Kenyans mourn marathon world record holder Kiptum as body returns home

FILE PHOTO: Oct 8, 2023; Chicago, IL, USA; Kelvin Kiptum (KEN) celebrates after finishing in a world record time of 2:00:35 to win the Chicago Marathon at Grant Park. Mandatory Credit: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

ELDORET, Kenya (Reuters) -Hundreds of Kenyans paid their respects on Thursday as the body of marathon world record holder Kelvin Kiptum, who dreamed of breaking the race's storied two-hour barrier, was driven to his home village for burial.

Kiptum, 24, and his coach Gervais Hakizimana were killed earlier this month when the runner lost control of the vehicle he was driving in the Rift Valley and crashed into a tree. The pathologist's report said he died of head injuries.

Singing hymns and holding hands, mourners accompanied the convoy carrying Kiptum's flower-lined casket as it departed a morgue in the western Kenyan city of Eldoret.

The casket was opened for a viewing in the local county capital on its way to Chepsamo village. Kiptum's father held the late runner's 7-year-old son, while women's 1,500 metre world record holder Faith Kipyegon held her face in her hands.

Kiptum had only run three marathons but each was among the fastest seven times ever recorded. He set the world record at the Chicago Marathon in October in two hours and 35 seconds, eclipsing the 2:01:09 run by compatriot Eliud Kipchoge in 2022.

Kiptum had hoped to break two hours in Rotterdam in April and was also expected to make his Olympic debut in Paris this year in what could have been his first head-to-head match-up with Kipchoge.

The casket will travel about 80 km (50 miles) on its way from Eldoret to Chepsamo, where Kiptum worked as a livestock herder before becoming a professional runner. He will be buried on Friday.

Kiptum is survived by his wife, his seven-year-old son and six-year-old daughter. Kenyan President William Ruto ordered a house to be built for the family.

His coach Hakizimana was buried on Wednesday in his native Rwanda.

(Reporting by Simion Chepkwony; Writing by Aaron Ross; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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