Mr. Chris Bultman, a high school teacher at IMSA North, sat down with Mr. Isch for a brief interview during May of 2022, which appears below.
What is it like to run a 100 mile marathon?
Painful. Running a hundred miles takes a long time (it took me over 22 hours!) so you experience a lot of different emotions throughout the day. Sometimes you’re in a really good place, riding high on the endorphins. Other times, you feel horrible and would rather be anywhere else. In those moments, you have to return to the reason you're there. You want to try your best at something incredibly difficult, find out what kind of person you are. Eventually, the low moments pass, and you realize you can make it through.
More concretely, it’s also quite the banquet. You burn loads of calories over the race so you spend pretty much the entire day eating and drinking. It’s one of the only times I feel good drinking soda and eating candy. Just get the calories in. Oh, and the culture among ultra-runners is amazing. You’re all in this really tough event together, so everyone is really encouraging and friendly. You might be in the worst pain of your life at mile 70, but when you cross another runner, you’re going to smile and give out a cheer of encouragement.
You seem comfortable with taking on new challenges and setting ambitious goals. How has your background in mathematics contributed to your growth mindset?
Some people think there are these magical beings called “natural math people”, individuals who were just born getting math. These people supposedly know the subject without any formal education. A lifetime of studying mathematics, and a couple years of teaching the subject has shown me that that idea is kind of a myth.
There are no natural math people. Whether you’re Einstein or just your average Joe, everyone needs to put in effort to learn. That sounds pessimistic, but the cool thing about this truth is that it means anyone can become a math person. If you believe in yourself and are willing to put in the work you can learn anything from addition, to ratios, to the most complicated differential equations. Like with running, some of us will be a little faster than others, but everyone can reach the finish line if they do the work.
My education and competitive spirit reified this truth. Choose an impossible goal and hold on tight. One day you can reach it.
How can IMSA North families encourage and support their students' learning in math?
Math is way more like a sport than you might think. Becoming a pro takes practice, grit, and an insatiable desire to be your best self. Kids need to understand that; they need to realize that they will need to put in the work. If math is a challenge, they can always find useful tutorials online—just turn to YouTube or Khan Academy. If school is easy for them, then they are doing it wrong. They should seek other opportunities to practice their skills and get prepared. This is easy with the internet. MIT released an entire bachelor’s degree worth of math classes online for free. A motivated student could exit high school way over-prepared for college. And this is SO worth it. Students who excel in math perform better in other subjects, make more money over their lifetime, and are prepared to succeed in this digital age when tech is king.
Is there anything else you would like to share with IMSA North families?
You can do so much more than you think you can, but it’s going to be harder than you might expect. If you want to get the most out of life, choose a moon-shot goal and go for it. Along the way, make sure you’re hammering in those math skills. No matter who you are, you’ll find yourself better adapted to the problems you face, if you’ve got your math facts down. Oh and if you want to run a 100 mile race yourself, check out the Indiana Trail 100. You won’t be able to find a more friendly community or a better prepared course.