Milania Keeler (L) and Chris Koch at the 2022 GMS Queen City Marathon family 5km event.

‘Absolutely killing it;’ Milania Keeler already looking to roll her next race

Milania Keeler is pretty speedy.

The nine-year-old from Saskatoon, who was born without her legs, uses a skateboard to get around — and get around quickly. She zoomed across the finish line of the Queen City Marathon’s family five-kilometre race this month in 29 minutes and 49 seconds.

“It was fun,” Milania says, though she admits her arms were “a little sore” after.

This was Milania’s second road race. She completed her first — a five-kilometre at the 2019 Edmonton Marathon race weekend — after learning that amputee and motivational speaker Chris Koch was doing the marathon there on his longboard to raise money for the War Amps.

“Milania was really excited to do a full marathon … we talked her down to a 5k,” recalls Milania’s mother, Desiree Keeler.

Milania and Koch connected through the War Amps Child Amputee (CHAMP) Program when Milania was only a few years old. Koch, who now lives in Kelowna, suspects Milania was drawn to him because they both use skateboards to get around.

They didn’t roll that 2019 race together (Koch jumped in beside Milania for a few blocks after completing his marathon), but he still remembers the pride he felt watching Milania cross the finish line and get her participation medal.

The opportunity to finally do a race together emerged this year when Koch was invited to Regina to speak at an event in partnership with the Queen City Marathon, Regina Public Library and Saskatchewan Parks and Recreation Association. He asked Milania if she wanted to try a five-kilometre race again and the answer was an immediate yes.

Koch, who did the five-kilometre on Saturday before racing the half marathon on Sunday, admits he may have bitten off more than he could chew by offering to do a race with Milania, who regularly rolls on the paths by her home and tracks her activities on her FitBit.

“It honestly took everything I had to keep up with her. She was absolutely killing it,” he said.

Milania crossed the finish line a few seconds ahead of Koch and also finished before her parents and younger brother, who were in the race as well. Beating her brother is a source of particular pride for the competitive youngster. Koch laughs when he recalls the moment Milania saw her brother up ahead in the final kilometre of the race. “You just saw her find another gear and blow by him,” he says.

Milania is already thinking about racing again soon, possibly a 10-kilometre at the Calgary Marathon race weekend in the spring with Koch. Desiree knows Milania will be able to cover the longer distance — but says the rest of the family may need to whip themselves into shape to keep up.