Marko Cheseto, a double amputee, placed 483rd at the recently concluded Boston Marathon. He finished the race in 2:42:24, besting his previous record at a 2018 New York marathon by 10 minutes. Cheseto ran at a 6:12-minute mile pace while wearing a prosthesis he helped design.
Starting in 2020, the Boston Athletic Association (BAA) will open an initiative for para-athletes. The 124th Boston Marathon will feature three new categories for para-athletes: vision, upper-limb, and lower-limb impairments. According to BAA para-athletics manager Marla Runyan, the 2020 initiative aims to provide para-athletes more recognition for their achievements.
A College Career, Ruined
In 2008, Cheseto arrived in the US from Kenya to run for the University of Alaska Anchorage. Due to Cheseto's consistent exemplary performance, he found himself on the road to becoming one of the fastest sprinters in the history of the university's athletics program.
However, in November 2011, Cheseto’s life changed. Driven by immense grief at the news of losing his cousin and teammate’s life to suicide, he disappeared. For 55 hours, a search and rescue operation tried to locate him until he appeared at a hotel. While Cheseto survived the single-digit weather, his feet didn’t. The complications presented by the frostbite forced the doctors to amputate his feet.
Cheseto’s recovery after the amputation was remarkable. Only three weeks after the surgery, he began walking on prosthetic legs. After a few months, he experimented with jogging. While the experience wasn’t the same for the long-time athlete, Cheseto realized that he still had another chance to revive his running career.
Learning to Run Again
His love for the sport helped him cope with limb loss. As an athlete, Cheseto learned to always pick himself up after a fall. Learning to run again on artificial limbs helped him find himself.
Cheseto met Brooke Raasch, Global Creative Director at Össur, a globally-recognized prosthetics company, and husband of Sarah Reinertsen, an American para-triathlete and former Paralympic track athlete. Back then, Raasch encouraged Cheseto to try a new prosthesis that could improve his running.
Raasch was also instrumental in Cheseto’s grant application to the Challenged Athletes Foundation. Through the foundation, Cheseto received his first pair of Flex-Run blades which are specifically designed for distance running. Just 18 months after his amputation, Cheseto marked his first 100-meter sprint while wearing artificial legs.
Empowered by his new blades, he resumed training to represent Kenya at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio. However, he never got to compete as the Kenyan government withdrew the team’s funding just before their trip to the qualifying rounds.
Despite this setback, Cheseto was determined to pursue running. In December 2017, he decided to challenge himself more by choosing to train for long-distance running, instead of sprinting.
He marked his first half-marathon in the Anchorage RunFest in August 2018. He finished the race at 10th place with a time of 1:26:55.
A Future in Long-Distance Running
In November 2018, just a few months after running a half-marathon, Cheseto joined his first-ever marathon in New York. The race put his perseverance and will to navigate tricky terrains on carbon-fiber blades to the test.
The first challenge was New York’s terrain, specifically the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. While the other athletes can easily adjust their feet and form to adapt to different kinds of terrain, Cheseto, in his prosthetic legs, needed to calculate his steps to maintain his balance.
He encountered his second challenge when another athlete ran into his blade. Cheseto fell onto the asphalt. Despite the painful road rash, he picked himself up and finished the race.
His inspiring performance inspired Runyan to invite him to run in Boston.
As of this writing, Cheseto’s goal is to compete at the Olympic Games marathon because the Paralympics doesn’t offer his category.
With his perseverance and grit, there is no doubt that Cheseto will break through categories and prove that adaptive athletes are extremely capable.What do you think about Cheseto’s performance at Boston? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.