When the New Year or a birthday rolls around, the idea of making a bucket list inevitably crosses one’s mind from time to time. Like any normal person, I’m guilty of making a lofty list of goals and resolutions that I will soon forget about the next day. English teacher Kyle Chapman, however, broke that status quo. The teacher-coach-athlete extraordinaire sat down on his 49th birthday this summer and created the ultimate bucket list of things to do before turning 50. First order of business? Run a marathon.
The only race that Mr. Chapman had previously run was the Hartford Half Marathon in 2019. While Mr. Chapman has gone on runs in his free time for the past eight years, it has never been his favorite activity. “I’m not someone who gets to the end of a run and goes ‘Ah, I love running!’” he laughed. “It is work the entire time, but I like how it keeps me in shape.”
Mr. Chapman decided to take this hobby to new heights and put his mental and physical abilities to the test by running a marathon. On Oct. 8, Mr. Chapman ran the Hartford Marathon, completing the grueling 26.2-mile race from Hartford to Windsor and back again.
When Mr. Chapman set his goal of running the marathon, he followed an online training program that fit his timeline and stuck to it. “I think I’m a bit like a machine,” he said. “Once I set my mind to something, I’m really focused on that one goal, almost too focused. That’s helped me a lot because I’ve never strayed from the training when I was tired or not feeling good.”
In the days leading up to his race, Mr. Chapman saw this mindset as a positive and motivating factor that would help him withstand the marathon. “That’s how I feel I’m going to get through the race,” he added. “I already committed to this, I’m running it, so in those tough moments that competitive nature is going to get me through.”
The process of training for the marathon, learning what works for him as an athlete, and developing a strong mentality was one that Mr. Chapman felt to be very rewarding and fun. “The best part is the mental aspect of it,” he said. “There have been so many challenges in training, and I have to figure out how to overcome those challenges,” he shared. “The most fun part is when something doesn’t go very well and I get to make sure that it doesn’t happen the next time I run.”
Despite the countless hours of training and preparation for the marathon, there was an even greater motivation that brought Mr. Chapman to the finish line. The night before the race, Mr. Chapman FaceTimed with his father. “My dad has had a really rough couple of years,” Mr. Chapman shared. “He’s had a few strokes, and he’s just been up against it.” Mr. Chapman’s father’s proud disposition on the FaceTime call and the perseverance he has shown in life were major motivators during his race. “I just kept thinking about all of the things he’s gone through in the past couple years,” he said, “and how, if he can do that, then I can do this; I’m just running a race. That really kept me motivated.”
A blissful marathon morning got Mr. Chapman started on the right foot. “The weather was perfect, the vibe was fantastic, and I was really excited to run,” Mr. Chapman recalled. “It was just a great atmosphere. My family was there, and I felt like everything was going to go well; for most of the race, it did.” While Mr. Chapman set the goal of completing the marathon in less than four hours, he entered the marathon intending to enjoy the race and have fun throughout the journey.
The first 13 miles of the race were smooth sailing for Mr. Chapman, and seeing his family at the halfway mark energized him to push forward. “Even when I got to 19, 20 miles, I was feeling so good that I felt like I could run another marathon,” Mr. Chapman said. However, as is expected with a marathon, to reach the finish line, Mr. Chapman had to prove his mettle. He faced a major challenge to his pacing at mile 20, which he attributes to some oversights in hydration and nutrition. “I drank too much Vitamin Water instead of regular water, and my stomach started to turn,” he said. “I was feeling very nauseous, and it was very difficult to finish the last six miles of the race. My mile time went from averaging somewhere around an eight-minute mile to a 10 or 11 minute mile. That caused me to miss my goal by four minutes which was a little disappointing.”
While Mr. Chapman did not feel at his physical peak after the race, his emotions were high, and he was very proud of his perseverance and hard work in training. “The reason I finished the race is because I knew my family was there at the end and I wanted to make it to them,” he shared. Looking ahead, Mr. Chapman is eager to run another marathon, but this time in a new city. “I’m really interested in running New York next year,” Mr. Chapman said. “It goes through the five boroughs, and you go over all of the bridges, so it would be fun to try.”
Mr. Chapman hopes to emphasize proper nutrition and be intentional with how he fuels his body for the next marathon he tackles. “While part of running for that long is the running aspect, the more important part is nutrition,” he said. “I don’t think I was careful enough. Until you do it, you don’t really know how quickly it can turn. I went from feeling like I could run another marathon to feeling like I was dying.” Mr. Chapman also shared that he aims to start training earlier for his next marathon to leave ample recovery time in case of any injuries along the way.
Reflecting on the Hartford Marathon, Mr. Chapman acknowledged the magnitude of the race and its powerful mental and physical impact. “It’s the hardest thing in the world that I’ve ever done,” he said. “It’s the most amazing test of your physical and mental strength that you could possibly do, and if you ever wanted that kind of test, a marathon is perfect. If it was 20 miles long, it would have been totally different, but the fact that it’s 26 makes it really difficult.”
The next item on Mr. Chapman’s bucket list is to overcome his fear of heights by doing a hot air balloon ride with his family. “I get paralyzed at heights,” he said, “so it’s going to be very difficult for me, but that’s the next thing I’m trying to do.” When asked what inspired him to create his bucket list, Mr. Chapman said, “I just want to keep living.”
A message he wants to send to his children and those around him is that it is so important to take risks and follow your passions, and not spend time waiting. “Life is short, and you’re not getting any time back; it’s all ticking away,” he said. “Life goes by, so you should just get out there, do what you want to do, and live life.”