Kelvin Kiptum, Chicago marathon world record holder, remembered after death in car accident

Michelle Gallardo Image
Monday, February 12, 2024
Chicago running community mourns superstar Kelvin Kiptum
Kelvin Kiptum, the Chicago marathon world record holder who was widely regarded as running's next superstar, died in a car accident in Kenya Sunday.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The executive director of the Chicago marathon is among those mourning running superstar Kelvin Kiptum, who was killed in a car crash in Kenya Sunday.

When the then-23-year-old Kiptum broke the marathon world record in Chicago on October 8, it was Carey Pinkowski's arms he jumped into. Four months later, the executive race director of the Chicago marathon is mourning the loss of a man and athlete many believed was destined to become an all-time great.

"It was an emotional morning because I was getting the splits and we were, but then once he got past 18 miles we started seeing it click and he started going under the record then we knew it was a reality," Pinkowski said of that record-breaking day.

Kiptum was killed along with his coach in a crash in his native Kenya Sunday. News of the running superstar's death has reverberated around the world.

READ MORE: 2023 Chicago Marathon winner, world record-holder Kelvin Kiptum dies in crash in Kenya

"We just watched the Super Bowl last night. The Chicago Marathon is the Super Bowl every year of running. And to see Kelvin be so at a different level was amazing to watch," said Dave Zimmer, owner of Fleet Feet Sports Chicago.

At only 24 years old, Kiptum captured the imagination of many in the running community as he came tantalizingly close to breaking the under-two-hour in-race marathon. Zimmer was captaining an aid station in Old Town that morning.

"To say that he ran might be too soft a word. He floated he glided. He commanded so much presence on the street as he just kind of tore right by us effortlessly," he said.

But it was Kiptum's humanity that inspired people the most. Here was a man who, unable to afford his own, began his career just a few years earlier on borrowed shoes.

"His athleticism was amazing but he was just a warm guy," Pinkowski said. "As we were walking back to the hotel people were coming up to him and he was shaking their hands, taking pictures. He was just a very very humble approachable guy. Magnificent athlete, magnificent individual."

Kiptum was set to attempt breaking the two hour record just a couple months from now in the Netherlands. And while we will never know if he would have or not, there is an entire generation of runners the young Kenyan will have inspired to follow in his footsteps.