Kelvin Kiptum Runs 2:00:35 to Smash World Record at 2023 Chicago Marathon

Kiptum took 34 seconds off Eliud Kipchoge's 2:01:09 from last year

CHICAGO — Kelvin Kiptum‘s rapid ascent in the marathon world has reached a new peak. Less than a year ago, Kiptum, a 23-year-old from Chepkorio, Kenya, had never run a marathon. Now he owns three of the six fastest times in history — including an astonishing world record of 2:00:35 on Sunday to win the 2023 Bank of America Chicago Marathon.

For the past decade, Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge has reigned supreme over the 26.2-mile distance, setting the world record of 2:01:39 in Berlin in 2018 and lowering it to 2:01:09 in Berlin last year. Given Kipchoge’s unparalleled dominance of the event — 16 wins in 19 starts, including back-to-back Olympic titles — 2:01:09 looked destined to last a while. It barely lasted a year.

Kiptum took 34 seconds off Kipchoge’s mark and is the first human being to run under 2:01 in an official marathon (Kipchoge ran 1:59:40 in an aided attempt in 2019). An official sub-2:00 marathon, long viewed as a fantasy, is now just 36 seconds away.

What Kiptum has accomplished over the last 12 months beggars belief. The marathon is a race of suffering. A race that leaves you broken. A race that even the best struggle to master.

None of that applies to Kelvin Kiptum. He ran the fastest debut marathon ever, 2:01:53 in Valencia in December 2022, and just kept getting faster. In marathon #2, in London four months later, he ran the fastest second half ever – 59:45 – to move to #2 on the all-time list at 2:01:25.

Kiptum became the first man under 2:01 on a legal course

Now he has knocked a further 50 seconds off that time to become the fastest marathoner in history after running his first half in 60:48 and second in 59:47 in Chicago. And he has made it look astonishingly easy. Kiptum goes out hard and closes harder, finishing marathons as if they are track races. Today, he ran his 19th mile in 4:21, his downhill 22nd mile in 4:18.

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4:18!

If that looks weird, it should. We’ve never seen a faster mile in a marathon.

(LRC Update, 10/26/23: After a LetsRun investigation, Chicago organizers confirmed that the splits provided to media for the 19th and 22nd miles were inaccurate, most likely due to wrongly-placed mile markers. Full details here.)

Kiptum later said that he has not felt in pain at any point of the three marathons he has raced, a statement so galling that we had to triple-check it.

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LRC: You’ve never felt in pain in a marathon?

Kiptum: Yes.

LRC: You have, or you haven’t?

Kiptum: I haven’t.

A year ago, Kiptum was fast (he ran a 58:42 half marathon as a 21-year-old) but anonymous. Now he has run more than 30 seconds faster than anyone in history and has relegated Kipchoge to #2 on the all-time list. It will take more than three marathons to unseat Kipchoge as the greatest ever, but Kiptum is on an unparalleled trajectory and is only getting better. It’s scary to consider, but Kiptum’s big negative split suggests he could run even faster in the future.

Top Results (Analysis below)

Place Name Country Time
1 Kelvin Kiptum (KEN) KEN 02:00:35
2 Benson Kipruto (KEN) KEN 02:04:02
3 Bashir Abdi (BEL) BEL 02:04:32
4 John Korir (KEN) KEN 02:05:09
5 Seifu Tura Abdiwak (ETH) ETH 02:05:29
6 Conner Mantz (USA) USA 02:07:47
7 Clayton Young (USA) USA 02:08:00
8 Galen Rupp (USA) USA 02:08:48
9 Sam Chelanga (USA) USA 02:08:50
10 Takashi Ichida (JPN) JPN 02:08:57
11 Brian Shrader (USA) USA 02:09:46
12 Wesley Kiptoo (KEN) KEN 02:10:28
13 Matt McDonald (USA) USA 02:10:34
14 Joel Reichow (USA) USA 02:10:37
15 Andrew Colley (USA) USA 02:11:22
16 Kevin Salvano (USA) USA 02:11:26
17 Dawit Wolde (ETH) ETH 02:11:33
18 Frank Lara (USA) USA 02:12:57
19 Jordan Gusman (MLT) MLT 02:13:13
20 Stepan Kiselev (RUS) RUS 02:13:26
21 Masashi Nonaka (JPN) JPN 02:14:58
22 Masaki Tsuda (JPN) JPN 02:15:24
23 Connor Winter (USA) USA 02:15:51
24 Tyler Jermann 02:16:23
25 Julian Heninger (USA) USA 02:16:48

Blow-by-blow: Kiptum obliterates the field and the world record over the second half

Ahead of the race, Kiptum downplayed his chances of a world record. A groin injury meant Kiptum got a late start on his buildup, and rains in Kenya meant that some of his favorite dirt road running routes were muddier than usual. He said his target was Dennis Kimetto‘s course record of 2:03:45 from 2013. 

But conditions in Chicago on Sunday (overcast, temperatures in 40s, 8 mph wind) were ideal for running, and the pacemakers’ target split of 60:40 revealed Kiptum’s true intentions. Kiptum quickly whittled down the lead pack, and by 10k (28:42), Daniel Mateiko (58:26 half marathon pb) was the only man left with Kiptum and pacer Ronald Kirui. This was not completely unfamiliar territory for Mateiko – he paced Kiptum in his London victory in April – but after they hit halfway in 60:48, the second half would be. Today was Mateiko’s marathon debut and though he would hang with Kiptum through 18 miles, the pace ultimately proved too much and he would drop out.

Now all alone – the pacer Kirui had struggled to make it to even halfway – Kiptum, as he did in Valencia and London, unleashed fury over the second half of the race. He shook Mateiko with a 4:21 19th mile, backed off to 4:46 for mile 20, then reeled off a 4:24 and that scarcely-believable 4:18 for the downhill 22nd mile. Kiptum had been on 2:01:41 pace at 30k, but the projected time was being adjusted down with every step, and pretty soon it was clear he was going to break the world record, and by some distance.

Kiptum went 4:36-4:30-4:35-4:31 to hit 26 miles and ran his last .2188 of a mile in 61 seconds to stop the clock at 2:00:35. A few more notable splits:

  • 59:47 for the second half
  • 45:20 for the 10 miles from 16-26
  • 27:52 from 30k to 40k, including 13:51 from 30k to 35k
Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly

Kiptum would win by 3:27 over runner-up Benson Kipruto, last year’s champion who finished in 2:04:32. Olympic bronze medalist Bashir Abdi was 3rd in 2:04:32. Top American Conner Mantz was even farther back, running 2:07:47 for 6th. It felt as if they were in a different race.

Heck, at times it felt as if Kiptum was participating in a different sport. The ease with which he has taken to the 26.2-mile distance, his ability to accelerate at will – we are not used to seeing this sort of stuff in the marathon. Kiptum said that as soon as he hit 5k in 14:26, he knew he was going to break the world record. 14:26 is only 2:01:48 pace for a full marathon, but Kiptum had no doubt in his ability to close.

“That’s my strategy,” Kiptum said. “[Wait until] 19 miles, 20 miles and make a move.”

You hope it is all not too good to be true. But the marathon is in a transitional period where previous times and conventional knowledge are being destroyed with every race. Two weeks ago a woman ran 2:11:53 in Berlin. A few minutes after Kiptum finished today in Chicago, Sifan Hassan ran 2:13:44 to win the women’s race just six weeks after earning a bronze medal in the 1500 meters at the World Championships. Between men and women, the world record has been broken three times in the last 13 months — including twice in the last 15 days — and we may not be done.

How to explain it all? Shoe technology? A confluence of generational talents? Performance-enhancing drugs? Right now, there’s no easy answer. We’re in the midst of a marathon revolution, baby, and it may take a few more years until the dust settles.

***

Kelvin Kiptum’s 2023 Chicago Marathon splits

Mile 1: 4:34
Mile 2: 4:38
Mile 3: 4:44
5K: 14:26
Mile 4: 4:34
Mile 5: 4:35
Mile 6: 4:39
10K: 28:42 (14:16)
Mile 7: 4:38
Mile 8: 4:40
Mile 9: 4:38
15K: 43:09 (14:27)
Mile 10: 4:41
Mile 11: 4:35*
Mile 12: 4:49
20K: 57:39 (14:30)
Mile 13: 4:34
HALF: 60:48
Mile 14: 4:36
Mile 15: 4:40
25K: 1:12:04 (14:25)
Mile 16: 4:39
Mile 17: 4:38
Mile 18: 4:41
30K: 1:26:31 (14:27)
Mile 19: 4:21
Mile 20: 4:46
Mile 21: 4:24
35K: 1:40:22 (13:51)
Mile 22: 4:18
Mile 23: 4:36
Mile 24: 4:30
40K: 1:54:23 (14:01)
Mile 25: 4:35
Mile 26: 4:31*

*estimated

Post-race press conference

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