Chris Koch, born without arms or legs, has the life of a motivational speaker: endless days on the road, numerous presentations and living out of a suitcase. But it’s all worth it if he can inspire others to challenge themselves.
“Physical limitations–you’re able to overcome them. It’s just a matter of getting inside your head and saying, ‘yeah, I can do this.'”
After trying prosthetics and a wheelchair, he finally settled on a longboard–with neon green wheels–as his mobility device.
“It’s way easier. I can get farther, faster more efficiently on the longboard than my artificial legs.”
But this year, Koch’s trusty sidekick became a sticking point for the hugely popular L.A. Marathon.
Koch had planned on participating in the half marathon on Valentine’s Day with his girlfriend, but organizers said his longboard was a safety issue. Organizers said their rules were in line with “other large marathons that do not permit skateboards on the marathon course” in a past statement.
“They said if they let me do the marathon with a longboard, then they would have to allow people to take their selfie sticks or stuffed giraffe for emotional support.”
Koch started a petition that collected nearly 17,000 signatures, but in the end, it wasn’t enough.
“Behind closed doors, I was pretty frustrated…pretty angered by it.”
Koch and his girlfriend ended up completing the more than 20 kilometres on their own Feb. 14, and raised money for the clean water initiative in Zambia.
Back in Calgary and weeks later the decision still doesn’t sit well with Koch, but he has found a marathon that will accept his longboard.
His plight reached the attention of the Scotiabank Calgary Marathon.
“I think his aspirations to push himself demonstrate that nobody should not be challenging themselves in their lives. And his perceived limits? He’s pushing them all the time and I think it’s really inspirational and he’s going to inspire a lot of people on race day,” said Kirsten Fleming, the marathon’s executive director.
There were some factors for Calgary marathon organizers to consider, like speed and visibility, but Fleming agreed they’re manageable.
“We have policies in place to ensure the safety of all participants, of course, but we recognize not all policies fit every situation. Upon meeting with Koch we realized we could work together to get him safely across the finish line.”
And this victory has only made Koch more determined to see his original goal through.
“I don’t just want to roll over and take ‘no’ for an answer,” he said.
“The Calgary Marathon is happy to accommodate and I’ll do the full marathon and take that back to the L.A. Marathon organizers and say, ‘see, this is not that big of a deal.”‘
The Scotiabank Calgary Marathon takes place May 29.
Watch below: Tracy Nagai’s original story on Chris Koch’s petition to compete in the L.A. Marathon