039 – Pat Farmer – One Step at a Time (Part 1)

Ultra-Marathon Runner & Former Federal MP

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If Pat Farmer’s story was a movie you’d think it too far fetched to believe.

For more than 20 years he has been running ultra-marathons. Crazy, long runs – the length and breadth of entire nations. Continents. Even the globe.

Among his epic journeys, Pat has run the length of India and Vietnam. He’s run from Lebanon to Jordan. Across the entire USA. He has even run a lap around Australia.

And – believe it or not, he has run from the North Pole to the South Pole. More than 20,000km – averaging 65km per day for more than 10 months.

Amongst all of those incredible events, he found time to spend 9 years in Canberra as a Federal Member of Parliament.

During our conversation Pat tells us all about his running career, how he got started, how he tra
ins, what he eats and drinks, why he loves running for charities and how running has shaped his philosophies on life.
He also tells us – with astonishing honesty – about his time in politics. The lessons he learned and the forces that really drive our political system.

And, as a huge bonus for the podcast, Pat gives us the scoop on the next epic run he has planned.

This conversation was recorded in front of a live audience at an event in Pyrmont hosted by Techni-Clean Australia and Bounce Rehab.

Live Recording - Pat Farmer on the Team Guru Podcast


Part 1 (8 September)

  • Introductory to running (you’re not going to believe the story of how Pat got into running)
  • Developing as a runner – seeking advice
  • Planning his epic runs
  • The Pole to Pole
  • Nutrition
  • Training regime
  • Developing his own solo runs
  • Up coming race – an announcement

Part 2 (15 September)

  • Political Career
  • Running tips and advice
  • Audience questions about running
  • Pat’s philosophy on life


Lessons Learned – Part 1

Here’s what I took from the episode:

Stumbling into a Run

As a youngster Pat didn’t get much of a run in the cricket or football team.

‘…so I was looking for something in my life where I could be somebody, achieve something. I think that’s the same for all of us. We’re all trying to find our niche in life’.

He saw the first Sydney to Melbourne ultra marathon, featuring Cliff Young, from the garage he worked at as an apprentice mechanic. That race made a huge impression on him.

Cliff Young won that race at the age of 63.

‘You get more stamina as you get older. You lose your speed but get more stamina’.

Pat had never run a marathon, a half marathon or even a fun run when he tried to sign up for the Sydney to Melbourne.

His first step, his first real run, was to participate in a qualifying event. He had to run 160km in 24 hours around a 400m running track at Botany

‘Why muck around with a marathon if you can go straight to the top shelf’

Stepping up

Pat looks back on how naive he was about running when he started  and sees it as a strength. He didn’t have any preconceived ideas about himself or the sport

He become a sponge – soaking up advice and information from wherever he could. He got very comfortable talking to the big names of the sport – asking them what they did, how and why. He didn’t see these figures as competition – like many other runners – he saw them as sources of advice

But Pat tempers that advice with the realisation that no two runners are the same. So while he was eager to seek advice, he learned to tailor it for himself – his own body and his own needs


In an ultra marathon Pat consumes solids food because he figures most of his life he’s consuming normal food so in a race situation it would be a mistake to all of a sudden start relaying on gels for a whole day or multi-day event.

‘Whatever you are going to do in the race you need to do it in training as well – and to make it part of your life’.

Pat thinks the best isotonic drink is coconut water

Multi-Day Races

Pat saw a gap in the running events around the world. There were a small number of multi-day events – just not enough for Pat. So he began creating his own

Pat Farmer on the Team Guru Podcast


It was in the tough times, running with injuries, without support, that taught Pat what winning was all about

Anyone can run well on a good day. But a champion will do well when times are tough

‘I’ve been able to succeed in this sport because I’ve never given up and I’ve finished everything I’ve started’

‘I am now the sum total of every race I have ever run’

The Pole to Pole

Pat’s most famous run was the Pole to Pole – North Pole to South Pole. He’s written a book about his experience but says, ‘I’ll write the true story about that run one day’.

‘I was in a bad place when I went to do that run. I basically thought I was going off to die’.

‘If you can live your life without fear you can do amazing things…it’s amazing what the human body is capable of doing’

You win an event in training. Not at the actual event

The best advice Pat ever received was from Cliff Young – ‘In order to win a race you have to finish it’

Pat’s Training

In the lead up to an ultra-marathon

Morning – 20k on the beech in the morning 5-7am – soft sand

Afternoon – Gym – pilates or strength training

Evening – 1 km sprints in the with a 3 minute recovery x 20km

Lots of hill, stairs and soft sand running. It forces him to control his stride and strengthen ligaments in his ankles and feet

Q – How do you know when you’re ready for an event?

A – ‘When I look in the mirror and like what I see’

Watch this Space – A Scoop

Pat likes to race but of course it’s difficult to find people willing to race the type of distances that he likes to run. But he’s found someone – an American called Dean Karnazes – who’s written a number of books, famous for running 50 marathons in 50 days

The are going to run the length of Cuba and if Pat has his way it will start on 26 January 2017

Running for Charity

‘I don’t see myself as a great runner – running is the tool I use to be able to raise funds for charity’

Pat enjoys running for charity because it ‘helps me to pick myself up and push on when things get tough’

He find that if he runs for himself, for a medal or a trophy, it’s much easier to give up when the going gets tough

But when running for a charity there’s a greater good. Something more than himself


Don’t forget to join us next week for Part 2 of the Pat Farmer story


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