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Run the world for fun

AAP logoAAP 17/11/2016 By Caroline Berdon

David Gething was overweight, smoking and partying hard in Hong Kong when his pregnant wife Trilby asked him to take a look at himself.

The Melbourne-born vet did just that and decided he wanted to be a father his child would look up to. He started exercising and picked himself an extraordinary goal: seven marathons in one week and on seven different continents.

In January 2015, along with 11 other brave runners, he achieved his ambition.

Gething, who has spent the past 17 years in Hong Kong, admits his behaviour went from one extreme to the other but says that's his personality.

"I tend to take things a bit too far," he jokes. "I have to keep motivated or I'll become lazy again."

The seven marathons that make up the World Marathon Challenge are far-flung - Antarctica, Puntas Arenas in Chile, Miami, Madrid, Marrakech, Dubai and then Sydney.

Gething details the incredible week in his new book, Relentless, which gives an intimate view of the inner workings of his punishing battle alongside his inspiring story.

"You go from running minus 15 in Antarctica to two days later in Miami on South Beach, with someone on roller blades next to you," he tells AAP.

The experience, "while absolutely amazing", was "pretty tough" and Gething took six months to recover.

In Antarctica, the sweat in his shoes froze, turning his toes black with frostbite. Madrid was cold and wet - nothing like the "lazy siestas in the midday sun" he'd imagined. In Morocco he fell into a pot hole, twisting his ankle and causing it to swell to the size of a grapefruit.

The same day, back in Hong Kong, his daughter was starting her first day at school. Tired, jet-lagged and in pain, a photo emailed from home turned Gething into an emotional wreck.

"On that day, I very, very really nearly dropped out. I think you always go through ups and downs whenever you go through these things ... But part of the trick is being able to adapt."

And adapt he did. Gething roughly averaged a stunning three hours 25 minutes per marathon (half an hour slower than his best stand-alone time) to become the fastest runner overall in the challenge.

The World Marathon Challenge not only strengthened his mind and body, it allowed Gething a fascinating glimpse of the places he visited.

He has now run about 20 marathons all over the world, as well as other running events and cycling races. The events offer him an excuse to go to places he may never have gone to.

"You get to see the sights because they generally run a marathon course around nice parts of the city to show it off. And for most marathons you get thrust in around 5,000 to 10,000 local people so you're part of the local event for the day. It forces you to be part of the city."

The North Korea marathon in Pyongang, he says, was a standout.

"I don't necessarily agree with the way the country works or the government but I thought it would be fascinating to see it with my own two eyes. And when we went there, we realised that whatever we think about the government, the people are just people ... and they were fantastic."

He now has his sights on the Iran marathon, which next year will include women for the first time - provided they wear a headscarf.

"It would be an amazing experience. You'd do a run like that not to run a record but more to soak up the culture and to see something just totally different."

His wife and young daughters sometimes join him on his marathon trips, which turns the event into a family holiday. They recently travelled to Scotland so Gething could run the Highland Marathon.

"It took us somewhere we hadn't thought about going but we all had a brilliant time," he says. "The kids loved the spectacle of marathon day itself, providing water and food to the runners," he adds. Then they enjoyed a week in the area as a family.

Gething says his early morning training regimen has become his lifestyle (which at times has pushed his wife to regret her stern stance all those years ago, he admits). He now believes anyone can run a marathon, with the right training.

"The real trick to doing it is picking out a race or event you really want to do, give yourself enough time to train, and make a plan with the whole family so everyone's working together," he says.

"Then just go and do it."



Runners lined up for the first Turkcell Gallipoli Marathon in October, which is now expected to be an annual event. The course takes in the beauty of the Gallipoli Peninsula, including Anzac Cove. The marathon aims to promote world peace by inviting competitors from nations who've fought on the land (who gain first dibs on running spots) to run alongside other nationalities.

When: October 2017

Where: Cannakale, Turkey

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This course uses unsealed roads, bush tracks and soft sand trails and dunes, with stunning views of Uluru and Kata Tjuta to keep runners happy as the kilometres tick by.

When: July 29, 2017

Where: Uluru

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Dubbed the "most magical course on earth", the event takes runners through four Walt Disney World theme parks at the Florida site, including Magic Kingdom, home of Mickey, Minnie and the whole Disney gang. Only big kids need apply.

When: January 8, 2017

Where: Walt Disney World, Florida

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The Tenzing-Hillary Everest Marathon is the highest marathon in the world. Kicking off at Everest Base Camp, at a dizzying 5364m, participants are required to spend three weeks in Nepal ahead of the event to acclimatise to the altitude. While the course is largely downhill (to Namche Bazaar, the Sherpa capital at 3446m), there is snow and ice on the upper part and considerable exposure along much of the route. Experience of rough terrain is essential.

When: May 29, 2017

Where: Everest

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Considering it's so hard to get a tourist visa for Pyongang, this is a great way to see the city. All foreign participants must enter the country on an organised tour run by Beijing-based, British-run Koryo Tours, which has been operating tours in North Korea since 1993. Runners make four 10km loops of the city, completing the race in Kim II Sung Stadium.

When: April 9, 2017

Where: Pyongang

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Runners in the Big Five get to run through the Entabeni Game Reserve alongside elephants, rhinos, buffalo, lions and leopards - with no fences or rivers to separate them from the wildlife

When: June 24, 2017 (sold out)

Where: Limpopo Province

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This course takes runners from the ancient rose-red, carved city of Petra through the dry, lunar-landscape of its surrounds.

When: August 26, 2017

Where: Petra

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The North Pole Marathon is not run on land but on Arctic ice floes sometimes no more than two metres thick. This experience is tough and cold but will make for a great story.

When: April 9, 2017

Where: A North Pole Camp called Barneo drifting in the high Arctic Ocean. (Runners fly in from Svalbard, Norway.)

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This may be one of the world's toughest marathons due to the thousands of steps involved. Thankfully, they'll be rewarded with breathtaking landscapes and a truly festive atmosphere in the villages they pass.

When: May 20, 2017

Where: Tianjin Province

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This unconventional marathon invites runners to swap their water, energy drinks and gel for wine, oysters, foie gras and cheese at tastings along the route. Thankfully, participants are given six and half hours to complete the course but even this could be challenge if they spend a lot of time "refuelling".

When: September 2017

Where: Pauillac near Bordeau

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