CHICAGO — In an electrifying performance that will be etched in the annals of marathon racing history, Kelvin Kiptum has taken down Eliud Kipchoge’s marathon world record time. What a performance by Kiptum, and witnessed by hundreds of thousands of screaming and cheering fans along the streets of the Windy City. With near perfect weather conditions, and on a flat and fast course, Kiptum showed up and showed out to chase down an almost unthinkable finishing time from a decade ago.
Kiptum crossed the finish line in a staggering 2:00:35, besting Kipchoge's previous record of 2:01:09 set in the Berlin Marathon in 2022. This monumental
achievement in the Windy City saw the running community gasp in amazement as Kiptum maintained an average pace of just under 4:36 per mile. That’s an astonishing pace for the 26.2 mile distance. (photo credit: Patrick Gorski/USA Today Sports)
And today, which marathoning mythical figure was Kiptum chasing in the streets of Chicago?
Eliud Kipchoge! The Kenyan long-distance *Goat*, primarily celebrated for his prowess in the marathon racing discipline. But don’t forget his silver and bronze 5000 m performances on the track in the Olympics, now almost two decades ago. Born on November 5, 1984, in Nandi County, Kenya, Kipchoge transitioned to road races in 2012, where he quickly marked his dominance at the marathon distance. Perhaps most notably in the past decade, Kipchoge garnered international attention and fame for breaking the two-hour barrier in the INEOS 1:59 Challenge in Vienna Austria, in 2019. Though this feat is not recognized as an official world record due to its controlled conditions, it will remain in long-distance running lore for years to come. As recently as September 2023, Kipchoge won an unprecedented fifth Berlin Marathon, widely considered the fastest and most competitive marathon on European soil. Throughout his career, Kipchoge has consistently showcased exceptional endurance and mental grit, establishing himself as one of the greatest marathon runners of all time. But now….
Kelvin Kiptum arrives on the scene, first at the Valencia Marathon in 2022, clocking
an unthinkable first marathon victory and finishing time. The Valencia crowd was able to witness Kiptum cruise through the closing stages to smash the course record with a 2:01:53, having covered the second half in 1:00:11. Kiptum’s winning time is by far the fastest marathon debut in history and with that time he entered the world all-time list in third place, behind the legendary Eliud Kipchoge and Kenenisa Bekele. Kiptum is a very young (23), elite marathon runner known for his big win last spring at the 2023 London Marathon. Hailing from Kenya, a nation with perhaps the most noteworthy storied history in long-distance running, Kiptum has cemented his reputation through consistent finishes in major 10k, half, and full marathon races worldwide. His self-coached (very rare), dedication to rigorous training and unmatched natural physical endurance has seen him garner numerous accolades at a very young age.
Most elite runners Kiptum's age are chasing track records, maybe half marathon course records and wins, but not the marathon distance. Why did he go straight to marathons so quickly? With no running tracks in his childhood village, he didn't have the money to travel to Eldoret 40km away to do track sessions. Dreaming of one day becoming a marathoner, at the age of 13 he joined a village running group, and just five years later, he won his first road race – the 2018 Eldoret Half Marathon, at the age of 18. He was little known to most running fans until he took the win at Valencia and London, all in the past year. And in the London Marathon, he was already knocking on the world record's door, clocking 2:01:25 – just 16 seconds behind Kipchoge's world record set in Berlin of 2:01:09. It was only the Kenyan's second-ever marathon.
It is noteworthy that Kipchoge's Berlin performance had itself smashed the earlier world record by an impressive 78 seconds, making Kiptum's triumph even more significant, dropping the old world record by 34 seconds. Such tight margins of victory in marathon world record chasing underscores the sheer prowess and resilience needed to claim the title of fastest marathoner of all time.
For running fans and professionals alike, the 2023 Chicago Marathon has set a new gold standard in long-distance running lore, promising an exciting era of competition in the years to come. The only question now is, how much faster can Kelvin Kiptum run? At least we long distance running fans have years to find out!
photo credit: Michael Reaves/Getty Images