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Kelvin Kiptum, killed in car crash, made history at Chicago Marathon

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Kelvin Kiptum, killed in car crash, made history at Chicago Marathon

Kelvin Kiptum, killed in car crash, made history at Chicago Marathon 02:47

CHICAGO (CBS) -- On a near-perfect fall day for running in Chicago, Kelvin Kiptum had just spent two hours torching the Chicago Marathon course, leaping like a small child into the arms of race director Carey Pinkowski. 

Kiptum destroyed the world marathon record held by another Kenyan running legend, Eliud Kipchoge, and he made it look effortless. With an unlimited potential ahead of him, Kelvin Kiptum was killed in a car accident on Sunday in Kenya. 

Kenya's Kelvin Kiptum celebrates winning the 2023 Bank of America Chicago Marathon in Chicago, Illinois, in a world record time of two hours and 35 seconds on October 8, 2023. KAMIL KRZACZYNSKI/AFP via Getty Images

He was 24-years-old.

Pinkowski told CBS 2 that the first thing Kiptum did after finishing was to look for the last man to set the world record in Chicago, Khalid Khannouchi.

"The fact that he paid homage to the athletes that have come before him and done things here and really set this legacy and the tradition here, I was really moved," said Pinkowski. "In many cases, you'll see an athlete get caught up in the moment of his performance. But he wanted to reach out to Khalid, which I thought really bridges the history and the legacy, which is the humanity of the sport and the humanity of this event."

Honoring the life and legacy of Kelvin Kiptum 05:22

In just his third marathon, Kiptum covered the Chicago course in 2:00.35. Compared with Kannouchi's 2:05:42 world mark set in 1999, Kiptum would have finished more than a full mile in front. 

"He had just scratched the surface," said Pinkowski. "It was his third marathon. I mean, if you reflect back on his performance, you can see that I think he had a lot left."

Kelvin Kiptum of Kenya celebrates as he crosses the finish line to win the 2023 Chicago Marathon professional men's division and set a world record marathon time of 2:00.35 on October 08, 2023 in Chicago, Illinois. / Getty Images

World Athletics president Sebastian Coe was among the first to offer his condolences in a statement on X, formerly Twitter.

"It was only earlier this week in Chicago, the place where Kelvin set his extraordinary marathon World Record, that I was able to officially ratify his historic time. An incredible athlete leaving an incredible legacy, we will miss him dearly," Coe wrote.

Kiptum planned to run the Rotterdam Marathon in April and was aiming to break two hours. 

"There's no doubt in my mind that he would have gone under two hours, and then he had to be the odds-on favorite for the Olympic gold," Pinkowski said. "He was on the front end of his career. So I think that is the heartbreaking part of it. He had so much more to offer athletically."  

John Dodge

John Dodge is a veteran Chicago journalist with experience in print, television, and online platforms.

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