Leadership Ideas, Information and News

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Face of Defense: Marine Strives for Stronger Stride

By Marine Corps Cpl. Andrew S. Avitt
Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms

MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif., Sept. 7, 2010 – A self-proclaimed “average” runner from Bismarck, N.D., who has worked at it for 11 years has earned himself a spot on the Marine Corps running team.

And Marine Corps Cpl. Sage Koch doesn’t plan on slowing down any time soon.

“I was just a regular Joe like anybody else,” he said. “I started from the bottom and worked my way up.”

His competitive stride was first put to the test in middle school, as Koch began running for the school’s track and field team.

“The first event I ever ran was a mile,” Koch said. “For me, it was good for relaxation to help me with the daily stress.”

As he progressed to high school, he found that becoming a freshman meant not only tougher classes, but also a more serious attitude toward his running.

“As I became older, competition became more a part of the picture, and along with track, I also started running cross-country,” he said.

Although running was his passion, he said, not all running made him happy.

The closest he ever came to running in a sprint event was an 800-meter race, but it wasn’t by choice. “I hated that race,” he said. “The coach would always put me in it so that I could get my speed up, so that I could run that faster mile.”

After graduating from high school, Koch accepted a cross-country scholarship to a nearby community college. But after a year, he decided he needed something different and enlisted in the Marine Corps in March 2008. “I wanted to get out and see the world,” he said.

His three-mile time is 15:19, which has earned him the name “Smoke” from Marine Corps 1st Sgt. Thomas Russi of Company A, Headquarters Battalion, who unholsters the name every time he sees Koch in the gym. With a time like that, Koch said, he had trouble finding a running partner, until about six months ago.

Sarah Raschiatore, also a running enthusiast and a physical trainer at the Combat Center’s East Gym, began running with Koch and training for various running events.

“Sage is very passionate about running,” she said. “He loves it, and has a great positive attitude and mental strength for it.”

Although Koch is the best he has ever been, she noted, he continues to get stronger and has transferred his focus on running longer and longer races. “He’s building up his miles,” she said.

Since January, Koch has recorded the miles he has accumulated in base competitions such as the Road Runner Challenge and in his other training. He just passed the 2,000-mile mark.

The Road Runner challenge helps to keep track of his mileage, he said, and the competition always encourages him to give it his all.

“I want to run professionally, but I’ve got a long way to go,” he said. “But if I keep at it, I know good things will come.”

Although running professionally is the ultimate goal, Koch said, he sees himself back at college running competitively while he earns his degree.

“I’m running about 70 miles-a-week,” he said. “That’s a lot, [but] some professional runners run 130 or 140 miles-a-week.”

Koch identified persistence as his formula for success. “People always ask me how do I do it,” he said, “and I tell them, ‘You’ve just got to do it. You’ve got to push your body and your limits to get better. The only way for improvement is by practice, and the best time for practice is now.’ If everyone starts at the bottom, there’s only one way to go but up.”

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