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

The Sun (Malaysia) - - FEATURE -

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.

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