Mangaluru: One Man, 60 days, 4600 kms! Australian Marathoner Pat Farmer in City on his ‘Spirit of India’ Tour

Mangaluru: Dedicated to Helping Humanity-that’s right! Driving 4,600 kilometres is a long way—but how about hoofing it? That’s a challenge for ultra-marathon runner and former Federal MP, 53-year-old Pat Farmer from Australia who is on a “Spirit of India” covering nearly 4600 kms from Kanyakumari and ending in Kashmir in 60 days. Pat has already run across the Simpson Desert, twice, and he has run around Australia more time than many people have flown around it, and he has even run from the North to the South Pole. Pat’s run started on January 26, 2016 on Republic Day, which also coincided with Australia Day. His main goal during during this journey is to promote bilateral ties between India and Australia,besides aiding a charity for education of the girl child.

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Starting in Kanyakumari, Farmer and his team will journey via Kerala, Karnataka, Goa, Maharashtra and Gujarat before moving to Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi and then into Haryana, Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir. Today, he reached Talapady-Mangaluru from Kerala where he was met by DC AB Ibrahim, SP Dr Sharanappa and other VIPs, thereby giving him a warm welcome. From Talapady he was accompanied by other runners, and at Thokkuttu nearly 50 students from Yenepoya School-Jeppinamogaru joined Pat in the run-where at the school he was given a floral welcome in a traditional India style by the teachers of Yenepoya School. Pat Farmer is also joined in the run by Katie Walsh-Crew Manager and Josh Cordoba-Crew member, both of them from Australia. During a formal function arranged at the Yenepoya school, where Sports minister Abhayachandra Jain had also graced the occasion, Pat interacted with students and also answered few queries posed at him by the students.

Speaking to while he was sipping on a tender coconut, Pat said “I am very excited to be running the length of India, never before have I run in a country with such diversity and steeped in such cultural significance. I am sure that this will prove to be the most incredible run that I have ever done. I have decided not to take any break during this period, since I have tied up with a leading charity to raise money for the education of the girl child. I am joined by Anupam Sharma, a well-known Indian-Australian film maker and her team who will produce a top quality documentary at the end of the run. Corporates supporting my run include The Adani Group and Mahindra and Mahindra, besides national carrier Air India”.

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Crew manager of the TV team covering Pat’s journey speaking to said, “Spirit of India Run has the potential to capture imaginations. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to get inside the heart and mind of Pat Farmer and the human spirit which will take him through a dramatic run across India. Through the film and the TV off shoots we will be looking at India through the eyes of an Australian, which will go a long way in showcasing more of India’s rich diversity to Australians and continue to build Indian-Australian relations.”

Pat is a multiple world record holder for endurance running. He has run from the North Pole to the South, and across Australia, New Zealand, Vietnam, the Middle East and North America. Pat served 8 years as a Member of Australia’s Parliament, with 3 years as Parliamentary Secretary for Education, Science and Training. Winner of ‘Achiever of the Year’ (2000), awarded by Prime Minister John Howard. Pat has raised millions of dollars for causes during his 20 year running career, including Lifeline, Cancer Council, Australian Red Cross and Diabetes Australia. Newly married to Tania Moran, Pat is also a father to two children, Brooke and Dilon.

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His ultra distance running career includes- 2015 :Pat hosts ‘Quicksand’, Three Runs on June 20th at Maroubra Beach, in support of Fr Chris Riley’s Youth off the Streets; 2014 -Pat Completes a 20 Day Peace Run from Lebanon to Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Territories. Everyone, kids and adults had the opportunity to run for peace alongside Pat; 2012 – 2013-Pole to Pole Vietnam. Raised funds for the International Red Cross by running the length of Vietnam, and to highlight the 40th anniversary of the Relationship agreement between Australia and Vietnam. Symbolically Pat and Australian Runner and Huy Mai, a Vietnamese runner, completed the 3000km journey together; 2011-Trekked from the North Pole to the South Pole. Ran two marathons every day, for almost a year, over 20,000 kms through 14 countries and raised $100 million for the International Red Cross.

2006-Re-visited his 24hr vertical climbing record up AMP Tower with Tony Abbott, raising over $500,000 for the Millennium Foundation’s ovarian cancer research program at Westmead Hospital; 1999-Established fastest Around Australia Long Run Record of continuous running in 191 days and 10 minutes (around 6 months) over 14,662.4km during his Centenary of Federation run. Set a new World 10,000km Record in 129 days. Broke a long standing Australian record of more than 13,383km in 174 days. Set a total of 10 international records including the Western Australia border to border run, the Brisbane to Darwin run, and the world record for the longest tropics run (6,307km in 83 days).

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1998-The first person to run 24 hours vertically climbing both up and down (at Sydney’s AMP Tower equivalent to running up Mount Everest in 24 hours); 1995-Pat finished fourth in the Trans America Road Race despite running 50 days with a stress fracture in his leg; 1993-A virtually unknown Pat Farmer secures second place in his first attempt at the Trans America Road Race.

Other sporting achievements include -Twice-world record holder for crossing the Simpson Desert; Ranked third in the world for 1600 km on a track; Ran 2,500km around NSW for charity in 42 consecutive days; Numerous international and national ultra marathons, including the first 1600 km track race in Australia – the second race of its kind anywhere in the world; Pat was named Achiever of the Year in the Australia Day Awards in 2000; Pat Farmer’s biggest achievements are :3rd in the World for 1600 km on a track; 2 World Records for crossing the Simpson Desert; World Record 10,000 kms in 129 Days; and Achiever of the Year 2008

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Patrick Francis Daniel “Pat” Farmer AM born on 14 March 1962, one of seven children to Mary and Frank Farmer, is an ultra-marathon athlete, motivational speaker, and former Australian politician, was a Member of the Australian House of Representatives, representing the seat of Macarthur in south-west Sydney, New South Wales from 2001 to 2010, as a member of the Liberal Party. Farmer has an established reputation in international and national ultra-marathons. Between April 2011 and January 2012, Farmer successfully completed the world’s longest ultra-marathon, a “Pole to Pole Run” from the North Pole to the South Pole, raising $100,000 for Red Cross International.

On February 2, 2015, Farmer announced that he would be contesting the 2015 NSW State Election as the Liberal candidate in Macquarie Fields, which included a small slice of his old federal seat. He got a significant boost from a redistribution that made the Labor-held seat notionally Liberal. However, he was defeated on a nearly 10-point swing by Labor candidate Anoulack Chanthivong.

Farmer might have given up running by now had fate not tragic­ally intervened. In the autumn of 1998, when he was mapping out his Federation run, his wife Lisa suggested that once he returned home to Sydney, it might be time for a proper job. They had a young family and ultra-marathon running wasn’t paying the bills. On May 10, Lisa had dropped their children, Brooke, 2, and 10-month-old Dillon, to childcare and was driving to work. Without warning, her heart stopped. She managed to pull the car off the road. It came to a rest in a fence.

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Farmer was working as a landscape gardener when he got the call from police. He identified his wife’s body and then went to pick up his kids and the shattered ­pieces of his life. “It was, without doubt, the toughest day of my life,” he says. With Lisa gone at a painfully young age, the Federation run ­became Farmer’s obsession. His mother and children joined him on the road. Each day, they travelled ahead to the next town while he ran the equivalent of two marathons. In the evenings, he gave motivational speeches at roadhouses and civic centres. When he returned home, in 2000, Mr Howard rang out of the blue. As the son of a glazier and Irish Catholic mother, who had been raised along with his six brothers and sisters in commission houses in Sydney’s west, Farmer was an unlikely Liberal Party candidate. But at the Tampa election, he won Macarthur in a landslide. He remarried in March last year. His daughter is about to finish a journalism degree at university and his son is in Year 12. Farmer insists there is nothing special about him. Not physically, anyway.

Excerpts from the interview:


Q: What motivated you to become a marathon runner?

I was a teenage apprentice working in a Granville garage when he realised that ordin­ary people could do extraordinary things. From beneath the battered chassis of a western Sydney cab, I heard my boss calling me to come outside. Wiping the grease of my hands, I stood and watched a group of crazy-brave runners jogging down Woodville Road on their way to Melbourne-Australia. I admired the runners out in front, the way they lean, sinewy legs drove them effortlessly towards the old Hume Highway. Even more so, I saw the bloke at the back of the pack, an old man with a shuffling gait who, over the next 1000 km, would capture the imagination of a nation. I thought to myself, if he could do that, surely I could do that,” .

I started running within days of watching Cliff Young shuffle down Woodville Road. Since then I have rarely stopped running: from Sydney to Melbourne, from Calif­ornia to New York, around Australia to mark the centenary of Federation, across the scorching sands of the Simpson Desert, up and down a record 101,939 steps ­inside Sydney Tower and, the daddy of them all, an epic 30,000km from the north to south poles. At the urging of then prime minister John Howard, I also ran for federal parliament and held the seat of Macarthur, in Sydney’s outer southwest, from 2001-10.

Q: Why did you opt to be an integral part of the Spirit of India run?

There is a very high population of Indians in Australia. So India was always at the back of my mind. It is also a very dynamic place with its diverse people, culture and traditions.I am sure it will be a fascinating experience for me. There are a few Indians who have done this: Arun Bharadwaj and Raj Vadgama, for instance.The Indian High Commission in Australia, His Excellency Navdeep Suri has enthusiastically assisted me in planning of this ultra-marathon. So the Spirit of India Run has the support of both Australian and Indian Governments. The Minister for Foreign Affairs, The Hon Julie Bishop MP, helped me launch the Spirit of India Run. I know the temperature varies in India as I am travelling from Kanyakumari to Kashmir; the increase in heat will lead to exhaustion, but I am determined to overcome them.

Q: ‘Spirit of India” run- What is your main goal by doing it?

My aim is to promote goodwill, friendship and trade between Australia and India, while also highlighting and raising funds for girls’ education in India. Young girls grow up to be the mothers of the next generation, they are the first educators to their children and I believe every girl should have access to basic literacy skills as education is the way to change their world and ours. My goals are to raise $100,000 to support the education of girls in India through The K.C. Mahindra Education Trust and to showcase this amazing country and its people. Our nations have so much in common and we share many traits – this run is about bringing the people of our nations closer together and helping children most in need to change their future.

Q: How many kilometers do you run per day?

Between 80-85 kms depending on the weather and other nature conditions, but preferably 80 kms.

Q: How is running from Kanyakumari to Kashmir challenging for you?

The course is very difficult. On an average, I will be running two marathons a day. I am sure no one has done it in such a short period. Apart from running, I like adventure. Starting my run from the sea and finishing it in the Himalayas will be quite an adventure.

Q: Do you train specifically for every run? In your case, it is like a mission.

I am working on strength training. The temperature will vary in India as I will travel from Kanyakumari to Kashmir; the increase in heat will lead to exhaustion. It will be taxing on my mind and body and, therefore, I am training in soft sand for almost 20 km a day. I also run on roads to acclimatise. These days I am running almost 60 km a day.

Q: What new training process have you included for your run in India?

I am used to running in different countries. I have run marathons in Colombia and Central America, where the traffic conditions are similar to that of India. So it is not foreign to me running in the midst of cattle and high-end cars. I don’t have the fear of unruly traffic and chaos; it will add an attraction for me.

Q: Are you planning to run with sportsmen/celebrities in India?

There are talks going on to include the prime minister of India in New Delhi. I will also be joined by some members of the Australian hockey team and cricket players who will be in India during my run.

Q; So far how did you enjoy the run?

I derive enjoyment from fulfilling the task at hand. There is a satisfaction in achieving each day’s goal. There is an incredible sense of achievement in doing that. It has been a pleasant journey so far, and I hope everything will go on well during rest of the days. I am kind of a obsessive person sometimes-for I believe that if you start something, you need to finish it. I have this task of 60 days of running and covering 4,200 km and I will finish it by running, walking, crawling on my hands and knees.

Q: What is your ideal fuel (food) while running? Will you try Indian cuisine on the run? What do you have to say about Indians?

I live on fresh fruits, vegetables and different types of breads. Also, coconut water, as it replaces a lot of minerals lost during the running. I also plan to try Indian cuisine, but will stay away from spices. I love Biriyani and not-so-spicy Tandoori items. Regarding Indians all I can say is that they are friendly, courteous, very helpful and extend extraordinary hospitality. Among all the places that I have adventured, I like India the best- I am not lying!

Q: I have heard that ultra runners cry, maybe due to the pain or pure emotion. Have you experienced it?

Yes! Running long distances is like a roller coaster ride. There are high points and sense of euphoria and there are sometime doubts. These moments of despair can also bring tears. There will be bruises and we have to accept pain as part and parcel of the sport. I believe that nothing is worthwhile if it is easy.

Q: What’s your message to the readers of our website?

You can do anything you want to do in life, if you don’t want to do it you will just find an excuse. Go beyond what you think are possible. Have the power of believing in yourself, commitment to, breaking down and achieving seemingly insurmountable goals. No matter who you are and where you come from, you can achieve great things. There is no force on this earth greater than your own personal will and that if you really want to achieve something – you will find away

In conclusion, listening to him for about 20 minutes at Yenepoya School, all I can say is that Pat Farmer is an incredible motivational speaker. He has an extremely engaging and humble style that appeals to the audience. Never before have I witnessed someone speak with so much passion and with such an ability to captivate the audience. Finally as Pat Farmer traverses the length of India, no doubt he will witness its ancient civilization, its immense diversity, its incredible natural beauty and its vibrant culture. In two action-packed months, he will truly capture the Spirit of India! Team Mangalorean wishes Pat Farmer all success in his “Spirit of India” journey.

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