Runner who lost feet to frostbite completes first marathon

A former University of Alaska Anchorage runner who lost both of his feet to frostbite in 2011 ran his first marathon and became an American citizen last week.

Former University of Alaska Anchorage runner Marko Cheseto finished 613 out of 53,000 runners in NYC Marathon

In this May 31, 2013 photo, Marko Cheseto crosses the finish line on his new carbon-fiber running blades at the Skinny Mini 6K race in Anchorage, Alaska. (The Associated Press)

A former University of Alaska Anchorage runner who lost both of his feet to frostbite in 2011 ran his first marathon and became an American citizen last week.

Marko Cheseto, 35, finished 613th overall out of nearly 53,000 runners at the New York City Marathon, the Anchorage Daily News reported Sunday. Two days later he became a U.S. citizen.

Cheseto, who is from Kenya, went to Anchorage in 2008 on an athletic scholarship, quickly earning honours in track and cross country.

Grieving the death of another Anchorage runner from Kenya, Cheseto disappeared in the woods near campus in November 2011 — his senior year of school. Temperatures dipped to single digits, and it snowed more than a foot.

10 minutes shy of world record

On the third day he was missing, Cheseto stumbled back with his shoes frozen to his feet, resulting in amputations.

Fitted with a pair of running blades, Cheseto began running again 18 months later. He graduated from the university, got married and had three children. He remained in Anchorage until his move to Orlando, Fla., earlier this year to work and train at Prosthetic & Orthotic Associates.

Cheseto finished the marathon last week in two hours, 52 minutes, 33 seconds — about 10 minutes off the world record for a double-leg amputee.

"I was happy with my time," Cheseto said. "My biggest challenge was going over the bridges, and sharp inclines. (It) is not an easy course running with blades, the last 0.2 was the hardest, after crossing Mile 26 mark, I was so ready to be done and I couldn't see the finish line."

Cheseto said one of his goals "is to run with elites in one of the major marathons." He's also aiming for marathon time under two hours and 10 minutes.

Stan Patterson, the head prosthetist at Prosthetic & Orthotic Associates, said he believes the goal is achievable.

"The ultimate goal is to break the overall world record and finish a marathon in less than two hours. We believe that Marko is the man to do it," Patterson said.