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Ultramarathon Man: How I Ran From Pole to Pole

Jennifer Crawley - The Mercury
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September 20, 2012

Ultramarathon runner Pat Farmer  (Luke Bowden)

When Australian Pat Farmer talks to prison inmates about hardship, it's something the 52-year-old extreme running machine knows a bit about.

He ran 21,000km from the North Pole, through Canada, the US, Mexico, Panama, Ecuador, Peru, Chile and Argentina, then trekked across the ice to the South Pole in a year-long adventure that ended in January.

He braved blizzards, got lost in the deserts of Peru, dodged polar bears, snakes, crocodiles, armed bandits and rogue militia, and narrowly missed being wiped out by an out-of-control truck, all to raise funds for the Australian Red Cross - a cause close to his heart.

"Red Cross is so much more than a disaster-relief program or a blood bank," Mr Farmer said.

At Australia's Risdon jail, Mr Farmer saw how the Red Cross Prisoner Support Program works on the inside. Two other states are looking at adopting the program, in which long-term prisoners mentor new inmates.

"What I saw today was mentoring in a positive way, prisoners are told not to be too scared to get the skills to get a job, not to come back [to prison], to understand how fortunate they are to get another chance," he said. He offered the inmates some anecdotes of his adventure.

He was warned off Mexico by Australia's ambassador to the US Kim Beazley, who wanted him to fly over the violent country known for hostage taking. "I have to do it," he told Mr Beazley.

On entering the country he was greeted by two truckloads of army personnel and two carloads of Mexican police who escorted him without incident.

The runner also told the inmates how anyone can overcome tough odds. One of seven children, Mr Farmer left school when he was 14 to be an apprentice motor mechanic. His father died soon afterwards.

"Mum worked at a convent to pay for our school fees.

"I want kids to understand an ordinary person can do extraordinary things," he said.

  Check out Cruz Roja Mexicana (Mexican Red Cross)

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