NOS Sports•today, 7:03 PM
editor NOS Sport
editor NOS Sport
Laws and rules do not seem to apply to him. Except for that one law. That of the braking lead.
Whether Kelvin Kiptum, the world’s fastest athlete in the marathon for a month now, will be able to be the first to dive under the magical two-hour limit in Rotterdam next year? It was a question that was only answered with a question in return by his Belgian manager Marc Corstjens on Wednesday.
“Where on earth am I going to find pacers who are so good that they can help him with that?”
Unique in its kind
The 23-year-old Kiptum, the agent wanted to say, is one of a kind. He ran a marathon three times. He triumphed three times with flying colours. Rotterdam should be the fourth glory parade in a row, as a dress rehearsal for the Paris Olympic Games.
On his debut, in 2022 in Valencia, he was the third athlete ever to dive under 2:02 hours with a time of 2:01:53. A month ago, in Chicago, he clocked 2:00:35, breaking the world record held by his illustrious compatriot Eliud Kipchoge with 2:01:09. In between he also triumphed in London in 2.01.25.
The fact that Kiptum will start in Rotterdam in five months is less surprising than it seems. In addition to Kiptum’s manager, Corstjens is also the race director of the marathon through the Maasstad.
With a big smile, world record holder Kiptum talks about the Rotterdam marathon
In 2019, the edition won by Kenyan Marius Kipserem, Kiptum acted as a pace setter in Rotterdam. According to plan, the race was over after 27 kilometers. Kiptum said he still remembers what he thought then: “One day I will come back here to run a fast time.”
Although for the time being the wish seems to be the father of the thought that he can clock a historic time of under two hours in the Olympic year.
Manager and athlete are not yet on the same page about this, that much became clear. Corstjens belongs to the group of optimists who think it is possible. He spoke of “a very ambitious plan from an extremely ambitious athlete”. Kiptum himself held off and did not allow himself to be tempted by any form of boasting.
In 2024 he will run Rotterdam for Paris, where he hopes to succeed Kipchoge as Olympic champion. “Breaking the magic barrier of two hours is something I don’t want to think about until afterward.”
To add almost casually: “But if the conditions are good and my body is in order, I would like to try to improve the world record.”
It would be the fourth world record in the history of ‘Rotterdam’. In 1985, the Portuguese Carlos Lopes ran 2.07.12. Three years later, Belayneh Dinsamo from Ethiopia (2.06.50) and the Kenyan Tegla Loroupe ((2.20.47) wrote history.
In a month’s time Kiptum will start his murderous preparation for Rotterdam. Training weeks of 250 to 280 kilometers are the standard.
His trainer Gervais Hakizmana often warns him about the dangers that lurk, he said. Anyone who runs so much will have a short career, the coach from Burundi tells him. Well-intentioned advice that Kiptum laughingly ignores. “I just need a lot of kilometers to write history.”
The way in which Kiptum uses his strength during marathons is also not according to the books. In Chicago he ran a remarkable one negative split, a faster second than first part of the race. He passed halfway in 60.48, from there to the finish it was 59.47. For the stretch between kilometers 30 and 40 he even needed less than 28 minutes.
To achieve an extreme top time, the Rotterdam route may be adjusted in detail. For example, Corstjens does not rule out that the start for the elite athletes will be on top of the Erasmus Bridge instead of just before, in order to avoid those first difficult altitude meters.
Another headache will be finding suitable pacers. In an Olympic year, good hares run their own program in the hope of obtaining a starting ticket for the Games, Corstjens explained.
“I currently know at most one athlete who can act as a pacemaker until the 30 kilometer mark. Finding enough hares so that Kiptum can run an absolute top time, that will be the biggest challenge.”