That’s the view of Australian marathon legend Steve Moneghetti, who’s hailed the young Kenyan’s barnstorming approach to race day and astonishing training methods after he died at the age of only 24, losing his life in a car crash.
“That’s the thing that we were all so amazed about; that he was revolutionising marathon running because he was treating it like a track race, the way he was running, and the way he could accelerate and just run so fast,” Moneghetti told Wide World of Sports.
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“The back end, the last 10 [kilometres] in a marathon, running under 28 minutes — phenomenal running.”
On his way to shattering Kenyan icon Eliud Kipchoge’s marathon world record in last year’s Chicago Marathon, Kiptum cranked up the pace to mind-boggling levels late in the race. His quickest five-kilometre split was 13:51, between 30 and 35 kilometres, and he tore through the 10-kilometre split from 30-40 in just 27:52.
When he breasted the tape, he stopped the clock at 2:00:35 to chop 34 seconds off Kipchoge’s mark, set in the 2022 Berlin Marathon.
Kiptum again stunned the athletics world when speaking to media after the Chicago Marathon, saying he had not felt pain in any of his three marathons.
“He was reinventing what we thought was possible in a marathon and how to run an event. It was so exciting to watch. When you’ve got that sort of attitude you never know where it’s going to stop,” Moneghetti said.
“I think we all put barriers up, but when you hear those comments [about Kiptum not feeling pain] and have that sort of confidence, then we were all really looking forward to seeing what he could do.”
Kiptum’s coach, Rwanda’s Gervais Hakizimana, who also died in the car accident, spilled on his student’s training in an interview with Agence France-Presse. During the build-up to last year’s London Marathon, he had regularly banked weeks between 250 and 280 kilometres, and had even notched three weeks in excess of 300 kilometres. And a typical week ahead of the London race had included four “hard” runs.
To put Kiptum’s training into context, the majority of the world’s elite marathon runners complete between 180 and 230 kilometres a week, including two or three “hard” runs.
“He’s in his best years but at one point I’m afraid he’ll get injured,” Kiptum’s coach said last year.
“At this rate he risks breaking. I suggested he lower the pace but he doesn’t want to. He talks to me about the world record people all the time. I told him that in five years he would be done, that he must calm down to last in athletics.”
Kiptum’s training base was the village of Chepkorio in Kenya’s west, situated 2500 metres above sea level.
“I think we were all probably amazed about the amount of training he was doing [and were thinking], ‘Could his body sustain that? What was he going to be doing next?’,” Moneghetti said.
“The future of training for marathons, as well — he was reinventing that and making what we thought was impossible possible.
“So he was a trailblazer in that regard and now we’re not going to get the opportunity to see what that sort of training could develop into on race day.”
Australian Olympic marathon runner Liam Adams was astounded by Kiptum’s training.
“I think I read he was doing around 290-kilometre weeks and some really fast long runs and some short, sharp stuff,” Adams told Wide World of Sports.
“I don’t think it was for the faint-hearted. He was doing an absolutely crazy training block and training method, which not many people in the world would have been able to do.”