Kiran Gurung, from Leederville, running in the 2015 Geraldton Runfest Marathon where he completed the distance in 6:04:32 wearing his full Gurkha kit. Image – supplied.
By Kate Dzienis
When you’re off racing at a big event, your bib securely fastened to your shirt, and perhaps your family and friends are alongside you, most participants in your immediate surroundings are wearing the same thing – running clothes with logos, perhaps the odd tutu here and there and sparkles and a wild, crazy, colourful wig.
But there’s one runner in Perth who takes the cake when it comes to standing out from the crowd, and when I first saw him run past me in the 2015 Swan River Run, I was blown away by the sheer physical strength I witnessed along the city foreshore.
Thirty-eight year old Kiran Gurung from Leederville (WA) served in the Gurkha Contingent of the Singapore Police Force, a paramilitary unit, from 1998 to 2008 before moving to Western Australia, and it is with a humbling reason he wears his full uniform – Combat Equipment Fighting Order or Combat Equipment Marching Order.
To even begin learning what each uniform’s requirements are, is to first discover the passion that Gurung has for the Gurkhas – and it shows how tough he really is.
“My father served in the 2nd King Edward VII’s Own Gurkha Rifles while my maternal grandfather served in the 1st King George V’s Own Gurkha Rifles,” he explains.
“Gurkhas are selected from Nepal once a year, every year, through a rigorous selection process, with the final stage of selection carried out at the British Gurkhas Camp in Pokhara, a beautiful tourist city 200kms west of Kathmandu.
“I was among the 900-plus young boys (aged 18 to 22) who had reached final stages of selection in 1997.
“The toughest of all the tests that every potential Gurkha recruit has to take is the ‘doko’ race, which is running about 4kms uphill carrying 35kgs of rocks in a bamboo basket called a ‘doko’…I still remember completing it in 35 minutes while the top finisher did it about four minutes ahead of me!”
Gurung spent nine months in Singapore completing full time training, and was later deployed across the country on guard duties for dignitaries including the former prime minister and founding father of Singapore, and tasked with immigrant operations.
Gurung competing in his first of five marathons, the 2015 WAMC Perth Marathon, to raise money for the Nepal earthquake response fund of the Gurkha Welfare Trust. Image – supplied.
With Perth now his home, Gurung’s first official race was the 2012 HBF Run for a Reason, raising money for Diabetes WA, where he crossed the finish line for the 14kms event in full CEFO (a weight of 14kgs) in a time of 1:36:10.
He still gets asked the ominous one-worded question – ‘why?’
“Running in my CEFO is like second nature to me,” he reveals.
“It makes sense to run in my combat outfit while running for charities, it’s all associated to the Gurkhas for me.
“Besides raising funds for Diabetes WA, last year I also ran from Bunbury to Perth (173kms) in my combat uniform across two days to fundraise for the Gurkha Welfare Trust and to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Gurkhas.
“Then when the Nepal earthquake struck on the very day I finished the run (Anzac Day) I decided to do another 200kms by doing five marathons in CEMO, throughout the year, for the earthquake response fund of the Gurkha Welfare Trust.”
To get a bit of perspective of what Gurung is carrying, CEFO consists of two full water bottles, 24-hours worth of rations, four magazines, a weapon cleaning kit, first aid kit and various other small items.
His CEMO is a backpack with sleeping bag, roll mat, wash kit, towel, complete change of military clothing, trainers, poncho, socks, and an abundance of other essentials.
It can weigh up to 16kgs, and the Gurkha annual combat fitness test is done in full CEFO (excluding a rifle) – the 16kms distance must be completed in less than two hours.
Gurung finishes the 2015 Perth City to Surf marathon distance with support runner Julie Tan in a time of 5:45:27. Image – supplied.
This year, Gurung has entered the HBF Run for a Reason, on May 22, for the third year in a row, and is raising funds for Alzheimer’s Australia WA in memory of his father-in-law, who was an ex-Gurkha himself and who Gurung served alongside with.
“Ten years ago, Sgt 4948 Tej Bahadur Limbu passed away within a year of being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s – he was only 50,” he says.
“Seeing him struggle with simple tasks such as putting on his shoes, clothes and even eating was indeed a sad feeling for everyone around him.
“Therefore, to mark his 10th anniversary, I’ve decided to do the event as a team with my wife, brother-in-law and 10-year-old son, and we’ve called ourselves Team Alzheimer’s SGT 4948’.
“I’ll be doing the 21.1kms run in my full combat fatigue carrying 21.1kgs and everyone else will be doing their first ever 12kms.
“We really hope to raise some awareness of this widely misunderstood disease and honour my father-in-law’s life.”
An Alzheimer’s Australia WA spokesperson told Runglobal earlier this week that the organisation was thankful for Gurung’s support.
“There are more than 32,000 Western Australians living with dementia, and we are grateful to have Kiran stand up for those living and affected by it,” she said.
“Kiran’s determination and passion is truly inspiring, he is a dementia hero in our eyes.
“The money raised will go a long way in assisting AAWA with care services, support and education for those living with dementia, their carers, families and friends until the day a cure is found.”
To make a donation towards Gurung’s Team Alzheimer’s SGT 4948, click here.