APPEARING on The Biggest Loser UK changed his life, but the battle to balance his weight will be a life-long mission.
Now, Gerard Burke is set to run in the blistering heat in Ethiopia, in aid of a charity to address blindness in the region. The 24-year-old from Garryowen weighed 23 stone and six pounds before the hit show, and is now under 15 stone.
“This is for life. It’s not a fad. I was looking to do something challenging since The Biggest Loser and stumbled across the Great Ethiopian Run. It’s going to be a once in a lifetime opportunity. I want to challenge myself and I think this will be a big challenge for me,” he told the Limerick Leader.
The Ethiopian event on November 25 is 10km, but his first half marathon challenge awaits in Newcastle on September 15. “That will be the furthest I’ve ever ran, but Ethiopia will be a challenge with the heat and the altitude.”
He will be seeking to raise €1,000 with the public’s assistance to compete in the event, to raise funding and awareness for Orbis, which aims to eliminate preventable blindness and restore sight to rural villagers in the poorest regions of southern Ethiopia. Now that the show is over he said he’s had to try harder than ever before to keep the weight off.
“Now that the show is over it’s back to normality and you’re doing it for no one but yourself. I won’t lie, it’s really hard. It just has to be done if I want to stay fit and healthy. Generally I aim to work out four to five times a week. This is for life, it’s not just a fad or a phase, only to put all the weight back up again six months later.”
His passion for fitness could also turn into a full-time occupation, as he’s due to qualify as a fitness instructor, and hopes to become a personal trainer.
Another local weight-loss inspiration - Gary Kirwan from Corbally - will be taking on the Dingle marathon on September 1, where more than 3,000 people will take part in a half, full and ultra marathon.
In January of last year he weighed 41 stone three pounds, and is now down to 25 stone ten pounds. He’s now walking and running so much that he says his runners are regularly worn out after 10 weeks and have to be replaced, and he has also dropped a shoe size since his weight fell off.
Regardless of the time he finishes in on September 1, he is sure to receive the biggest round of applause when he crosses the finishing line.