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Kiptum ‘would have broken’ two-hour marathon mark

Kelvin Kiptum would have become the first person to run a competitive marathon in under two hours, World Athletics president Lord Sebastian Coe has said.

The Kenyan, the world record holder over 26.2 miles (42km), died aged 24 on 11 February and his funeral was held in his home village on Friday.

Kiptum was looking to better his record time of two hours and 35 seconds at April’s Rotterdam Marathon.

Lord Coe believes breaking the two-hour barrier in an official race will be akin to Roger Bannister’s four-minute mile in 1954 and the first successful climb of Mount Everest by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay.

“It is a frustration to all of us that we won’t witness what I truly know he was capable of,” Lord Coe told BBC Sport Africa.

“For sure he would have broken it.

“It would have been (Roger) Bannister and Edmund Hillary, both of them, wrapped into one.”

Kiptum set his world record in Chicago last October, bettering compatriot Eliud Kipchoge’s previous benchmark by 34 seconds.

Kipchoge became the first athlete to run the marathon distance in under two hours in October 2019, clocking one hour 59 minutes and 40 seconds in Vienna.

However, it is not recognised as the official marathon world record because it was not in open competition and he used a team of rotating pacemakers, among other aids not usually available to runners.

Lord Coe described Kiptum as a “gracious, friendly and humble” man.

“I will remember Kelvin from the time I spent with him just before Christmas in Monaco when he was celebrated in our Athlete of the Year awards,” he added.

“He spoke from the heart about the world record and, sadly, he spoke about his future.

“I watched him run in Chicago on television and he had a beautiful style. It was economic, fluid and graceful. He looked like a proper runner.”

Kiptum’s achievement’s ‘treasured and indelible’

Kiptum’s funeral service in the Rift Valley village of Chepkorio was attended by political and sporting dignitaries, including Kenyan President William Ruto and Lord Coe.

Anglican Bishop Paul Korir, who presided over the service, emphasised Kiptum’s humility and ties to the local community, where he had worked as a livestock herder and trained as an electrician before becoming a professional runner.

“He dined with the high and mighty, and at the same time he came to play pool at Chepkorio,” said Korir.

Lord Coe told mourners that Kiptum’s death was “one of the saddest days in the history of this great country”.

“Kelvin would have written more epic chapters in the illustrious history of Kenyan and world athletics,” he told the gathering.

“There can be few words from me that can ease the pain and sense of loss for Kelvin’s family, his fellow athletes, the legion of friends from within and beyond athletics.

“But I can speak on behalf of the entire World Athletics family: Kelvin, you will be missed.

“Our grief and sadness will take time to dissipate. Rest assured your achievements are treasured, indelible and secure in the annals of history and never, ever, forgotten.”

Jack Tuwei, the president of Kenya Athletics, said a foundation will be created to honour Kiptum by carrying on his humanitarian work.

Meanwhile, local MP Gideon Kimaiyo has called on the country’s government to build a stadium in honour of the marathon record holder.

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