You may have already heard about Kelly Gneiting. He is a 400 pound trained sumo wrestler who just finished his second LA marathon in 9 hours, 48 minutes. This was an improvement of more than 2 hours over his previous time. And it was no ordinary marathon – according to reports it was extremely cold and the rain has been described by some of the participants as “torrential”. He is also a hero of mine and so, with all the talk about fat athletes going around, I thought I would re-post a piece.
I was searching for stories about him today, and I came upon a runners forum discussion about him (WARNING: reading this may make you want to reach for the brain bleach). Maybe I’m naive, but I was honestly shocked to find the comments largely unsupportive. Since I have a rule about not seeking out people who disagree with me and commenting on their blogs, I thought I’d respond here:
“At his size, this just doesn’t seem like any activity is healthy.”
You have to love a lose/lose scenario. “I think you’re too fat, but I don’t believe that you should move your body because of your epic fatness”. Seriously? To me this always sounds a whole lot like “I like feeling superior to fat people, so stay where you are fatty and I’ll keep putting you down to make myself feel better”.
“I guess it’s hard for me to comprehend how a body in that shape could PHYSICALLY handle the stress when it has to deal with the stress of keeping his body going on a normal day.” and “is running in that poor of physical condition dangerous?”
You don’t know what shape he is in. You only know how much he weighs. THEY ARE NOT THE SAME THING. Since you’re writing this comment after the marathon, you could certainly have chosen to respect the fact that he is an athlete of the same caliber as anyone who finishes a marathon.
“At 405 lbs he probably has a very difficult time just walking”
Not that difficult – since he just finished a 26.2 miles race. The truth is right in front of you, how are you missing it? Please re-evaluate your assumptions or, you know, fuck right the hell off.
“The energy expended in his bid to have others qualify/validate him would be better spent improving his circumstances and his physical health.”
He ran a freaking marathon – why do you think that you should judge his circumstances or health? Also, let’s be clear – I won’t speak for other fat athletes but when I use my platform to point out that I don’t fit people’s stereotypes, it’s not a bid for their validation. It’s a courtesy to them. I’m not asking for their approval, I am doing them the favor of providing them with an opportunity to rethink their stereotypes.
A blog by Rick Chandler at NBC Sports said “But taking half a day to finish a marathon, and walking the great majority of it, is not really a sports accomplishment, is it? It’s just kind of a long walk to the store.”
He. Finished. A. Marathon. How dare anyone think that they have the right to dole out the title of “athlete” or try to belittle his accomplishment? According to several sources I looked at, only 0 .1% – 1% of people in the US have ever completed a marathon. I don’t care how much he weighs, or how long it took him – he is in ELITE company and Rick Chandler can go straight to hell.
Of course, nobody is obligated to be an athlete, but I hope that these kinds of attitudes don’t discourage people from pursuing movement options that they love or want to try. And if you identify as an athlete then I believe you and I support you – athlete to athlete!
If you are interested in a weight-neutral discussion about fitness (for people of all sizes and abilities) you can check out the Fit Fatties Forum at www.fitfatties.com.
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