Kelvin Kiptum’s Coach Reveals His Incredible Training Before Marathon World Record in Chicago

Before London this spring, Kiptum's coach Gervais Hakizimana says Kiptum ran three straight weeks of more than 180 miles

On Tuesday afternoon, Kelvin Kiptum arrived back home in Kenya, where he was feted for his 2:00:35 world record at Sunday’s Chicago Marathon. Kiptum wore a sinendet garland and drank mursik (fermented milk) from a gourd, as is traditional for celebrations among members of the Kalenjin tribe.

As Kiptum enjoys the spoils of victory, the running world is still trying to make sense of his meteoric rise to the top of the sport. Exactly one year ago, Eliud Kipchoge, who had just set a world record of 2:01:09 in Berlin, reigned supreme as the world’s greatest marathoner. Kiptum, meanwhile, had never run a marathon and was relatively anonymous: his most notable result was a 58:42, 6th-place finish as a 21-year-old at the 2020 Valencia Half Marathon.

Just 12 months later, Kiptum has usurped Kipchoge’s title as World #1 thanks to a three-marathon stretch unparalleled in the history of running. Kiptum, now 23, ran the fastest debut marathon ever, 2:01:53, to win Valencia in December 2022. Five months later, he smashed Kipchoge’s course record by running 2:01:25 to win the London Marathon. And in Chicago, he became the first human being to run under 2:01 in a record-eligible marathon. Of the six fastest marathons ever, half belong to Kiptum.

All-time marathon top 10

Race Athlete Country Race
2:00:35 Kelvin Kiptum Kenya 2023 Chicago
2:01:09 Eliud Kipchoge Kenya 2022 Berlin
2:01:25 Kelvin Kiptum Kenya 2023 London
2:01:39 Eliud Kipchoge Kenya 2018 Berlin
2:01:41 Kenenisa Bekele Ethiopia 2019 Berlin
2:01:53 Kelvin Kiptum Kenya 2022 Valencia
2:02:37 Eliud Kipchoge Kenya 2019 London
2:02:40 Eliud Kipchoge Kenya 2022 Tokyo
2:02:42 Eliud Kipchoge Kenya 2023 Berlin
2:02:48 Birhanu Legese Ethiopia 2019 Berlin

Kiptum’s assault on the records books prompted a natural question: where did this guy come from? We’ve never seen an athlete take over the event like this — even Kipchoge lost marathon #2, and he didn’t set his first world record until marathon #11.

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Now, details are beginning to trickle out, though some have proven difficult to pin down. For example, Kiptum’s World Athletics profile lists his first race as the 2018 Eldoret Half Marathon, which he won in a time of 62:01. But a recap of Kiptum’s victory in that race says he had run the race twice before, finishing 10th in 2013 and 12th in 2014 and World Athletics lists Kiptum’s date of birth as December 2, 1999 — which would have made him 13 years old for the first race.

Ahead of Chicago, a source told LetsRun Kiptum was actually born in 1996, which would make more sense if he was running half marathons in 2013 and 2014. But Kiptum said in Chicago that the 12/2/99 date of birth is correct.

In addition, after his win in Valencia, Kiptum claimed he was self-coached, but before Chicago, he contradicted that, saying he has been working with Gervais Hakizimana for two years — though he added that Hakizimana has taken on a more prominent role recently.

“[I worked with him] a little bit [before Valencia],” Kiptum said. “Not so much. He was giving me tips, how to train. At the beginning of this year, he has taken a big role.”

Hakizimana, 36, hails from Rwanda, but has been based in France since 2008, working odd jobs while pursuing a professional career. He owns the Rwandan record in the steeplechase (8:39.05) and ran 29:15 for 10k on the roads in 2015; his most notable result is a 38th-place finish at the 2007 World Half Marathon Championships, where he ran a pb of 62:43.

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In a profile of Hakizimana by journalist Robin Gremmel of Agence France-Presse, Hakizimana said he met Kiptum 10 years ago. From the translated article:

During his French years, Gervais Hakizimana regularly traveled to Kenya to train. It was near Chepkorio (west), where he now has a room all year round, that he met Kelvin Kiptum in 2013.

“When we did hill climbing sessions in the forest near his home, he was small but followed us, barefoot, after tending the goats and sheep.”

Alongside other locals, Kiptum (born in 1999) grew up and stuck to the Rwandan’s sessions, concocted by his French trainer and soon adapted to his taste.

Their collaboration took off in 2020 when Hakizimana remained stuck in Kenya for several months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In Chepkorio we live together. It’s very close to his house but it’s better that he doesn’t come home, he gets a room, he has to concentrate, he has to cut himself off from distractions. Just run, eat, sleep.”

Prior to Kiptum, Hakizimana coached Kenneth Kipkemoi, the 2018 Rotterdam Marathon champion who finished 3rd in the 2019 Boston Marathon. Kipkemoi served a two-year suspension from 2020-22 after testing positive for terbutaline, a bronchodilator which Kipkemoi claimed stemmed from a medication he had been prescribed.

Kipkemoi still trains with Kiptum. On Sunday morning, a few hours before Kiptum’s win, Kipkemoi, now 39, ran a personal best of 2:04:52 to win the Eindhoven Marathon. Here is what Gremmel wrote about Hakizimana and Kipkemoi’s suspension.

Kipkemoi was suspended for two years for doping with a beta-blocker in 2020, a lesser sanction, anti-doping having found “negligence” in medical treatment.

“Unlike Kiptum, he was not disciplined,” regrets Gervais Hazikimana.

“Doping is everywhere in Kenya,” he laments. “But it is mainly the clumsy ones who are caught, victims of a lack of education and information.”

Closely monitored, Kiptum was checked every week and sometimes several times a day during his preparation for the Chicago Marathon, assures his coach.

Kiptum ran 300+ kilometers a week before London and “must calm down to last in athletics”

After the race, Gremmel emailed to share more details on Hakizimana and Kiptum’s training, including the revelation that Kiptum ran three weeks of more than 300 kilometers (186 miles) before his London victory this spring. That sort of mileage is not completely unprecedented, but it is significantly higher than most contemporary marathoners and has Hakizimana concerned that Kiptum could burn out if he continues training this hard.

MB: Kiptum running up to 300km a week

Below is a translated excerpt of what Gremmel sent to LetsRun, including a sample week of Kiptum’s training — which includes four hard workouts — courtesy of Agence France-Presse:

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His Rwandan trainer Gervais Hakizimana detailed to AFP the preparation for the marathon of the new racing star in his stronghold of Chepkorio, in western Kenya.

“Every week, Eliud Kipchoge does between 180 and 220 km (111-136 miles). Kelvin Kiptum is more between 250 and 280 (155-173 miles), sometimes more than 300 km (186 miles), it’s an adventure! During the preparation for London we did three weeks of more than 300 km. He has a very large volume. He works a lot on endurance. When he trains he is strong.

“Our marathon program is established over four months, with a lot of bodybuilding and strengthening at the start. The first month he runs around 900 km (559 miles) in total, the second month between 280 and 300 km (173-186 miles) per week. In the fourth month we gradually reduce the volume, to have some rest before the race.”

Kiptum’s typical week:

Monday – jogging in the morning between 25 and 28 km, at a pace ranging from 4’10 per kilometer to 3’40 (Editor’s note: That’s 6:42-5:54 mile pace), 12 km jogging in the afternoon

Tuesday – track session or fartlek (split race alternating between fast and slow paces). For example 3′ fast/1′ slow/3′ fast/1′ slow, all for an hour. 12 km of jogging in the afternoon

Wednesday – like Monday, between 25 and 28 km in the morning, around 12 km in the afternoon

Thursday – “difficult” day. Between 30 and 40 km close to marathon pace. Nothing in the afternoon

Friday – jogging between 25 and 28 km in the morning, 12 km in the afternoon

Saturday – like Tuesday, track or split on the road, jogging in the afternoon

Sunday – difficult, like Thursday. Between 32 and 40 km at a fast pace. Nothing in the afternoon

“There is no weekly rest. We rest when he gets tired. If for a month he doesn’t show signs of fatigue or pain, we continue.

“He only runs, eats, sleeps. There is a small group that gathers around him but I only take care of him. The others have the right to follow. During difficult sessions he is alone, that’s where he goes fast.

“He’s in his best years but at one point I’m afraid he’ll get injured. 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.”

Discuss Kiptum and his training on the LetsRun messageboard

MB: Kiptum running up to 300km a week
It’s unbelievable that Kelvin Kiptum could be totally clean in all his marathon performances so far
Kelvin Kiptum is Self-Coached?!?!?!?
Apparently Kiptum wore a yet-to-be released Nike Alphafly today
Nike seems ALARMINGLY reluctant to support Kiptum

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