Last weekend we said goodbye to Tyler Kulp, father, husband, musician, and brother of my friend Sayre. The 27 year old was killed in an automobile accident on May 3. There will be others who will write about Tyler’s musical gifts, or the wife and child he leaves behind, or the many lives he impacted – I refer you to the obituary notice in the Reading Eagle for that information. I want to focus on on the lives he touched through helping one man – that being his brother, and his role in Sayre’s transformation from a 430 pound man who saw his life circling the drain to an athlete.
The Reading Eagle ran a profile on Sayre and his weight loss in November 2010. Reading is one of the largest cities in Pennsylvania, and the Eagle is widely read, so Sayre’s life change was the talk of the town. In the article, Sayre’s little brother gets due credit for assisting in the transformation and teaching him a new sport. “His brother, Tyler Kulp, 25, of Muhlenberg Township, an ultramarathon runner, has been a big motivator, particularly when they work out together at Planet Fitness in Muhlenberg Township. “My brother said to me, ‘If you really want to keep with the weight loss you have to start running,’ ” [Sayre] said.”
In a post to Bikeforums.net Sayre expanded on the role his brother played: “In the early Spring of 2010, my brother (an avid runner) encouraged me to get into recreational running to help aid in my fitness goals. I ran my first 5k at an event called “Shiver by the River”. The name was appropriate …. I am proud to say that I finished the race (not in last place, either!) My time was just ahead of my brother’s finish time for the 10k event.”
To put this into perspective, Sayre’s weight loss had begun in October 2009 and at first the only exercise the 430 pound man was able to do was walk. He’d added cycling to the mix shortly after. The Shiver By The River series of running events takes place from December to March, and he already was being guided and taught running shortly after starting his journey.
Would Sayre have taken to running without his brother’s prodding and help? I don’t know. Fortunately we don’t have to think about what didn’t happen because it did happen. Still, one can speculate, and I’ll do just that.
Super-obesity isn’t just a number on a scale, its a way of seeing the world. Part of that life view for many super obese people is learned helplessness. Quite simply, you don’t think you can do things, so you don’t try. Having someone in your life who is both supportive and pushes you to do more and have new experiences helps the super-obese person to discover that they CAN take charge and change. In my case I made a friend at my gym who constantly pushed me to work out harder, and to stop thinking of myself as a 400 some pound guy. It seems to me for my friend Sayre his brother filled such a role.
And by helping his brother Tyler Kulp wound up helping many people indirectly. I’ve never met a recovering super-obese person who hasn’t wanted to help others starting where they did. Sayre has proved true to form, having given advice and training to others in person and online at Bikeforums.net and Fitocracy for years. This includes me, for Sayre advised me both on my short time running and my one bike race. (Let me add I took up running against medical wisdom, and my problems had nothing to do with Sayre’s advice.) So Tyler Kulp’s aid to his brother paid off for many people Tyler never met.
I was one of the fortunate people to have met Tyler. I’ve ridden on a bike ride from Pottstown to Reading and back with him, I’ve bowled with the Kulp brothers, and we’ve exchanged messages online. And I took photos at Sayre’s first 10K run, where Tyler ran to support him. Sayre had lost 150 pounds by then. The second photo was an attempt at a portrait of the Kulp brothers; I’d asked for them to be less stiff, and Sayre responded with the pose to the right. What Tyler thought of it we will never know. What we do know is his aid to his brother flows on in this world, and we are fortunate it does. Rest in peace Tyler.