Spirit In Motion
MOST PEOPLE STRUGGLE TO FINISH A 30-minute session on an elliptical machine, so imagine the determination and pain involved with training for a competition that requires swimming half a mile, biking 12.5 miles, and running three miles.
Chris Marston ’03 trains for this type of event every day. And he competes at a championship level with a caveat—he does so with cerebral palsy.
The Virginia Tech alum, who graduated from the Charles E. Via Jr. Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, overcame physical impairments and the grueling nature of his sport when he won the national championship for his classification at the Toyota USA Paratriathlon National Championships held July 18 in Alamitos Beach, California.
“I had the butterflies and the stress, and I was pleasantly surprised,” Marston said. “But it was not totally unexpected. I had been forewarned by people that I had been talking with, and they told me, ‘There is a lot of distance between you and everyone else in your class.’
“Seeing them [race officials] pull the banner across at the finish line, it felt very good, and at that point, I knew that I had won.”
The win capped a stunning rise to prominence as a paratriathlete—a journey he started just two years ago.
I enjoy the competition. I am a competitive person. I grew up in a competitive family. Being competitive is in my nature, but I also do like showing that people that have strokes, people that have cerebral palsy or other things, that we’re capable of doing things, too.”
Virginia Tech alum
In 2019, Marston attended a Paratriathlon Talent Identification Camp at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs and fared well, but while undergoing a physical to prepare, he learned from his physician about hemiplegia, a form of cerebral palsy—the first time he had heard cerebral palsy associated with his health.
Regardless, Marston, an assistant bridge engineer in Virginia for the Federal Highway Administration, refuses to use the condition as an excuse. Instead, cerebral palsy motivates him.
“I enjoy the competition,” Marston said. “I am a competitive person. I grew up in a competitive family. Being competitive is in my nature, but I also do like showing that people that have strokes, people that have cerebral palsy or other things, that we’re capable of doing things, too.”
Looking ahead, Marston hopes to earn a spot on USA Triathlon’s development team to be announced later this year, with the dream of securing a place on the U.S. Paralympic team that will compete in Paris in 2024.
Meanwhile, Marston continues to work and train. He makes one arm stroke after the other, pedals mile after mile, and puts one foot in front of the other, all in a chase toward the dreams ahead. JR