Champion Sumo Wrestler Completes L.A. Marathon
Kelly Gneiting broke the Guinness World Record for "Heaviest Person to Complete a Marathon" by crossing the finish at the Los Angeles Marathon on Sunday.
The former U.S. sumo champion, who weighed in at Dodger Stadium on Sunday morning at exactly 400 pounds, finished the race in 9 hours, 48 minutes and 42 seconds.
Gneiting, of Ft. Defiance, Ariz., walked the last 18-plus miles of the race after jogging through the first 8 miles.
Shaunta at Llve Once, Juicy has written a post about the Anger Kelly Gneiting inspires among runners, and she makes some excellent points.
Reading the media coverage of Kelly's accomplishment, I was struck by the condescending tone in a lot of the articles. There are the usual fat-ha-ha plays on words and a very prominent focus on how difficult and painful the marathon was for Kelly; how his feet hurt and he had blisters. However, I'm pretty sure that marathons are difficult and painful for everyone. Looking at the ESPN footage of Kelly finishing, he looks tired but in control - and there are plenty of people behind him.
Now, the L.A. marathon has a 26.2 mile course. The top runners finish in a little over 2 hours. The average time for people who finish the race is 4-6 hours. For the 2011 L.A. Marathon, the average was 5 hours 16 minutes, and the last participant came in at 12 hours, 23 minutes.
Kelly was slowed down by his weight, no doubt.
However, here's a controversial thing to say: if we fat people can keep up with lighter people, showing no more strain than they do, then that means that we are stronger and more cardiovascularly fit than they are. How many people can walk 26 miles, let along run the first 8? How many people can do it without having a very low fat percentage? There are comments on the stories about Kelly talking about "strain on his heart." What people seem to forget is that the heart is a muscle. If you're heavy and active, then it gets to be big and powerful (and when you lose weight, it shrinks - this is why so many people have heart attacks while regaining weight they've lost).
If you're a thin fitness type reading this and shaking your head, then I have a challenge for you: attach enough weight to your body to make you equal in mass to an active fat person of your acquaintance. Then try to keep up with him or her. Frankly, I doubt that either you or I could walk a block, let alone a marathon (let alone run the first 8 miles), with enough added weight to equal Kelly G.
If you want to know how the performance of the type of thin, active folks who are considered fittest responds to added weight, then take a look at the military finish times for the Baton Memorial Death March, where participants can compete while wearing 35 pound backpacks. When you compare military men with and without packs, the packs add over an hour to the median time. Incidentally, the median time with the packs is similar to Kelly's time in the LA Marathon. Remember, these are the completion times for athletic members of the U.S. military who are only carrying an extra 35 pounds. Wonder how far those military guys would get with 200 pound backpacks.
This is a real athletic accomplishment, not just luck or some kind of fuzzywuzzy-newsy "triumph of the human spirit." Kelly trained hard, he did something that, in terms of weight, was more difficult for him to do than for any of the other almost 20,000 participants in the marathon, and he did it with grace and dignity. Cheers, Kelly!
Oh, and there's a beautiful photo of Kelly demonstrating his strength, flexibility and balance (by Mariah Tauger of the L.A. Times) here . I wish I could have used it to illustrate this post, but that would be a copyright violation. (curses!)