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Without arms or legs but plenty of heart: Chris Koch gets set for first marathon

Chris Koch, 37, was born without arms or legs and will be competing at Sunday's Calgary marathon on a longboard.

Chris Koch

Chris Koch, 37, will be checking off a bucket list item at Calgary race weekend by starting his first-ever official marathon on May 29. Unlike most runners, however, Koch will be on a longboard as he was born without arms or legs.

“I have a partial right leg that I use to propel myself as I sit on the longboard,” says Koch. “I’m going to have someone on a bike ahead of me to help pace. Going downhill I will regulate my speed and on the uphills I will be working a bit harder.”

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Koch wears a custom-made moccasin, with a sole similar to a rubber Vibram, on his right leg to act as an intervening layer between him and the asphalt. The Nanton, Alta. native says that his training is similar to most other runners in that he’s built up to race day averaging up to 120K per week and will cut back mileage considerably, a process known as a taper.

He supplements longboard training with resistance band work, stairs, and other forms of cross-training. On Wednesday, for example, four days out from the Calgary marathon, he focused on stair repeats.

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Koch had planned to do the Los Angeles Marathon with his girlfriend Ally on Valentine’s Day, their anniversary, but was not permitted to compete because of his longboard. Koch and his girlfriend Ally unofficially did a half-marathon instead as part of a two-person marathon relay.

Kirsten Fleming, the race director for the Calgary marathon, caught wind of the news and invited Koch to the May event after it was apparent that he could complete the marathon. He has run other road races before, from the 5K up to the half-marathon.

His situation for Calgary was considered on a case-by-case basis unlike the California race. Koch is currently in Washington, D.C., where he’ll be until Friday, spending time with Ally in the lead-up to Sunday’s race day.

Koch is a farmer when he’s not travelling the world doing motivational speaking engagements.

#Harvest2015 in #Saskatchewan. Driving #graincart today. #ifican #harvest @johndeereequipment @johndeerepics

A photo posted by Chris Koch (@ifican.chriskoch) on

The 37-year-old will be running for Inn From the Cold, a Calgary-based organization that provides assistance to homeless families. Koch hopes to raise $10,000 for the charity and emphasized the importance of the charity following the wildfires of Fort McMurray where thousands of families were displaced.

Koch was featured on Super Soul Sunday with Oprah Winfrey in 2014, which can be seen below:

Calgary’s half-marathon will also serve as the Canadian championships in the event. Race weekend, which runs from May 26-29, includes distances from 5K up to 50K.