Marathon runner Gary Lew

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 02 September, 2014, 10:05am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 02 September, 2014, 10:05am

Gary Lew was born to run, but he didn't know that until he started competing in marathons at the age of 43. Now 54, Lew averages about 10 marathons a year and has run all six of the world's major marathons - Boston, New York, Chicago, London, Tokyo, and Berlin - in under three hours.

It's not a passion for running that drives his habit. "I'd rather do other things to stay fit; I'd rather play basketball," he says.

But as the managing director for BNY Mellon, he has a travel schedule which often only leaves time for exercise at 4.30am.

It's difficult to find a sporting partner at that time, he jokes, so he opts for a run instead. "I love the outdoors and I love exercise, and, with my busy travel schedule, I've found running is something I can do anywhere, any time," he says.

Marathons became a way to test his efforts. At first it was one to three a year, but now he admits he runs a marathon as often as 12 times a year. He finished three marathons three weekends in a row last year, completing each within a minute of each other.

Lew's personal best marathon time is two hours 47 minutes, but he'll only tell you that after gentle probing. Running is more about achieving balance in his working life and finding those priceless moments to "zone out", he says.

"I'm a big believer in balance, and think you have to consciously work hard to achieve it," he says. "I rarely listen to music when I run. I do a lot of thinking, whether it's personal or work, or I zone out."

Although he doesn't follow a rigid training schedule, he regularly clocks up 80 to 100 kilometres a week.

Lew aims for two good races a year "to get a good time", while the other races are for fun. For this marathon master, that still means an impressive sub-three hours 10 minutes.

What's the secret to eternal competition?

I'm a big believer in stretching. After a marathon I will literally stretch for hours. Then there will come a point where [the tightness] is gone, and you're ready to go again.

Why have you decided to run so many marathons?

If I have a race coming up, I'm more disciplined about working harder. I love the challenge and I feel I've accomplished something. I also like where marathons take me. I've raced at the Great Wall of China, through the villages of Bali, the streets of Malaysia, Thailand, London and Berlin.

What exercise would you do if you couldn't run?

If I couldn't run because of a physical ailment, I'd just have to find some other way to get outdoors - in the mountains or at the beach most likely.

For how long do you plan to be running marathons?

As long as I can. If I can do a few more sub-three hour marathons I'll be happy. When I can't do any more, I won't be fussed. I'll keep running anyway.

Any standout memories from your marathon running?

There have been a couple of races where I've gone in not expecting to run a sub-three, and felt it on the day and have gone for it. The best memories are when you do better than expected; when you get caught up in the excitement and the competitiveness and you push it, and then - sub three, wow. I have to plan for a time like that, but there have been a few races where it has just happened, and that's pretty special.

What matters most to you, time or finishing place?

I always aim to put in a good effort. There is always going to be someone faster than you. No one likes coming away from a race thinking that they could have pushed harder. You want to feel good about the overall effort.