Running a relentless race
> Hong Kong-based veterinarian David Gething who ran from obesity straight into the world marathon record books survived to tell about his experiences in a book
WEIGHING in at 120 kilogrammes, a smoker and drinker revelling in Hong Kong’s hedonistic expat scene, David Gething was heading for a heart attack by his 40th birthday.
He could so easily have ended up a health statistic, another casualty of the city’s excesses, he says.
Instead, he funnelled his energy into sport – and ran right into the record books.
Now at 41, Gething has two world marathon records under his belt and has just released a book, Relentless, about his racing adventures.
The now-lithe 67kg Gething pinpoints the moment his life changed, crediting his wife with sitting him down ahead of their first child’s birth and delivering some brutal, but necessary home truths.
He recalls: “She asked me if this was what I wanted my daughter to look up to and emulate?
“With those few words, that wall of self-denial came crashing down.
“I was 32, I’d seen myself as a fun, party guy, but with my wife’s honest assessment, I saw I was more like the guy well on his way to a heart attack.”
He stopped smoking and the next day, signed up for a 250km six-day ultramarathon in the Gobi Desert. “I’d never run five kilometres before, never mind a marathon,” he recalls. “It sounded ludicrous, but I needed something that would scare me enough to make sure I didn’t get lazy or give up.” A vet by day, he had a year to train, and started cycling before building up to running. “Running was too tough when I was that out of shape,” he says. “It certainly wasn’t any kind of magic transformation, and I wasn’t naturally fit. But little by little, I did get better.” To his astonishment, he not only completed the ultramarathon, he enjoyed it and cast about for a fresh challenge, taking on triathlons, marathons and Iron Man competitions around the world.
Yet, he still wanted more. “I definitely have an addictive personality,” he says.
Last year, he took on the World Marathon Challenge, running seven marathons on seven continents in seven days.
He lost part of his toes to frostbite running in Antarctica and suffered a fractured ankle racing in Africa.
But Gething persevered and went on to beat the 11 other competitors to win the overall title.
He set a new world record for the fastest marathon in Antarctica with a time of 3hr 21min and 35sec, and another for his cumulative time of 25hr 36min 3sec across the races.
“It was an amazing experience,” says Gething. “The marathon I enjoyed most was Antarctica.
“I didn’t really have much experience of cold-weather climates. In fact, I’d never seen it snowing before in my life.
“But just seeing the vast icy whiteness, completely devoid of life, was stunning.”
Gething believes success at long distance or endurance races is largely down to mental toughness and mind games. He says: “I focus on small things. Get to the next water stop. Get over that hill. “Soon enough, these add up into big stretches of the race, and before you know it, you’re getting towards the finish. “I think my skill is in determination and persistence, rather than raw talent. “Maybe my journey from being that heavy, out-ofshape guy to the marathon runner taught me some of those lessons about determination and persistence.” There are other sacrifices. He wakes at 4.30am to train for a few hours before the school run and work, and is often in bed by 8pm. Gething has little to regret. He runs a successful veterinary business and his racing has taken him everywhere from North Korea to Hawaii. Kenya’s Dennis Kimetto currently holds the world record for a standard marathon at 02:02:57, as debate rages over whether it is possible for humans to run faster. Gething says: “We’re so close it’s nail-biting. You break it down and that’s 178 seconds. Over 42.2 kilometres. “Someone just has to be able to run four seconds a kilometre quicker than Kimetto. That’s got to be possible.” – AFP
The birth of his daughter in 2008 (left) was the wake-up call for Gething to get his life in shape; and (right) the world champion marathoner with his daughter earlier this year.