He's fighting a losing battle and winning: Gary's marathon feat
FORTY-one stone Gary Kirwan knew he had to lose weight -- he feared his family would be putting his coffin into the ground with the help of a forklift.
When that terrifying picture entered his mind, coupled with the fact that he wanted to have children, the Limerickman decided it was time to get in shape.
Last Monday, when he completed the Dublin City Marathon in a time of 10hrs 46mins, he came a lot closer to that goal. He now weighs just 29 stone.
"It was a case of how long more would I live and that was really starting to play on my mind," he said in the wake of his marathon achievement.
"But my real concern wasn't dying; it was that my family might need a forklift to lift my coffin. That for me was the most terrifying thing."
He added: "Everybody wants to have a good memory when they lose somebody; I couldn't do that to them."
A full-time Limerick IT business student from Corbally, Gary began his journey of inspirational proportions last January when he contacted 'The Ray D'Arcy Show' looking for a scale that might measure his exact weight.
He had tried to order one and even thought of using one made for vans.
"It was over Christmas time and I was out of work. I was going into job interviews and getting no job. Life was just crap," he said.
Today FM sourced a scale from DEM Systems and weighed him on air.
"It was kind of good to be able to talk about it. It cleared my head of so many demons," recalled Gary.
With free help from Motivational Weight Loss Clinics and his personal trainer Chris Delooze, he took up boxing and swimming, joined a gym and began a new diet.
Chris is originally from Sydney, Australia. He came to Ireland for a three-week holiday four years ago and never went back. And as a former Munster rugby player, who better to train an overweight Limerick man?
Soon Gary's weight began to fall off and the pounds turned to stones. Then came his epiphany -- the Dublin City Marathon.
"I said to Chris, I want to do the Dublin Marathon, what do you think? He said, no problem, we can do it.
"I was like a child at Christmas. I was awake at six in the morning wired; I couldn't wait."
His family -- mum and dad Lucy and Peter, sister Orla (32) and brothers Robert (24) and Darren (28) -- were all right behind him.
His wife Michelle, who he married in March, 2007, was also a huge source of support.
"She knows the bigger picture is to be fit and healthy," said Gary.
"She was just generally worried the whole day of the marathon but she really wanted me to do it because she knew how much important it was."
In the build-up to the big event, he trained by swimming every day and walking eight hours a week -- his progress and fitness levels closely monitored by Chris.
The start of the race was electric, with thousands of people eager to get under way and even more shouting support.
Soon though, the buzz turned to gloom. The crowds, running at a faster pace, dissolved into the distance, it got dark, it rained, the signs all disappeared and traffic returned to the streets.
"I just said to Chris, no matter how bad it is today there is no pain as bad as the way I used to feel," he said.
Finally though, at about 8.45pm, the finish line -- or at least the dark, wet part of Merrion Square where the finishing line had been -- came into view and with it a champion's welcome from wife Michelle.
"There was an awful lot of relief but I never once thought I wouldn't see that line," he recalled.
Gary says he will battle on to reach his ideal weight and while he puts it at around 17 stone, he won't know until he knows. One thing is certain though, next year he intends to smash his 10 hours 46 minute best.