Ever heard of Ultra Running? That crazy sport where people run anything beyond a marathon, and often more like 100 km or 100 miles non-stop. Now if you think that is kickass, meet Pat Farmer, the man who redefined ultra running by running from the North to the South Pole. Non-stop! He went way beyond what was ever thought humanly possible…..
Farmer was born in the Sydney suburb of Ultimo, one of seven children to Mary and Frank Farmer and grew up in Sydney’s western suburbs, starting his working life as a motor mechanic (1977–1984)
From 1984 to 2000, Farmer commenced his passion of ultra-marathon running while working with his brother Tony as a landscape gardener and later as a motivational speaker. In 1992, he married Lisa Bullivant with whom he went on to have two children, Brooke and Dillon. In 1998, Lisa, aged 34, died unexpectedly of Mitral Valve Prolapse and Farmer was left to raise his two children on his own.
During this period, Farmer set a number of ultra-marathon Australian and world records, which placed him in the elite of the sport. Farmer is perhaps best known for his record breaking 14,964 km Centenary of Federation run around all of Australia in 1999, taking 191 days raising over $3 million for Diabetes Australia, Lifeline, Careflight International and the Westmead Millennium Institute for Medical Research. He was named Achiever of the Year at the Australian of the Year Awards 2000, presented by Prime Minister John Howard.
Following his ‘around Australia‘ ultra-marathon, Farmer was approached by Howard to work in Politics. With Howard’s backing he managed to make it to Parliament during which Farmer served on a range of House of Representatives committees, he was appointed Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Education, Science and Training and served as the Shadow Minister for Youth and Sport.
In his farewell speech to Parliament on 23 June 2010, Pat Farmer formally announced his long held goal of running from the North Pole to the South Pole, covering some 21,000 kilometres (13,000 mi), to raise A$100.000 for clean water programs for Red Cross International.
Just weeks before Pat Farmer was scheduled to depart for his 20,919-kilometer run from the North to the South Pole, his major sponsor pulled out and he was faced with a choice: give up his dream to be the first man to run Pole-to-Pole or sell everything he owned to finance the expedition. Farmer, a 51-year-old Aussie who jokes he’s been having mid-life crises since he ran his first ultra-marathon at age 18, decided to sell almost everything he owned – his house, his furniture, and most of his worldly possessions – in order to take a shot at his dream and raise the $2.4 million dollars he needed to finance the trip.
“I was supposed to go from the South Pole to the North Pole and I had about 15 months to do it, so I felt it was quite achievable. When my sponsor pulled out, I’d already paid deposits for the Russians to fly me into the South and North Poles and I’d already paid for a lot of crew support, so I had to decide whether to ditch the whole thing or try again the next year. I felt like if I don’t do it now, I’ll never do it. I ran out of time to do the South Pole first, because you have a short weather window for that.
So I had to reverse it and start with the North Pole and complete the whole thing in only ten months. It was a race against time to make it to the South Pole. I found one major sponsor – Channel 9 here in Australia and some minor sponsors, but I was still short by a lot of money. I sold my house in Sydney, sold my furniture, paintings, everything I had. My children were in boarding school, so that was fine. We rented a unit so that my children would have a base to go to on the weekends and I sunk the rest of the money into the run. I sold most of my belongings so I had to start from scratch again when I got home.”
Farmer’s run was divided in 5 clearly different sections. Just looking at each single one of them makes the agerage runner tremble with fear:
STAGE 1: A 760-kilometer trek across the ice of the North Pole
STAGE 2: A 11,744-kilometer road run through North and Central America (Canada to Panama)
STAGE 3: A 250-kilometer trek through the Darien Jungle
STAGE 4: A 9663 kilometer road run across South-Americ
STAGE 5: A 900 kilometer ice trek across Antarctica
And then he ran. Farmer completed his Pole-to-Pole run in 10 months, averaging 65 kilometers per day or 46 marathons a month, NO days off, running through blistering heat, freezing cold and the impenetrable Darien Jungle. Along the way, he raised A$100,000 for Red Cross International.
On the North Pole A typical day he would be on the ice for 12 hours per day. The temperatures got down to about minus 40. They had 100-kilometer winds, total whiteouts.
Often there were days when you couldn’t see which way was up, which way was down and the snow was blowing right in our faces.
The Arctic Circle is like an ice cube that floats on the ocean. If you get a warm current that comes through, the ice cracks, so you have to decide to jump across, as the ice cracks apart, or you’re left stranded on one side and you have to put on a dry suit, zip it up, grab two ice axes and tie a Kevlar rope around your waist and swim to the other side. And you have to drag your sled acros
He was the first man ever to run across the impenetrable Darien Gap Jungle in Southern Panama
During his Antarctic leg It was minus 30, minus 35 and they had a few days with whiteouts. Inspite of that Pat did that leg – 900 kilometers – in just 20 days. Pat says Antarctica was much easier than the North Pole because it’s solid ground underneath the ice, and he didn’t have to drag a sled. His support crew was on Skidoos
When he finally reached the South Pole at the U.S. science base over there, he was greeted by a bunch of the scientists and researchers living there and as well by about 20 other arctic explorers. Each one of them in awe of what this former politician had pulled off.
Please watch the video of his trip here. It’s one of the most incredible adventure videos you will ever see in your life. Get ready to get goosebumped!
Pat has covered his insane running adventure extensibely in the book ‘Pole to Pole: One Man, 20 Million Steps’
Like ‘just a little run around the world’ and ‘running across Canada on one leg’ this is another incredible and kickass feat proving how crazy and inspiring passionate runners are and what humans can accomplish if they really care about something!