When Kelvin Kiptum lined up for his first major local competition in 2018, Kenya’s new marathon icon did it in borrowed running shoes because he could not afford a pair of his own.
At this month’s Chicago marathon, as he set an awe-inspiring world record of two hours and 35 seconds, times really were changing as he sported the latest in Nike’s array of ‘super-shoes’ – which some say helped him achieve his feat.
As the 23-year-old flies across the world’s toughest courses, the story of his rise in marathon running is just as incredible as the strides he takes.
“It has been a long journey for me through my career,” the Men’s World Athlete of the Year nominee, as proposed by governing body World Athletics, told BBC Sport Africa.
nominee, as proposed by governing body World Athletics, told BBC Sport Africa.
“I have been trying so hard to pursue this dream to run a world record.
“It has come true and I am really happy. My life has now changed.”
Kiptum’s reception upon his return to Kenya testified to his new-found celebrity status. The hero’s welcome began two days of celebrations, moving from the capital, Nairobi, to his home in the south-west of the country.
The London Marathon champion, who at times looked embarrassed by the attention from family, friends, government officials and the media, says he almost cancelled his trip to Chicago, one of the world’s leading marathons.
“During the last stages of my training, I was a little bit sick – suffering a groin injury and a little bit of malaria,” he explained.
“I was feeling like I was unable to compete because I was out of training for two-three days, but one week before (the race) I had recovered a little bit. I knew I had trained well for about four months.”
Coach Gervais Hakizimana – a retired Rwandese runner who had spent months targeting the world record with his athlete – convinced Kiptum not to pull out, telling him to “recover for a few days and get back in training”.
The relationship as coach and athlete began in 2018 but the pair first met when the world record holder was much younger.
“I knew him when he was a little boy, herding livestock barefooted,” Hakizimana recalled. “It was in 2009, I was training near his father’s farm, he’d come kicking at my heels and I would chase him away.
Written by: Safiya Wada
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