20 million steps just for a cause



Pat Farmer might be a name you recognise from Australian politics.

He was a federal member of parliament, representing the Liberal seat of Macarthur in south-west Sydney from 2001 to 2010 and served in the House of Representatives.

Now away from politics, Farmer has created himself a global reputation for endurance running and ultra-marathon racing which has seen him break numerous world records, including beating the long tropics run (6307 kilometres in 83 days) by 16 days.

His most recent achievement is the Pole to Pole run where he unbelievably ran 21,000kms from the North Pole to the South Pole in 10 months, raising money for the Red Cross.

He set off in April 2011, departing the Arctic (where his expedition leader carried a Magnum 44 in the event of a polar bear attack) and ultimately making it through Canada, United States, Central and South Americas and the Antarctic.

He ran an average of 65kms or more per day and today recollects the epic journey where he braved blizzards, trudged through injuries and sickness, encountered dangerous wildlife and evaded rogue militia.

Runglobal caught up with Farmer to discover where his motivation came from.

“It was two years of solid planning, meeting with ambassadors, arranging security, researching maps, developing close relationships with governments and deciding which charity I wanted to represent,” he explains.

“Without a doubt the moment that stands out for me the most is being in a Russian helicopter and landing in the North Pole for day one because that’s when I thought to myself, my God I’ve really got to do this now.

“I’ve got to make this happen, there’s no backing out now, and then came the realisation I was about to face temperatures of -45 degrees, 100-knot winds and ice breaks.

“It was a huge awakening.”

When he reached South America, Farmer ran alongside armed security in Panama and Colombia through the Darien Jungle, known as a hideout for drug and gun runners, bandits and insurgents.

But that didn’t stop him.

He did, however, have to be incredibly careful through the thick terrain so as to not injure himself and he faced astonishing challenges, falling over, suffering cuts and experiencing dehydration.

“There were a lot of times when I got knocked to the ground and felt like the environment was pushing me around like marbles in a playground,” he said.

“I often thought about not getting back up, but I wanted to prove to my kids I can do anything I set my mind to, leading by example because a lot of people talk the talk but don’t necessarily walk it.

“Another motivating factor was knowing I was doing it for the Red Cross, particularly for their water projects.

“I once witnessed a little girl die before my very eyes because she had diarrhoea.

“In western society we would take some medicine, water and gastrolyte and then run around like it’s no big deal but in other countries, people simply die of it because they have no access to clean drinking water.

“Throughout my run, I could see that little girl’s face.”

Farmer kept a diary all the way through his trek in preparation for his book Pole to Pole: One Man, 20 Million Steps, every day handwriting his accounts to keep it raw and give it that personal touch, his crew then typing it up in the evenings.

“I could think better and relate everything more clearly if I handwrote it all,” he said.

“There were some moments where I was so dog-dead tired I would fall asleep halfway through, in the morning discovering a big pen mark strewn across the page.”

Farmer didn’t make any changes to it when he finished his run, wanting readers to explore his true feelings at the time – anger, happiness, fatigue, pain and fear.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

pole cover

Title: Pole to Pole: One Man, 20 Million Steps by Pat Farmer

Date of publication: 1 March 2012
Published by: Allen & Unwin
RRP: $29.99


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