Chris Koch: Running* Through the Decades

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It’s ALL about the stories beyond the finish line. And after 60 years, there are many. We are celebrating six decades of extraordinary impact through the eyes of finishers whose lives forever changed because of The Power of Run. 

Meet Chris Koch, the first ever Calgary Marathon participant to finish the race using a longboard as his mobility device. He has since gone on to use his message of determination to fuel a career in motivational speaking.

When Chris Koch first started using his longboard (which is a longer than a normal skateboard) as his primary mobility aid, he couldn’t help but ask the question “how far can I actually go?” Turns out, Chris can go further than most ever dare. To date, Chris Koch has successfully completed 15 marathons, racing all over Canada, the United States and as far away as Ireland, Iceland and the United Arab of Emirates. “The Calgary Marathon will always hold a very special place in my heart and be my favourite marathon, since it was both my first and my home marathon,” explains Chris. 

Chris Koch crossing the finish line on his long board at the 52nd Calgary Marathon in 2016.

Prior to successfully completed the Calgary Marathon for the first time, Chris was turned away from the LA Marathon in 2017. He had registered as a wheelchair participant in the LA event and decided to give the organizers a courtesy email that he would be using a longboard instead of a wheelchair to complete the race; however, he was denied entry.

Chris was born missing both arms and both legs, so using a wheelchair isn’t possible. On his right side he has a partially developed leg which goes to about knee length and a partially developed foot which he uses to propel and stop his longboard. 

A Calgary media outlet picked up Chris’ story and contacted the Run Calgary office to understand The Calgary Marathon’s accessibility policies. When the interview aired, Chris learned that Run Calgary has adaptive athlete policies, and any special considerations are reviewed on a case to case basis in an effort to be as inclusive as possible. He requested entry to The Calgary Marathon and worked with the staff to ensure both his safety and the safety of the participants around him was taken into consideration and successfully completed 42.2 km in 4:23:12. “It got the ball rolling on something that has become one of my most important yearly goals and accomplishments,” shared Chris. 

Chris grew up around agriculture in Nanton, Alberta, and still works on the farm to this day, however, his main job is motivational speaking which takes him to every corner of the globe. His theme, which resonates with audiences in the corporate world as well as kids’ classrooms, is simple and effective: “If I can…”

Chris explains, “if a guy with no arms and no legs can do the things I am able to do such as complete marathons, work on the farm and travel the world, then you too can do some pretty incredible things if you try.” He adds, “it’s all about being grateful for what you have instead of worrying about what you don’t have. It’s a mindset!”

Since he did his first marathon in Calgary in 2016, he has done at least one marathon each year and presents at many of the events he attends, encouraging other participants to push themselves and take themselves out of their comfort zone. “It’s also been a great excuse to keep myself in shape and constantly be pushing myself,” says Chris, adding, “I want to make sure I’m not just talking a big talk, but leading by example.”

Chris Koch completing the Dublin Marathon in 2022.

Just like most able-bodied marathoners who are constantly trying to improve their finishing times, Chris is always chasing a PB (Edmonton Marathon in 2019 with a time of 3:54:13 is his current personal record). More than that, Chris is striving to show people who have disabilities that doing a marathon is an option. “It might not necessarily be running, it could be using a wheelchair or a handcycle or, as in my case, a longboard, the key is getting yourself over that finish line and being proud of that achievement,” shares Chris. He goes on to say, “I also love that I can show people who don’t have disabilities and are able-bodied that literally, anyone can do a marathon. In the instance of a person with all four limbs, they might not be doing a marathon in an elite runner’s time. It might be five or even six-plus hours, but again it’s about crossing the finish line.” 

Chris is currently in training for an upcoming marathon on April 13 in Lexington Kentucky. He is waiting to hear back on whether he will be permitted to participate using his longboard in two bucket list races later this year, after connecting with race officials at the Noosa, Australia marathon and the New York Marathon. GO CHRIS GO!

Chris Koch photographed with Run Calgary Executive Director, and friend, Kirsten Fleming.

Stay tuned for more stories from six decades of running!

Do you know someone with a remarkable Calgary Marathon to share? Send us an email at marketing@calgarymarathon.com

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