elly Gneiting had a big, rather ill-advised dream. The 405-pound sumo wrestler wanted to set the record for the heaviest person ever to complete a marathon. Gneiting actually walked a 26.2-mile course once before, in 2008, but did not attempt to get into Guinness World Records. At this weekend's Los Angeles Marathon, he tried to make that dream come true. A brief Q&A guide:
Who is Gneiting?
A 40-year-old New Mexico native who describes himself variously as "The Fat Man" and "one of the best athletes in the world." Gneiting's nearly quarter-ton bulk has helped him triumph in three national sumo wrestling championships. Even at 405 pounds, he is able to perform the splits and multiple pushups.
Why did he run the marathon?
He hoped to send a message to a "society obsessed with being thin," says Kurt Streeter at the Los Angeles Times. "Big people," he says, "can do the unimaginable."
Was this really such a good idea?
No, says Briana Rognlin at Bliss Tree. Gneiting isn't just a few pounds overweight. "He's obese, putting him at risk for more than just sore knees." Obviously, such "grueling physical activity" could result in "sudden cardiac death."
So what happened?
Gneiting finished the 26.2-mile course in 9 hours, 48 minutes and 52 seconds — a full two hours faster than his 2008 attempt. He jogged for the first eight miles, but walked the remaining 18, even though he'd developed enormous blisters. Gneiting's weight actually dropped to 396 pounds during the race, but he still earned his Guinness distinction. The next heaviest person to complete the race was a willowy 275 pounds.
What did Gneiting say afterwards?
Gneiting called the challenge "pure hell," but managed to crack a joke for reporters: "I'd like to see the Kenyan improve his marathon time by two hours," he said, an apparent reference to Ethiopian runner Markos Geneti, who won the race in 2 hours, 6 minutes and 35 seconds.
Gneiting has bigger dreams than running simple marathons. He wants to hike from the Dead Sea to Mt. Everest, has plans to swim the English Channel, and is trying to get a tryout with the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles.
Sources: Los Angeles Times, New York Daily News, BBC, Bliss Tree
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