HE MIGHT have set a new course record for being the last man to cross the finishing line, but a Limerickman weighing 29 stone did finish the Dublin City marathon.
It took Gary Kirwan 10 hours and 46 minutes “of pure pain and fun” to walk the 26.2 mile course in the 32nd Dublin City Marathon at the weekend.
Drowned in rain and sweat, but buoyed by the kindness of thousands of people who lined the 26.2mile route, the 31-year-old said it was an “unbelievable” experience. Since losing a massive 12 stone this year, with the help of the Motivation weight loss clinic, he was determined to walk or run a marathon, even if it took him 12 hours.
In the end it took him just under 11 hours when he passed the finishing line in darkness to a crowd of supporters, among them his wife Michelle.
“I really don’t care if I’m still walking at 12 hours. By way I see it, earlier this year I would have been lucky to walk a mile, so this is a reward,” he told the Limerick Leader before the event.
His spirits were lifted again this Tuesday - the day after the marathon- when calls and emails flooded in in support of the unemployed electrician, to the Ray D’Arcy show.
Some callers said they never believed Gary – who has become a regular champion for weight loss on the national airwaves – could complete the marathon, but were left staggered by his unrelenting determination.
“He is an inspiration to everyone,” said one caller. “You’re a legend, well done.”
Another man saw him on Brendan O’Connor’s Saturday Night Show and said Gary’s inspiring story had left him close to tears, while others said Gary has inspired them to lose weight and take up running.
Asked what was going through his head during the marathon, he replied: “Pain!”
“The first 2km wasn’t a pain..I was motoring well up to the Phoenix Park. People were beeping horns and I was saturated in rain for the first six and a half hours. I was drowned. But it was the kindness of people that kept me going. People were rolling down their windows and said kept going.”
After struggling to find a scales that could weigh him accurately, Gary contacted the Ray D’Arcy Show in the ‘Fix it Friday’ slot at the beginning of this year to help him determine how much his weight had ballooned since losing his job. He weighed 41 stone and his ultimate aim is to get down to around 17 stone.
Ray said when he first heard Gary was doing the marathon he thought it might be time to “get a second medical opinion”.
“I actually thought he was a bit mad, but Gary is a man who when he says he’ll do something he’ll do it. He never thought once about giving up. He’s an amazing man,” said Ray, who completed the race in four hours and nine minutes. Geoffrey Ndungu of Kenya was the first over the line, setting a new course record of 2:08:33, 25 seconds faster than the previous record set last year.
Gary, who found himself unemployed two years ago, has now returned to education in Limerick Institute of Technology.