There’s something electrifying about a marathon- however daunting. There’s something deflating- when the unbroken spirit that knows “I can!” is told “You can’t…you are not allowed to participate with us in our adventure.” There’s something heroic- in a heart that looks beyond its personal disappointment and into the eyes of a thousand thirsty children in Zambia, Africa.
Meet Chris Koch and Ally Iseman. Yes, it would be a victory for the LA Marathon to allow Chris to participate in the race, but he looks past that and chooses to run for our water project in Zambia, whether it’s on the official route or one self-scripted. We are proud to call Chris and Ally our teammates, so we interviewed Chris’s lovely partner in crime to get a deeper glimpse into the history and heart of this larger-than-life couple.
So Ally, we’re dying to know about you guys, and of course, how you and Chris met! What’s the story?
Chris is from a small farming community an hour south of Calgary in Alberta, Canada, otherwise known as “the Texas of Canada,” or, “The Beef Capital of Canada.” In stark contrast, I am a vegan from the Maryland suburbs of DC. I actually call my area “subrural” as I’ve got cityscapes and politicians on one side and sheep and hay fields on the other!
We both met back on October 16th, 2014 at our mutual friends Justin and Emily Baldoni’s house. It was a casual get together around spiritual conversation and Justin introduced us right away. We connected immediately and spent almost the entire night talking. As Chris likes to say, “It was like the rest of the party just disappeared and the two of us were alone in a room.” I do remember that room having hummus, but I digress.
Chris had such a strong sense that if he didn’t get my contact information that night, he would regret it for the rest of his life. I’m so glad he did. We kept in touch for the next 4 months while we were both doing some traveling and things.
He was scheduled to speak in Phoenix February 11-13th and knowing that I was someone always down for an adventure, he called to invite me to fly out and catch up. Since I was barred from this invitation by prior commitments, I made the half joke that he should instead come to LA that weekend to “be my Valentine.” He bought a ticket, and we’ve been inseparable ever since.
What a start! You guys seem like pretty active people, have you always enjoyed outdoor adventures? What have been some of your favorites?
We’re both adventure seekers, though his tastes tend to be somewhat more extreme than mine. I’ve always been connected to the outdoors, I find a lot of peace there, and enjoy camping, hiking and backpacking. I’ve hiked or backpacked through the deserts and mountains of Israel, Arizona, Yosemite, snorkeled in the Great Barrier Reef, rode horseback through many a countryside, and rock climbed on the cliffs of Colorado.
Chris grew up along the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and spent a lot of time camping as a kid. He grew up skiing, snowboarding, golfing, and to this day he still loves being outdoors whether it be along the beach, in the mountains, or the jungles. Some of his favorite outdoor adventures were learning to surf in Brazil, kayaking, and swimming/bathing with elephants in the Cambodian jungle. This year we are planning to trek to the Mount Everest base camp (if not further) together as a fundraiser for people with disabilities in Nepal.
Wow. So you clearly both have a heart for causes…what inspired you to be involved with the LA Marathon for Good Neighbors?
Chris and I heard about the #Run4Water team from our friends James and Jamee Kyson the week after we had been talking about wanting to do a marathon together at some point. As we are always looking to challenge ourselves and each other, we also like to partner that with service by making our adventures fundraisers and bringing awareness to important causes. When we found out that the charity event would be taking place on our one year anniversary, it was a no brainer- we signed up immediately.
And we’re so glad you’re joining us for this adventure! In any endurance challenge there is usually a moment when you feel you can’t go any further. What keeps you inspired to push through those moments?
During my longer training runs, when I have run farther than I ever have before, the thought that pushes me through each wall is that this isn’t just about me. Especially with the resistance we’ve received from the LA Marathon organizers, we’ve been given an opportunity to bring awareness to issues of inclusion.
Whether we run as a part of the official LA Marathon on February 14th, 2016 or we run the same distance and time on our own path so we can meet up with our team afterwards, we are not doing this simply for ourselves. Completing this challenge has become bigger than us.
What a great perspective. What would you tell someone who wants to get involved in a cause, but doesn’t know what the first step should be?
I strongly believe, through my own firsthand experience, that the first step to ANYthing is simply “make a choice.” Any choice. Literally. Whether that is choosing what cause you are most passionate about supporting and sharing that with your friends and family, or choosing a group to start volunteering with once a week, choose something and do it! All the other opportunities will open up before you once you make that choice.
And just for fun- what’re the top two items on your bucket list?
Ha, we are a bit of a Bucket List Couple as it seems our list(s) keep growing. Every time we check something off, three more things get added! One of my big ones would be to go to space… when the kinks are a little more ironed out of course. Another would be a camping/backpacking/horseback riding journey from one end of Eurasia to the other. This planet is so beautiful and ancient and I would like to experience as much of her as possible from as many perspectives as possible while I can.
Chris would love nothing more than to go on an “epic kayaking excursion” whether it be down the Pacific coastline or the entire length of the Columbia River. He would also love to explore Antarctica. Both of our lists go on and on and on and many items are shared, thankfully!
Thank you so much Ally. Just one more thing- we’re just curious- what’s your favorite “cheat day” snack?
I don’t know that I really have a cheat day per say, I try to just listen to what my body tells me it wants and as a whole foods based vegan (read: not much if any processed foods), most of what I eat is pretty darn clean. The closest thing to a cheat would be that I can tend to overindulge in raw desserts. Being a Canadian, Chris is partial to a good bowl of poutine and an IPA.
Thank you Ally (as I dump out the rest of my doughnuts.) Haha. Our team is better, brighter, and faster for having you both on it!
Make every mile more meaningful for Chris and Ally by donating to our Zambia water project below!