After a 24-year NHL career, no one would blame Zdeno Chara for taking some time off when he retired from professional hockey in 2022. Instead, the 46-year-old has jumped into a second athletic career–marathon running.
The legendary Boston Bruin and former Capital has run at least five long-distance races in the last eight months, most recently recording a time of 3:19:19 at the 2023 New York City Marathon.
Chara took part in his first-ever marathon this April when he ran the 2023 Boston Marathon in 3:38:23. Since then, he’s continued to improve, averaging a 7:37 pace in New York, and hopes to compete in major races across the globe.
“Thank you NYC Marathon and New Balance for hospitality and such a well organized marathon major,” Chara wrote on Instagram after the event. “Thank you to my pacers @beccapizzi and @sphyland for your amazing support 🙌🙌”
The 6-foot-9 former Norris Trophy winner didn’t go unnoticed in New York, where he spent five years of his career with the Islanders from 1997-2001 and 2021-22. A crowd of fans cheered him on from the sidelines, with one holding a “Go Big Z” sign in blue and orange.
GO BIG ZEE!!! pic.twitter.com/Ar0Cx9R8cn
— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) November 5, 2023
It may not be a typical retirement hobby, but Chara’s taken to running with the same skill and enthusiasm he once showed on the ice. Chara told the New York Post in September that he never slowed down after announcing his retirement in 2022, eventually channeling that energy into running.
“I kind of sustained the physical training,” he said. “I was adding to my running, getting higher mileage, getting higher bike distances. And then at one point, I knew that I would like to talk to somebody who is more experienced and somebody who would be able to put me on maybe more specific programs to reach some of the goals I set for myself.
“And obviously marathons was one of them. Some triathlons, Ironmans would also be in my vision.”
That training has paid off. Chara qualified for the 2023 Boston Marathon through the race’s charity program, where he raised money for the Thomas E. Smith Foundation and The Hoyt Foundation, but has since improved enough to get a spot by speed alone. He ran the Baystate Marathon in October in just 3:16:26, fast enough to earn his first Boston Marathon qualifying time (”BQ”) for the 2025 race.
In an interview with The US Sun, Chara described the differences between marathon preparation and his former NHL training.
“It’s a shift. The training for hockey is a lot more intense,” he explained.
“So for me to do this change from a speedy, explosive sport to something that is more about consistency and holding a comfortable pace, it was different. But it’s a good fit for me at my age not to be hustling and chasing some crazy times but completing these races and feeling strong.”
Chara later noted that his next goal is to run the London Marathon, which takes place in April, but that he someday wants to compete in the major races in Tokyo, Berlin, and Chicago.
“It’s something cool to complete all the majors all around the world, and experience different countries and seasons for running.”
RMNB is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
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