By Michael Sudhalter
Scott Kline graduated from Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1985, but later this fall, he’ll return to the Nutmeg State to accomplish something arguably even more challenging than earning an Ivy League degree.
At age 60, Kline is on course to complete a marathon — yes, the 26.2 road race — in each of the 50 United States.
Kline recently completed #46 (Rhode Island) in early May and estimates he’ll have traveled 100,000 miles by the time he completes the project in October.
Even more impressive, Kline has completed 45 of the 46 marathons since 2013. He had a 26-year-hiatus between his first marathon — the 1987 Boston Marathon when he was a Harvard Law School student — to his second one, in 2013, at the Hoover Dam outside Las Vegas.
Kline, his wife, Michele (whom he met at Yale), two sons, a daughter and a daughter-in-law, have been active at Temple Emanu-El in Dallas.
Kline credits his Jewish faith and heritage with inspiring and motivating him on his marathon project.
“More than anything, I think it’s inspired me to not quit,” Kline said. “Being Jewish, you experience so much adversity, you experience antisemitism or people not understanding your religion. You have to persevere. And that is a good lesson in running as well.”
When Kline was around 50 years old, he retired from his job as an attorney to spend more time with his youngest son, Andrew, who was 10 years old at the time.
“But when I was in school during the day, I think my dad was lonely,” said Andrew, who is now a sophomore at SMU. “He thought marathon training would be something he could do on his own to be healthy for several hours a day.”
Kline originally signed up for the 2013 Dallas Marathon, but an ice storm canceled it. So, he set out for the Hoover Dam race, which has spurred the current project.
Kline knew that he’d have to adjust his training, given his current age.
“I learned that most marathon training programs are for people preparing to do one race,” Kline said. “I had to adapt a training program and use each marathon as preparation for the next one. I’ve used cryotherapy and maintained a good diet, but I know I can’t run 100 miles per week. As you get older, you run a little less and do a lot more strength training.”
Kline has run a total of 54 marathons and 150 half-marathons. One of his most challenging marathons took place in scenic Maui, Hawaii, for State #43 last January. While many people visit Maui for leisure, it was anything but for Kline.
Halfway through the marathon, he experienced severe foot pain on a course without medical support. He hobbled for the final 13 miles and, upon returning to Dallas, he learned he had a complete oblique transverse fracture.
Kline’s ability to finish the race defied any medical explanation, but he managed to bounce back and continue marathons.
“I don’t think of myself as particularly tough or driven, but I have overcome a lot of bad circumstances,” Kline said. “The fractured foot may have been the most extreme example, but lots of weird things have happened along the way.”
Kline was born and raised in San Antonio, graduating fifth in the Class of 1981 at Churchill High School.
If you look up any UIL Cross Country Statistics from the late 1970s and early 1980s, you won’t find his name.
“I was way too slow to be an athlete at my high school,” Kline said. “I played tennis for a while. I’m not very fast, but I’m persistent.”
Kline picked up an interest in running while studying political science and economics at Yale, where one of his classmates was Academy Award–winning actress Jodie Foster.
“She was incredibly gracious and nice to people, even though she was very famous by that point,” Kline said.
Upon graduation, Kline was accepted to Harvard Law School and moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, to enroll there.
“I’m definitely a Yalie all the way through,” Kline said.
One of Kline’s classmates at Harvard Law was Michelle Obama, who became the first lady of the United States from 2009 to 2017. They were in the same study group.
“She was very quiet, but obviously, very smart,” Kline said. “I thought she was a very elegant person and always very on point.”
Kline returned to Texas shortly after law school. He practiced business law and intellectual property law and later ran a technology company.
One of his assignments was to navigate the intellectual property of airport kiosks, which was complicated especially at a time when technology hadn’t evolved to where it is now.
Speaking of airports, Kline is spending a lot of time in them these days.
Since Rhode Island is now complete, he’s set his sights on Alaska in June.
“You can’t run there in the winter,” Kline said.
After that, he’ll return to his old New England stomping grounds of New Hampshire, Maine and Connecticut for the final trio of marathons, with the finale being the Hartford Marathon in October.
“With this being a 10-year-process, my wife asked me about my next project,” Kline said.
Kline already has it in the queue — the World Marathon Majors — which is a set of six races: Boston, Chicago, New York, Berlin, London and Tokyo. He’d also love to do the Jerusalem Marathon.
Returning to Boston would be a fitting final marathon for Kline.
“What they call ‘Heartbreak Hill’ is actually a series of hills,” Kline said. “After you’ve run 17 miles, it’s hard to run uphill.”
Kline said the prettiest race he’s done was Big Sur, on the Pacific Ocean coast of California, and the most emotional one was the Marine Corps Marathon in the Washington, D.C., area.
“It was pouring rain, and there were 50,000 Marines along the course cheering you on,” Kline said.