‘Exhausted’ Kelvin Kiptum cancelled plans with family because of headache on day he died, says wife

Asenath Cheruto Rotich
Kelvin Kiptum's wife, Asenath Cheruto Rotich, described Kiptum as a devoted husband and father - Getty Images/AFP

The widow of Kelvin Kiptum, the world marathon record holder, has told of how training to break the two-hour barrier left him with a “headache” just before his fatal car crash.

A summary of an interview with Asenath Cheruto Rotich by Nation described how Kiptum complained he was “exhausted” after training the day before the car he was driving veered off the road and into a ditch, hitting a tree.

It went on to recount how a subsequent headache forced the London Marathon champion to break a promise to take his wife and children for an outing the next day but that he later informed her he was going for further training and spoke to his two children for the final time at around 8pm local time on Sunday.

He was said to have promised to phone her shortly afterwards, during half time of the Premier League match between Aston Villa and Manchester United.

However, the call never came and she went to bed before being woken by a visit from Kiptum’s mother after 11pm, with the family having received misleading reports the athlete may have been carjacked.

‘I told him he trained too much’

Rotich earlier told Citizen TV she had warned her husband he “trained too much” trying to become the first person to break the two-hour barrier in an official race at April’s Rotterdam Marathon.

She said: “He hoped to run in sub two hours. He was working hard and sometimes I told him he trained too much and when the time comes he will be too tired but he would say, ‘No, it is fine’, and that he is supposed to go 10 laps.

“I used to tell him to rest on Sundays, but he would refuse. We had planned to go with him to Rotterdam in April. And now it is not possible.”

Kiptum died on the road between Elodret and Kaptagat, an area that is home to many of the best endurance runners in the world, including Eliud Kipchoge, the previous world record holder and the reigning double Olympic champion.

Kiptum’s father calls for investigation

Kiptum’s father, Samson Cheruiyot, told the same network he wanted an official investigation to be opened into Sunday’s crash, saying that four “unidentified people” came looking for his son in the days before his death.

“There are people who came home a while back who were looking for Kiptum but they refused to identify themselves,” said Cheruiyot. “I asked them to provide identification, but they opted to leave. It was a group of four people.

“I got the news of my son’s death while I was watching the news. I went to the scene of the accident but the police had taken the body to Eldoret. Kiptum was my only child.

“If he was alive, we would have great opportunities ahead. At our age, we don’t have any help and he has left children.”

Kiptum, who was 24, was regarded as a once in a generation talent after winning his first three marathons, including a course record in London last April before becoming the first person to go under 2hr 1min when he set a new world record in Chicago in October.

He was favourite for Olympic gold in Paris and had told his father that he was ready to become the first man to run the 26.2-mile distance in under two hours in an official race at the Rotterdam Marathon in April.

“He told me someone will come and help us build a house – he said that his body is now fit, and he can now run for 1:59,” said Cheruiyot.

A first head-to-head race between Kipchoge and Kiptum was expected to be one of the highlights of Paris 2024.

Kiptum’s coach, Gervais Hakizimana, was also killed in Sunday’s car crash but a third passenger in the Toyota Premio, Sharon Chepkirui Kosgei, was taken to hospital in nearby Eldoret where she was later discharged.

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