Marathon runner de­tails jour­ney from fat to fast

The Myanmar Times - - Sport -

WEIGH­ING in at 120 kilo­grams (265 pounds), 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.

Aged 41, Gething has two world marathon records un­der his belt and has just re­leased a book about his rac­ing ad­ven­tures, Re­lent­less.

But it was a dif­fer­ent story less than a decade ago.

“Be­ing an ex­pat opens a lot of doors, and you can get away with a party life­style you’d never imag­ine even ex­isted back home,” he tells AFP.

“But noth­ing comes with­out a price, and that life­style can cer­tainly get you into trou­ble.”

Gething, now a lithe 67kg, 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 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.”

‘Ad­dic­tive per­son­al­ity’

He stopped smok­ing and the next day signed up for a 250-kilo­me­tre (155-mile) six-day ul­tra­ma­rathon in the Gobi Desert.

“I’d never run 5 kilo­me­tres be­fore, never mind a marathon. It sounded lu­di­crous, but I needed some­thing that would scare me enough to make sure I didn’t get lazy or give up,” he adds.

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. It cer­tainly wasn’t any kind of magic trans­for­ma­tion, and I wasn’t nat­u­rally fit. But lit­tle by lit­tle I did get bet­ter,” he says.

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.

“It took me un­til thirty-some­thing to re­alise that, and to un­der­stand that per­son­al­ity had to be di­rected into con­struc­tive ef­forts rather than de­struc­tive ones.”

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 went on to beat the 11 other com­peti­tors to win the over­all ti­tle.

In­stead of a heart at­tack be­fore his 40th, he set a new world record for the fastest marathon in Antarc­tica with a time of 3.21:35 secs, and an­other for his cu­mu­la­tive time of 25.36:03 across the races.

“It was an amaz­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. 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.”

Stub­born­ness, sac­ri­fice

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-of-shape guy to the marathon runner taught me some of those lessons about de­ter­mi­na­tion and per­sis­tence.”

Food too has played a role. Gething has all but given up red meat, eat­ing a mainly plant-based diet and fish when train­ing hard but opt­ing for a ve­gan diet the rest of the time.

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.

Hap­pily married with two chil­dren, Gething has lit­tle to re­gret. He runs a suc­cess­ful vet­eri­nary busi­ness and his rac­ing has taken him ev­ery­where from North Korea to Hawaii.

But he ad­mits to won­der­ing what might have hap­pened if he had fo­cused on sport ear­lier.

He dis­misses the idea that he might have had Olympic glory but is fas­ci­nated by the elite marathon run­ners wa­ver­ing at the edge of a sub-two-hour marathon.

Kenya’s Den­nis Kimetto cur­rently holds the world record for a stan­dard marathon at 2.02:57, 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.” –

Photos: AFP

The be­fore and af­ter photos of David Gething’s in­cred­i­ble trans­for­ma­tion from av­er­age ex­pat to ex­treme marathon runner are shock­ing: The man lost nearly 60 ki­los.

Gething ran a marathon in Antarc­tica in Jan­uary 2015, los­ing part of his toes to frost­bite in the process.

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