MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
For some Marines, runtimes seem like fixed numbers on their physical fitness test scores, but for Cpl. Sage Koch the times only get shorter.
A self-proclaimed average runner from Bismarck N.D. has been working on his run during the course of 11 years earning himself a spot on the Marine Corps running team and he doesn’t plan on slowing down anytime soon.
“I was just a regular Joe like anybody else. I started from the bottom and worked my way up,” he said, recalling his humble beginnings as a runner.
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 through to high school, he found that becoming a freshman not only meant tougher classes, but also a more serious attitude towards his running.
“As I became older, competition became more a part of the picture, and along with track, I also started running cross country,” said the Bismarck, N.D., native.
Although running was his passion, not all running made him happy.
The closest he ever came to running in a sprint event was an 800, but it wasn’t by choice, he added. “I hated that race. 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 high school, Koch accepted a cross country scholarship to a nearby community college, but after a year decided he needed something different and enlisted in the Marine Corps in March of 2008.
“I wanted to get out and see the world,” he said.
He currently holds a three mile time of 15:19, which has earned him the name “Smoke” from the Company A, Headquarters Battalion, First Sgt. Thomas Russi who unholsters the name every time he sees Koch in the gym.
With a runtime 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’s ever been, he continues to get stronger and has transferred his focus on running longer and longer races, she said. “He’s building up his miles.”
Since January, to now he has been keeping track of the miles he’s ran in base-wide competitions such as the Road Runner Challenge and other training. He has just passed the 2,000 miles mark.
The Road Runner challenge helps to keep track of his mileage and the competition always encourages him to give it his all, he said.
“I want to run professionally, but I’ve got a long way to go. But if I keep at it I know good things will come,” he said.
Although that’s the ultimate goal, Koch sees himself back at college running competitively while he earns his degree. “I’m running about 70 miles a week; that’s a lot, where as some professional runners run 130 or 140 miles a week.”
“People always ask me how do I do it, 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, he said. “If everyone starts at the bottom there’s only one way to go but up.”
He will continue to train for upcoming competitions in Santa Monica, Calif., Dayton, Ohio, and The Marine Corps Marathon in Arlington, Va.