Uasin Gishu County.  

Since December 2023 when he confirmed his participation at the Rotterdam marathon, Kiptum had been on a rigorous preparation for the April sub-two-hour attempt.

He was also seeking to feature at the 2024 Paris Olympics in August, where he was to face two-time gold medallist Eliud Kipchoge in his debut.

At the time, Kiptum’s dream of becoming the first athlete to ever run the marathon in under two hours in a legal competition was capturing the world’s attention.

In Rotterdam, he was to run negative splits and finish at least 36 seconds faster to break the two-hour barrier.

“I am going to Rotterdam to run fast. The course is good and the fans in the streets encourage you to run faster. I would like to be a part of the rich history of this marathon,” Kiptum told International media after he was named the male athlete of the year in December 2023.

The London Marathon champion promised a rigorous preparation in readiness for the April contest.

In his training plan, Kiptum had a tough programme with a target of 270kms of racing per week.

“If the preparation goes in the right direction, I will go for it (sub-two-hour in the marathon),” he said in a previous interview.

On February 1, his sub-two-hour campaign got a major boost after he clinched support from Chinese sportswear manufacturer, Amazfit.

“As I aim to break the two-hour mark in Rotterdam and pursue gold at the Paris Olympics, I am confident that Amazfit will be my ultimate ally in pushing the limits of human potential,” Kiptum said during the unveiling of the deal.

Announcing the ratification on Tuesday, World Athletics said Kiptum became the first athlete to break 2:01 in a record-eligible marathon, taking 34 seconds off the world record at the Bank of America Chicago Marathon on 8 October.

[This article has been updated from a piece that was written by Stephen Rutto and first published by The Standard on February 8, 2024]