Kenya’s Joseph Chebetlauded for helping to bring his country into the global spotlight after winning both the New York and Boston marathons in 1999, died Friday at age 52.
Chebet died after being hospitalized for three days in the city of Eldoret, about 200 kilometers northwest of the Kenyan capitol of Nairobi (and one of the centers of running culture in Kenya) following a short illness, his brother ben chebet told Kenya’s daily nation.
Joseph Chebet who Won 1999 Boston and New York Marathon is Dead. Chebet died yesterday after a Short Illness. pic.twitter.com/fKZidG4q7q
— Hon.Kangogo Bowen 🇰🇪 (@KBDavidz) July 8, 2023
“We have lost an icon,” Athletics Kenya President Jackson Tuwei said in a statement following Chebet’s death. “He was one of the legends who brought fame to our country. I want to send my condolences to the family, friends, colleagues and athletics fraternity for their loss of him.”
Fellow Kenyan runner Moses Tenui, who won the Boston Marathon in 1996 and 1998, offered his condolences, as well as his memories of Chebet as a fierce competitor. “Chebet was a good athlete and he would fight to the finish line,” he told the daily nation. “I remember in Boston Marathon in 1998, I ran with him to the finish line where I managed to beat him with three seconds. It’s sad that we have lost him and I want to send my condolences to the family and friends during this difficult moment. It’s not easy to lose a loved one.”
— Mkenya Mpenda Amani Najivunia (@chawaofficial) July 10, 2023
Chebet’s three-second loss to Tenui in 1998 kicked off a frustrating and disappointing year for Chebet, who would again lose a major marathon title by a mere three seconds, this time to fellow Kenyan John Kagwe at the New York City Marathon.
Chebet rallied the following year, however, running 2:09.52 to win Boston and 2:09.14 to top the podium in New York. He bookended those 1999 career-highlight victories with wins at the Amsterdam Marathon in 1996 (2:10:57) and at the Vienna Marathon in 2003 (2:14:49).
On behalf of the lovely People of Trans Nzoia county, I convey my heartfelt condolences to the family, Friends and the people of Kiptoi-Cherangany constituency for the loss of your son who was a Humble Long distance athlete and 1999 Boston Marathon Champion Joseph Chebet. We will… pic.twitter.com/8BVkBjjpu6
— HON. ALLAN CHESANG (@HonAllanChesang) July 8, 2023
Also joining in offering their ondolences was Kenyan Sen. Allan Chesang, who praised Chebet for his humility. “We will always remember his victories. He was a blessing to our Nation during his life. He served diligently and humbly as an officer in the Police force. His contribution to our nation will endure forever in our Hearts,” Chesang tweeted Friday.
Following his retirement from running, Chebet took up farming in the Kenyan town of Kapyego.