HEADS turned as runners and onlookers spotted a limbless participant at the Standard Chartered Kuala Lumpur Marathon on Sunday. With a longboard, Canadian Chris Koch, 40, propelled himself 42.2km to the finish line of the full marathon.
His is a story of defying the odds.
“I was born without arms and legs,” said the farmer-cum-inspirational speaker who has travelled to more than 20 countries to motivate people.
“My grandma didn’t hesitate for a second to point out the fact that (my father) Bruce never did finish anything he started.”
His grandma’s quirky sense of humour set the tone for the rest of Koch’s life.
“The whole idea of being humorous was instilled by my grandma.
“She is a twisted woman with an amazing sense of humour,” he joked.
“Her reaction was not like: ‘Oh my goodness, what are we going to do? This is a tragedy.’ But instead, her reaction was: ‘It is what it is, everything’s going to be fine. We will figure this out and we are going to have a good laugh along the way’.”
Koch now travels as a motivational speaker to share his story and his “If I can” motto when he is not working on a farm in Nanton in the Canadian province of Alberta.
Koch, who was at the International School of Kuala Lumpur (ISKL) shared his motivational story with the students there along with the other speakers, under the YoungLeader.World (YLW), a Canadian-based non-profit organisation which aimed for ‘personal growth and collective good.’
“If I can surf, go kayaking, work on a farm and travel solo without limbs, I think anybody can do anything.”
Koch finds using humour to be a great icebreaker.
Whenever Koch checks in for a flight, he would be asked if he preferred a seat close to the front of the plane for easier entry and exit.
“I would reply: ‘It’s fine, as long as there’s plenty of leg room’.
“Then you can see that panic in their eyes, and also the humour.
“I never knew what’s like to have arms and legs.
“You just figured out how to do things, like you learn how to crawl, walk and everything else pretty naturally.
“Very early on, my parents stepped back and let me figure it out myself, and it’s really hard for them to just not step in and help out but that taught me to be resilient.”
Perspective in life is important, he pointed out.
“I don’t see setbacks as huge barriers but a great opportunity to really make a difference,” Koch said.
He remembers the uneasy feeling of wearing prosthetic arms.
“I remember as a child being sat down in the office because I wouldn’t wear my prosthetic arms at school as it was uncomfortable and heavy.
“Also, I don’t think I realised I was missing arms and legs.”
His courage comes from him accepting his condition.
“In my opinion, the biggest strength and the greatest barrier that we have is our mindset,” Koch said.