Kenyans, please give Eliud Kipchoge a break! He had already tipped Kelvin Kiptum for greatness


ATHLETICS Kenyans, please give Eliud Kipchoge a break! He had already tipped Kelvin Kiptum for greatness

Mark Kinyanjui 17:56 - 12.02.2024

Fans online have vilified Eliud Kipchoge for ‘not acknowledging’ Kelvin Kiptum’s achievements but they should be off his case since he had already tipped the fallen hero for greatness.

There has been uproar since marathon great Eliud Kipchoge sent his heartfelt condolence to the family of Kelvin Kiptum after the world marathon record holder tragically died in a road accident on Sunday night.

Most people were glued onto their screens watching the epic AFCON final showdown between Ivory Coast and Nigeria not knowing that a hero was about to be lost before the game had even ended.

As the condolence messages came in, there was one person Kenyans on social media were keen to hear from, his name? Eliud Kipchoge.

Angry Kenyans accused him of failing to congratulate the 24-year-old athlete when he shattered his record in Chicago last October but the reality is, he should be given a break. For a start, the two were actually set to go head-to-head for the first time at the Paris Olympic games later this year.

Right after Kiptum won the London Marathon in 2023, smashing Kipchoge's course record of 2:02:37, the two-time Olympic marathon champion actually did tip him to break the world record and possibly become the first person to run an open marathon in less than two hours. 

Speaking to  Nation Sport in May 2023, Kipchoge predicted that Kiptum was destined to break the record given the way he had been rising.

“I always say records are meant to be broken and I hope Kiptum does that in the near future. He is a man with a big heart,” Kipchoge said.

“The two-hour barrier is there for someone to run under and I have always shown people the way and it can be done.”

Kipchoge was also adamant that someone else could also one day break the record, if not the 38-year-old athlete himself or the now fallen hero.

“I am sure if not Kiptum (or) myself, other athletes will run under two hours," said the two-time Olympic champion. 

Fans have been keen to try and create a sense of rivalry and animosity between the two, but Kiptum himself actually said he had been looking up to Kipchoge when he was younger.

There is also a myth that Kiptum had emerged out of nowhere to all of a sudden just start taking the 42-kilometre challenge by storm, but this is not true.

“When I was young, I’d see Eliud training, so I was like ‘Maybe one day I’ll be like Kipchoge.’ He has been a role model to us,” said the then 23-year-old Kiptum, who made history in his Chicago debut by breaking the world record set Kipchoge after running 2:00:35. 

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Kiptum's journey to becoming a marathon sensation had humble beginnings. Raised on his family's cattle farm in Elgeyo Marakwet county, he discovered his passion for running around the age of 13, tracing the footsteps of local marathon runners on the nearby trails and roads.

Kiptum's early foray into competitive running began with the Eldoret Half Marathon, where, at just 13, he secured a commendable 10th place finish. Demonstrating remarkable progress, and by the age of 18 in 2018, he emerged victorious in the same race.

His international debut unfolded in 2019 as a teenager, achieving a notable fifth place finish at the Lisbon Half Marathon in a time of 59:54.

Before transitioning to the full marathon, Kiptum continued to refine his skills, notably setting a half marathon personal best of 58:42 at the 2020 Valencia Half Marathon and consistently breaking the 60-minute barrier in subsequent races between 2019 and 2021.

However, it was in the 2022 Valencia Marathon that Kiptum truly made history. Running alongside a competitive field, he led the race through the halfway point in 1:01:42 and then accelerated at the 30km mark. 

Covering the second half in an astonishing 1:00:11, he crossed the finish line in a course record time of 2:01:53. 

This performance marked the fastest debut marathon in history, securing him the third position on the world all-time list behind distance running legends Kipchoge and Kenenisa Bekele.

Kiptum's penchant for a swift second half continued to define his marathon strategy. At the 2023 London Marathon, he again surged ahead at the 30km mark, completing the second half in 59:45 and setting a new course record of 2:01:25.

Just six months later, at the Chicago Marathon, Kiptum showcased his remarkable consistency. Running splits of 1:00:48 and 59:47, he shattered the world record with a time of 2:00:35, surpassing Kipchoge's previous record set in 2022 by 34 seconds.

Despite a hiatus from racing since the 2023 Chicago Marathon, Kiptum had set his sights on the Rotterdam Marathon in April, aiming to break the elusive two-hour barrier on a record-eligible course.

Therefore, accusing him of emerging from nowhere and vilifying Kipchoge for failing to acknowledge his achievement is wrong.

Let Kiptum rest in peace, and give Kipchoge, someone who became a hero to the fallen star, a break, because he is the one who made him believe it was possible to make history.