Kenya has once again left a mark on the global stage. On Sunday, at the Gasparilla Distance Classic in Florida, Marko Cheseto became the first double amputee to run 21 kilometres in one hour, 16 minutes and 58 seconds.
Double amputee Marko Cheseto sets new world record
Read the story of how Cheseto lost his legs in 2011 due to frostbite
The 38-year-old, running on his prosthetic running blades, obliterated the previous record, 1:17:05 set by American Brian Reynolds in 2018.
Cheseto started the race at 6:00 a.m. feeling great, only to struggle intensely in the heat and humidity once the sun rose.
“I pushed harder than I ever have at the end of any race in my life,” he said after the race.
He added: “I said, 'Oh my gosh, I know I’m so close, I just can’t miss this today',” Cheseto narrated, “So I pushed so hard and I was struggling so much, but I just had to do it. I just had to.”
Frostbite almost ruined Marko Cheseto's career
In 2008, Cheseto moved from Kenya to join the University of Alaska Anchorage in the U.S. on a running scholarship.
In 2011, Cheseto’s cousin, William Ritekwiang joined him on the team, but died by suicide, a loss that sent Cheseto into a deep depression. One day, after taking an excess of anti-depressant medication, he went for a run in the snow.
He awoke three days later, his shoes frozen at his feet. The frostbite was so severe that he lost both legs below the knees.
In 2013, he received his first running prostheses from the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF). Running blades can cost Sh1.7 million each, and they need to be highly customised for each athlete to use.
World record after world record for Cheseto
Cheseto decided to try to qualify for the 2016 Paralympics in sprinting events, but that didn’t work out, so he shifted course to the marathon. His first was the 2018 New York Marathon, and his second was Boston in 2019.
Eight years after losing his legs, Cheseto set a world record for a marathon by a double amputee with a time of 2:42:24 at the 2019 Boston Marathon.
And then in 2021 at the New York Marathon, Cheseto beat his own record to hold the new world record for a marathon by a double amputee with a time of 2:35:55.
“When people see me running, I hope it inspires people. I think maybe if people see someone running with no feet, they might think. What’s my excuse?" the World Record holder concluded.