Friday, July 12, 2024

Kelvin Kiptum’s death raises sad memories of late Samuel Wanjiru

Kelvin Kiptum’s death has raised memories of the late marathon great Samuel Wanjiru. The parallels in the deaths of two of Kenya’s great marathon runners has not gone unnoticed.

Just like Kiptum, Wanjiru died in his twenties. He died at the age of 24, a few months to his 25th birthday. Kiptum has also died at the age of 24.

Wanjiru had made his mark in the world, after winning the 2008 Beijing Olympics marathon Gold Medal at the then Olympic record time of 2:06:32.

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He became the youngest marathon gold medalist since 1932. On his part, Kiptum was the world marathon record holder at his time of death. He had achieved this fete after clocking a world-shocking time of 2:00:35.

Kiptum ran the fastest-ever marathon debut at the 2022 Valencia Marathon. He became only the third man in history to break two hours and two minutes and set the then fourth-quickest time ever.

The following year during the 2023 London Marathon, Kiptum clocked the second-fastest marathon in history with a time of 2:01:25. This was just 16 seconds outside the world marathon record that was held by Kenyan great Eliud Kipchoge.


Six months later, during the 2023 Chicago marathon, Kiptum broke the world record by 34 seconds with a time of 2:00:35.

At his time of death, Kiptum was ranked as the world’s number one in the men’s marathon rankings. He died following a road accident that occurred along the Eldoret-Ravine highway on the night of February 11, 2024.

Wanjiru, on the other hand died in May 2011 at his home in Nyahururu. He reportedly fell from the balcony of his house following what was termed as a domestic dispute.


Both Wanjiru and Kiptum had publicly expressed their intention to break the two-hour marathon barrier.

At the Granollers Half Marathon in February 2008, in which Wanjiru won, he had stated in five years’ time he would be capable of clocking a sub 2 hours time for the marathon.

A few months later, in April 2009, Wanjiru won the London Marathon with a time of 2:05:10. This was not just a new personal record but was also a new course record.

Later in October 2009, Wanjiru won the Chicago Marathon with a time of 2:05:41. He set a new course record for the city and the fastest marathon time ever run in the United States.

He then peaked to the top of the World Marathon Majors rankings for 2009, a feat that earned him a mega jackpot of USD500,000 (Sh 80 million).

On his part, Kiptum had stated that during the Rotterdam Marathon slated to take place on April 14, he would attempt to run under 2 hours.

I made millions in US but have returned to Kenya broke because of my American wife

Their lives cut short just as their stars were begining to shine, Kiptum and Wanjiru go into record not only as Kenya’s marathon pride, but also as a loss too big for Kenya to bear.

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