Chicago Marathon Men — Kiptum Sub-2:01

Kelvin Kiptum exhibited the otherworldly stride of a WR-setter as he bested Eliud Kipchoge’s mark. (KEVIN MORRIS)

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS, October 08 — Kelvin Kiptum’s unfathomable marathon career continued its skyrocket trajectory as he blazed a World Record 2:00:35 to win the Chicago Marathon and better Eliud Kipchoge’s Berlin 2022 standard by 34 seconds.

“When I crossed the finish line, I was very happy,” said new standard bearer Kiptum. “I was going for a course record, and definitely a World Record.” Then breaking into a broad smile, the Kenyan beamed, “So, I’m happy”

The 23-year-old phenom hit the jackpot in just his third effort over the 42,195m distance, coming after his debut record 2:01:53 last December in Valencia, and 2:01:25 course record win last April in London.

“I was not confident that I could break the World Record,” Kiptum admitted, “but I was in good shape and I came here ready to run a fast race.”

Chicago’s record-ready course had previously seen men’s WRs by Steve Jones (2:08:05) in 1984 and Khalid Khannouchi (2:05:42) in 1999. Having lost the women’s WR 2 weeks previously when Tigst Assefa [Ed: T&FN has learned Tigst is her correct spelling] ran 2:11:53 in Berlin to better Brigid Kosgei’s 2:14:04 standard set on this course in 2019, race director Carey Pinkowski said, “It was time to bring a World Record back to Chicago. There was great energy, a great crowd, and the weather was pretty near perfect.”

Indeed, with overcast skies, temperatures in the mid 40s (7–8C) and a PR-ready 37-degree dew point (3C), it was only the 5–10 mph west wind that was a peg below perfect.

Kiptum’s manager, Marc Corstjens, encouraged his star to aim a bit higher than the course record, noting, “Over an athlete’s career you don’t have many chances when the conditions and fitness are excellent and you have to take advantage of the opportunity.”

Sporting arm warmers, a stocking hat and gloves to fend off the morning chill, Kiptum and just about every racer seemed more than ready to seize the day with a fast start. Blitzing the opening 2K in 5:45, both the first and second pacing groups coalesced around Kiptum, as he sped the opening 5K in 14:26 amid a throng of pacers and a half dozen competitors along for the ride.

Not for long as Kiptum motioned pacer Ronald Kirui forward, and after a pair of fast kilometers they had separated themselves from the field with only debutante Daniel Mateiko clinging to their heels. Stepping up the pace, the second 5K was even faster at 14:16 and the 28:42 10K split put them on 2:01:06 pace.

Heading back toward the Windy City’s Loop, 15K was passed in 43:09 (14:27) and already Kirui seemed stretched beyond his talents as Kiptum ran alongside the pacer with Mateiko a stride back. The trio hit 20K in 57:39 (14:30) and crossed halfway in 60:45, where Kiptum left his hat and pacer at the side of the road, confident enough to run at the front for much of his World Record effort.

“I have the confidence because I trained 3 months for this race,” Kiptum explained. ”Good training with strength and some speed on the track, and no problems so I was confident.”

Kiptum’s training is guided by Gervais Hakizimana, a Rwandan distance runner who trained in Kenya and a decade ago took to coaching Kiptum and other youths around Chepkorio, 30km (c18m) east of Eldoret. By 2020 Kiptum had run a 58:42 half-marathon, and when isolated during the pandemic the duo began to take on marathon training in 2021.

Kiptum gets his unyielding strength from training volume which extends over 300 kilometers (186M) per week, and he asserts with some pride that “I also have track sessions like 15 times 1000 meters for speed.”

Upon recognizing that the pace was slowing at halfway, Kiptum explained, “My strategy was to run a little bit faster between 20 and 30, and then you know every race I make a move between 30 and 32.

True to his word, Kiptum did well to keep the two 5K segments at 14:25 (25K in 1:12:04) and 14:27 to reach 30K in 1:26:31. That’s 2:01:41 pace.

“Already at 5 kilometers I thought a World Record was possible,” Kiptum said, “but by 30K I knew I would run a World Record; my body was warm and I could make a move.”

Mateiko, an NN teammate of Kipchoge with a 58:26 half-marathon PR, had paced Kiptum through 30K in London, and 30K was just how far he could hang on in Chicago before Kiptum lit out into his now trademark sub-60 attack stride.

The new Kenyan Boss grooves to the reggae beat of Sean Paul, but like the old Boss he knows when the time is right for racing in the streets and he began to tick off a string of scintillating splits propelling him toward history.

Dropping under 2:50 kilo pace, Kiptum hit 32K in 1:32:11, 2:01:33 tempo, then riding a bit of a tailwind flew through the next 3K in 8:11 to cross the 35K mat in 1:40:22 (13:51 for the 5K segment and 2:01:00 pace).

He then went even faster, sprinting 5:24 over the next 2K — which spanned a 4:18 split for mile 22 — to reach 37K in 1:45:46, down to 2:00:37 pace, and an effort-defining 32–37K split of 13:35. OK, some tailwind and some downhill, but 13:35!

Kiptum has added some upper body strength since his Valencia debut and runs with a bit of a left to right swing in his arm carriage, yet from his sternum and down his stride is smooth as silk. The lithe Kenyan just flies down the road at unprecedented speeds.

He admitted with a chuckle, “Yeah, yeah, sure it feels good when I hit my stride and run free.”

A runner who has benefited from training and racing in the super shoes for much of his career, Kiptum also appears to be a super-responder to the footwear, adding to the natural bounce and forward roll of his smooth stride.

Turning back into the wind, Kiptum did well maintaining his pace on the 5K run up Michigan Avenue to the finish. Passing 40K in 1:54:23 (14:01 and 2:00:40 pace) Kiptum had a little left.

He blitzed the final 2195m in 6:12 (2:49.5 K pace) and lit up the finishing stretch saluting the crowd like Usain Bolt to stop the clock at 2:00:35.

Producing another 60:45/59:50 negative split gem, the newly crowned kingpin said that he “has felt no pain” in this or his two previous marathons. “I trained my body for the marathon very good, and it responded very well.”

He did admit to “having a little problem with jet lag,” and “I feel the wind on the long finish, but I was OK. I like Chicago, the crowd was cheering me, so I kept on moving.”

After the race Kiptum showed a lot of class, refusing to criticize his pacers — “I know these guys” — and was quick to honor Kipchoge, saying, “Of course, Eliud is the greatest of all time, he has done a lot, and we respect him, and we have to follow what he has done.”

When asked about sub-2:00, Kiptum said, “No, that is not in my mind, but the Olympics are on my mind. Now I can go home, I will take a little rest and then I’ll start some training.”

At the end of his WR day, Kiptum attended the Champions’ Reception and treated a long line of friends, athletes and officials to WR selfies. Exiting the hall, Kiptum high-fived his manager and friends. Mission Accomplished.

Chicago was far from a singular event as Kenyan Benson Kipruto (2nd in a PR 2:04:02) and Belgian Bashir Abdi (3rd in 2:04:32) lived up to their pedigree to fill out the podium.

Americans chasing the Olympic standard found success too. You can read about that here.


1. Kelvin Kiptum (Ken) 2:00:35 WR (old WR 2:01:09 Eliud Kipchoge [Ken] ’22) (14:26, 14:16 [28:42], 14:27 [43:09], 14:30 [57:39], 14:25 [1:12:04], 14:27 [1:26:31], 13:51 [1:40:22], 14:01 [1:54:23], 6:12) (60:48/59:47);

2. Benson Kipruto (Ken) 2:04:02 PR; 3. Bashir Abdi (Bel) 2:04:32; 4. John Korir (Ken) 2:05:09; 5. Seifu Tura (Eth) 2:05:29;

6. Conner Mantz (US) 2:07:47 PR (AL) (=4, =9 A) (63:21/64:26); 7. Clayton Young (US) 2:08:00 PR (7, x A) (63:42/64:18); 8. Galen Rupp (US) 2:08:48 (63:21/65:27); 9. Samuel Chelanga (US) 2:08:50 PR (9, x A);

10. Takashi Ichida (Jpn) 2:08:57 PR; 11. Brian Shrader (US) 2:09:46 PR; 12. Wesley Kiptoo (Ken) 2:10:28 PR; 13. Matt McDonald (US) 2:10:34; 14. Joel Reichow (US) 2:10:37 PR; 15. Andrew Colley (US) 2:11:22 PR; 16. Kevin Salvano (US) 2:11:26 PR; 17. Dawit Wolde (Eth) 2:11:33; 18. Frank Lara (US) 2:12:57; 19. Jordan Gusman (Mlt) 2:13:13 NR; 20. Stepan Kiselev (Rus) 2:13:26.

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