Inspired by wife’s battle with cancer, former Hokie sets out on path to become a Paralympian

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MECHANICSVILLE, Va. (WFXR) — Since he was a child, Chris Marston knew he was different from the other kids growing up.

“I had a stroke when I was a kid, so I don’t have all the strength and I don’t have all the movement in the right side of my body like you do,” Marston said.

The Virginia Tech graduate has cerebral palsy, a condition he didn’t know he had until well after he watched the triathlon events during the Rio 2016 Paralympics, which planted the seed to becoming a triathlete himself.

“It piqued my interest because of the uniqueness that it brought to everything,” Marston said. “Being able to say it’s a condition of cerebral palsy known as right side hemiplegia gives me something that I have a way to connect with other people that have the exact same condition.”

A native of Lynchburg, Va., Marston now lives in Mechanicsville and began competing in triathlons in 2019. He learned quickly and became a national champion in his classification this past summer in Long Beach, California.

“Going down the blue carpet to get to the finish line was exciting,” Marston said. “To know and to see that and to know that no one else was right around me was exciting. I was very excited when I crossed that line and have that banner across my chest.”

Now Marston is on a path that he hopes will lead to Paris in 2024 when the next Summer Paralympics will take place.

But his biggest wish is to have his wife, Keri, travel with him that summer.

“She is such a kind person,” Marston said. “Her strength. She’s so strong.”

The two have been married for 17 years and have two daughters together. But Keri is battling a disease that threatens to derail dreams of being in the French capital in less than three years.

“She has stage four breast cancer that has spread in bones, in her liver, it’s in a lot of places, it’s in her lungs,” Marston said. “Yes, she has bad days but the good days outnumber the bad days.”

Keri’s fight is not deterring her husband’s pursuit of Paris. Instead, it’s inspiring him.

“If I do get the chance to go and I am capable to do it, for her to be able to be there would be wonderful,” Marston said. “I think that would be a miracle for me.”

Marston said one of his wife’s dreams was to be able to go to Europe. And while he remains cautiously optimistic, it’s a thought that drives him to tears.

“It’s something I don’t know I’ll be able to do if this opportunity wasn’t there.”

So as his wife continues her battle with cancer, Marston continues to swim, bike, and run. Not just for himself, but for his family.

“In a way, it’s wanting to show my daughters that whatever roadblocks are put in front of you, whatever obstacles you have to try and go around to do something, don’t let it get in your way,” Marston said.

“Have the drive yourself to do what you want to do.”

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