Kelvin Kiptum at Rotterdam Marathon: What could have been?

© Dr Charles Kiptoo X.

Kelvin Kiptum at Rotterdam Marathon: What could have been?

Joel Omotto 07:45 - 15.04.2024

The ‘slow’ time recorded by Abdi Nageeye as he won the Rotterdam Marathon brought memories of what the world would have witnessed had Kelvin Kiptum featured in the race.

As Somali-born Dutchman Abdi Nageeye crossed the finish line to win the 2024 edition of the Rotterdam Marathon on Sunday April 14, questions lingered in the minds of many about what the world would have witnessed had Kelvin Kiptum been alive and featured in the race.

Kiptum was set to be the star attraction at the Rotterdam Marathon after signing up for the race last December, just weeks after breaking the world marathon record in Chicago.

Kiptum ran an astonishing 2:00:35 in Chicago, becoming the first man to clock a sub-2:01 in a marathon, and what remained was to etch his name in history as the first man to run an official marathon under two hours.

Eliud Kipchoge remains the only man to have run a sub-two-hour marathon during his INEOS 1:59 Challenge in Vienna, Austria in October 2019 but that was not ratified due to the makeup of the race and course, added to the fact that there were no competitors.

With Kiptum having lowered Kipchoge’s world record, he just needed to run 26 seconds faster in Rotterdam to make history and the world was waiting with bated breath until the cruel hand of death struck.

Kiptum died following a road accident on February 11 alongside his coach Gervais Hakizimana throwing all plans into disarray.

Given Nageeye could only manage 2:04:45 to claim victory ahead of Ethiopian duo Amedework Walelegn (2:04:50) and Birhanu Legese (2:05:16), the pace was very slow by Kiptum’s very high standards.

Kiptum had run 2:01:53 on his debut in Valencia in December 2022 and followed it up with 2:01:25 in London last April before lowering the world record in Chicago and all looked set for a sub-two-hour race in Rotterdam.

However, fans are now left with questions of what could have been had Kiptum participated in the race.

Getting the London Marathon champion to sign up for the event was a major coup for organisers of Rotterdam given their tight budget but his close ties with them and the fact that it is a flat course, good for fast times, appealed to him as he prepared for the Paris 2024 Olympics.

"I would like to grow further, and so, inevitably, break the barrier,” Kiptum told Italian outlet Gazzetta dello Sport last December.

"The organisation is linked to my management," he added on his reasons for choosing the Dutch city.

"In 2022, I was supposed to run it, to make my debut but a slight injury stopped me. This will be the right time.

"I'll go there to run fast, the course is ideal and the crowds in the streets push you to give your best. I would love to be a part of the rich history of this marathon.

"If the preparation goes in the right direction, with peaks of 270 kilometres per week, and the weather conditions permit, I will go for it [sub-2]."

It was not to be, however, and the world will now have to wait for the emergence of another star to witness such history.

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