A sunset behind the Puente de los Tirantes in Pontevedra, Spain.

Sad Sports Day: Remembering Super Bowl LVIII and Kelvin Kiptum

As I eagerly anticipated Super Bowl LVIII, excitement coursed through me at the thought of witnessing a rematch between the San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs, the teams that clashed in Super Bowl LIV. As a devoted fan of the 49ers, I longed for redemption after their defeat in the previous Super Bowl. With a roster reloaded with talent, including standout players like Brock Purdy and Christian McCaffrey, I harbored high hopes for their victory.

Just hours prior, I found myself conducting a Stanford alumni interview with a prospective student, reflecting on the presence of three Stanford alumni in the Super Bowl, including Christian McCaffrey. Memories flooded back as I recalled that the last time the 49ers clinched a Super Bowl victory, I was a sophomore at Stanford—an astonishing 29 years ago.

Then, despite being thousands of miles away in Spain, I eagerly prepared to stream the American broadcast of the game and commercials on the TV (for 1€ using the NFL-approved DAZN sports app), ensuring I could experience the excitement of the event in its entirety. Yet, as kickoff approached, a somber message from my Spanish friend Antxon shattered the anticipation.

“Increíble 😞,” Antxon wrote.

News of Kelvin Kiptum’s tragic death in a car crash alongside his coach Gervais Hakizimana left me, as they say in Spain, “en shock.” Kiptum, already a bona fide star in the world of marathoning despite his young age of 24 and mere one year of racing the 26.2-mile distance, had recently set a world record time that was ratified just days ago. His untimely demise was a devastating blow to the athletic community. Kiptum was humankind’s singular hope of breaking the two-hour barrier of an record-eligible marathon in the immediate future. His passing also altered my potential April plans—I was seriously considering flying to the Netherlands to watch his planned attempt to run sub-2 in the Rotterdam Marathon in person, just like I did for Eliud Kipchoge’s unofficial “exhibition event.”

With a heavy heart, I watched as the game unfolded in the wee hours of the morning due to the eight-hour time zone difference. As Andrea was sleeping due to having a 24-hour shift in the emergency room the next day, I joined friends from Fort Collins on a Google Meet videoconference who were also watching the game.

A valiant back-and-forth battle between the Niners and the Chiefs mirrored the turmoil within me. The Niners, my beloved team, clawed their way up, only to be met with the Chiefs’ relentless responses. Every touchdown, every field goal, every critical stop, a rollercoaster of emotions.

Purdy, the “Mr. Irrelevant” last-pick-of-the-2022-draft-turned-MVP-finalist, orchestrated three consecutive go-ahead drives, bringing the Niners to the brink of victory. But in the final minutes of overtime, Patrick “Kermit” Mahomes, the Michael Jordan of American Football, turned the game on its head once more with his arms and legs. He conjured a game-winning touchdown with only three seconds remaining. The Chiefs triumphed, securing their third Super Bowl in five years.

The disappointment of the 49ers’ loss was compounded by the playful taunting from my friends in Fort Collins, who reveled in predicting my reactions to the game’s twists and turns. They could do so with 100% accuracy since there was a lag between my streaming platform and their live TV.


The next day, I sought solace in running, dedicating it to Kiptum. I started slow, but an encounter at KM 14 with a runner who blazed past at something like 3:30/km pace (5:38/mile) sparked a competitive fire. Pushing myself, I completed a half-marathon in a decent-for-a-training-run 1:47:50, yet humbled (but inspired) by Kiptum’s world record pace. I continued for almost 13 more minutes to reach Kiptum’s magical marathon time, then marveled at how he had run 26.2 miles (42.2 km) in 2:00:35 while I had run just 23.7 kilometers.


As I encroached upon my limits during the run, astonished at Kiptum’s incredible feat, I reflected on the bittersweet nature of the day. While Chiefs fans celebrated their team’s victory—which also was fitting for the real-life “Love Story” between All-Pro tight end, future Hall of Famer Travis Kelce and the world’s most eligible pop star, Time Magazine’s Person of the Year, Taylor Swift—I couldn’t help but yearn for the day when the 49ers would return to the Super Bowl and emerge triumphant once more.

While Super Bowl LVIII wasn’t the fairytale ending I craved, it was a night of stark contrasts. The thrill of the game intertwined with the suddenness of loss, a reminder that life’s joys and sorrows often coexist.

But who knows, maybe in the upcoming years, the stars will align for both the Niners and an official sub-2 marathon—a true double victory for a bittersweet fan’s heart. Until then, I carry the memories of Super Bowl LVIII and the indomitable spirit of Kelvin Kiptum, a reminder of the fragility and resilience inherent in the world of sports.

A sunset behind the Puente de los Tirantes in Pontevedra, Spain.
A sunset behind the Puente de los Tirantes in Pontevedra, Spain.