Kelvin Kiptum redefines the realm of possibility in the men’s marathon, but is it all real?

In the heart of the Windy City, amidst the towering skyscrapers and the echoes of bustling urban life, history was written on Chicago’s streets. On that crisp autumn morning, Kelvin Kiptum embarked on a journey that would forever change the landscape of marathon running. Here, the 23-year-old has redefined what we all had thought was possible in the marathon decades ago as he became the first man to run under two hours and one minute after he clocked 2:00.35.

As Kiptum sprinted down the final stretch along Columbus Drive, he even found the time to blow kisses and share waves of gratitude with the cheering crowd. His remarkable time not only shaved 34 seconds off Eliud Kipchoge’s previous record but also served as a striking testament to the transformative impact of super shoe technology on the sport.

A Meteoric Rise

Kiptum’s journey to marathon stardom was nothing short of meteoric. Just over 10 months ago, he had never even attempted the grueling 26.2-mile distance. Yet, within that short span, he had catapulted himself to the forefront of the sport, showcasing a talent that seemed destined for greatness.

Kelvin Kiptum running 4:18 for mile 22, that is not a typo! photo by Kevin Morris for Chicago Marathon

His victories in Valencia in December and London in April were early indicators of his potential. In London, he blazed through the course, recording the second-fastest marathon time ever seen, an achievement that raised eyebrows and quickened heartbeats among running enthusiasts worldwide. His ascent to prominence was unmistakable.

“I knew I was coming for a course record, but a world record — I am so happy,” Kiptum said, according to World Athletics. “A world record was not on my mind today, but I knew I would be a world record-holder one day.”

The Supershoe Revolution

Kiptum’s record-breaking run in Chicago was a feat not just of human endurance but of technological evolution. As he raced toward history, he did so wearing the Nike Dev 163 prototype shoes, part of the vanguard of “supershow” technology. These shoes, with their advanced cushioning and carbon fiber plates, have become a game-changer in distance running. (Editor’s note: shoe will be released for consumers in spring 2024 as Nike Alphafly 3).

Kiptum’s world record achievement followed Ethiopian Tigist Assefa’s breaking of the women’s world record in Berlin, powered by the innovative £400 Adizero Adios Pro Evo 1 shoes. There was a moment in Chicago when it seemed that the Dutch athlete, Sifan Hassan, might also shatter that record with her own shoes, but could only manage a time of 2:13:44, which was still the second-fastest in a women’s race.

Kelvin Kiptum flies through the streets of Chicago, photo by Kevin Morris

The impact of these shoes on the sport cannot be overstated. They have redefined what was once considered the outer limit of human performance. Records that once seemed insurmountable have crumbled in their wake. Eliud Kipchoge’s old record, considered the benchmark for marathon greatness, was shattered by Kiptum’s remarkable run.

The Quest for the Sub-Two-Hour Marathon

With each passing race, it becomes increasingly apparent that the elusive sub-two-hour marathon barrier once deemed an unattainable dream, is well within reach. Kipchoge had briefly breached this mythical threshold during a time trial in 2019. However, it did not count as a record due to the utilization of measures prohibited under World Athletics rules.

The question now lingers in the minds of running enthusiasts worldwide: when, not if, will this monumental barrier be broken in an official race? Kiptum’s performance in Chicago has ignited the debate, reigniting the fervor for the ultimate human achievement in distance running.

A Future of Boundless Possibilities

Kiptum’s journey from relative obscurity to world record holder is a testament to the transformative power of dedication, talent, and technology. His name will forever be associated with a new era in marathon running, where the limits of human potential are being redefined with each stride.

Kelvin Kiptum breaks WR in Men’s marathon in 2:00.35, photo by Kevin Morris

As runners and technology continue to advance in harmony, one thing is certain: the future of distance running holds boundless possibilities. Records will continue to tumble, barriers will be broken, and athletes like Kiptum will continue to captivate the world with their awe-inspiring performances.

In the wake of Kiptum’s record-breaking run, we are left with a tantalizing question: what heights will distance running reach next? The marathon world awaits the unfolding of its next chapter, eager to witness the extraordinary feats ahead in this era of superheroes, relentless ambition, and the indomitable human spirit. Kelvin Kiptum’s journey has not only left an indelible mark on the history of marathon running but has also illuminated the path to an exciting and unprecedented future.  

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