Hundreds Pay Tribute: Funeral Held for Marathon Star Kiptum in Kenya

The 24-Year-Old, Who Set World Record in Chicago in October, Dies in Car Accident This Month.

Family members surround the coffin of Kenya's marathon world record holder Kelvin Kiptum, who died in a road accident, during his funeral in Chepkorio on February 23, 2024 [Monicah Mwangi/Reuters]
Family members surround the coffin of Kenya’s marathon world record holder Kelvin Kiptum, who died in a road accident, during his funeral in Chepkorio on February 23, 2024 [Monicah Mwangi/Reuters]

Marathon world record holder Kelvin Kiptum, whose aspirations of breaking the race’s two-hour barrier were tragically cut short by a fatal car crash earlier this month, was honored for his exceptional talent and modesty during a funeral in western Kenya.

The service, held on Friday in his hometown of Chepkorio in the Rift Valley, drew hundreds of mourners, including prominent political and sports figures such as President William Ruto and World Athletics President Sebastian Coe.

Despite being only 24 years old, Kiptum had participated in just three international marathons, each ranking among the top seven fastest times ever recorded. His remarkable achievement came in Chicago last October, where he set the world record, clocking in at two hours and 35 seconds, surpassing his compatriot Eliud Kipchoge’s mark by 34 seconds.

Anglican Bishop Paul Korir, leading the service, highlighted Kiptum’s humility and deep connections to the local community, where he had worked as a livestock herder and trained as an electrician before pursuing a career in professional running.

“Despite mingling with the elite, he remained grounded and often frequented the local pool hall in Chepkorio,” Korir reflected.

His untimely passing has sent shockwaves through Kenya and the broader athletics community.

“He was a true luminary whose trajectory promised greatness,” remarked Jack Tuwei, president of Athletics Kenya. “All signs pointed to his eventual conquest of the two-hour milestone.”

“Farewell, champion,” echoed the front-page headline of Kenya’s leading Daily Nation newspaper on Friday.

A woman mourns after viewing Kiptum’s body [Reuters]
A woman mourns after viewing Kiptum’s body [Reuters]

At daybreak, mourners, among them Faith Kipyegon, the record holder in the 1,500 meters, began to arrive for the funeral. Some donned black T-shirts featuring a portrait of Kiptum on the front. They paid their respects to the deceased, with his body resting in a partially open casket on a red carpet, accompanied by hymns sung by a choir.

Outside the venue, numerous villagers congregated, watching the service unfold on four large screens.

Atif Wattoo
Atif Wattoo
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