A Long Run Before a Much, Much Longer Trek

Around dawn late last month, Pat Farmer joined a smattering of New Yorkers braving the snow, the slush and the cold to get in a jog through Central Park.

Four hours later, Mr. Farmer, 48, had run a marathon — four laps along the circumference of the park. Pretty impressive, perhaps. But for Mr. Farmer, it’s just part of his daily training routine.

And starting soon, Mr. Farmer plans to run two marathons a day. From near the North Pole until he approaches the South Pole.

Even in an increasingly crowded field of athletic endurance stunts undertaken for worthy causes, Mr. Farmer, an Australian ultramarathoner and former member of his nation’s Parliament, stands out. He is soon to embark on an 11-month, 11,000-mile journey that will cost up to $5 million to stage and that is hoped will raise $100 million for Red Cross water relief programs in third-world countries.

Central Park, with its varying terrain and, these days, frigid temperatures, offered a good place to train, Mr. Farmer said. (The park even has polar bears, though they are, of course, in the zoo.) He will continue to circle the park for a few more days.

“The first week it was tough adapting, but that’s what I needed to do,” Mr. Farmer said. “It’s the harsh reality of what I’m up for.”

Mr. Farmer’s journey begins on April 2, when he and his crew — an expedition leader and a two-man camera crew — will be airlifted to the North Pole. He will spend about 50 days in the North Pole, running about 25 miles a day while trekking through the ice dragging a sled and a kayak; his expedition leader will carry a .44 Magnum to fend off polar bears.

Once he leaves the harsh conditions near the pole, he plans to do two marathons daily — about 52 miles. The trip will take him through 14 countries and wind along the western portions of Canada, the United States and Central and South America. He will sleep in tents and an RV. When he reaches the Darién Gap, a 100-mile-long, undeveloped jungle that bridges Panama and Colombia, he will require military escort.

One recent Friday, Mr. Farmer, who is about 5 feet 9 inches tall and 145 pounds, began his run wearing spandex running pants, a knit cap, Nike running shoes, thick black gloves and three layers of running skins beneath a white hooded sweatshirt. By the end of his second lap, he had stripped down to a short-sleeve shirt. His finishing time, counting breaks and slowdowns to talk to his two teenage children and a reporter, was about 4 hours 20 minutes.

“You’re just a machine and you do the same thing day after day,” he said after his run, sitting in a coffee shop on Central Park West. “You have to treat yourself like a machine, not like a human.”

Some of his fellow machines are legion. Guy Fessenden, a 53-year-old from Hartsdale, N.Y., is running from Georgia to Los Angeles to raise awareness for mental health disorders. After her granddaughter received a bone marrow transplant, Jeana Moore of Deer Park, Washington, decided to walk across the country to benefit the procedure, finishing Jan. 27 in Manhattan. Last summer Yijoo Kwon, a 64-year-old Korean immigrant and diabetic from New Jersey, completed a run from Los Angeles to Manhattan to promote diabetes awareness.

Even animals have been pressed into service: a goat named Doni was driven (in a car) across the country over the summer to raise money for homeless teenagers.

Most of these treks are inspired at least in part by some kind of personal event. In Mr. Farmer’s case, his wife, Lisa, died unexpectedly of an undiagnosed heart condition while the two were planning a run around Australia. The next year, Mr. Farmer completed the 9,000-mile run on his own, in 191 days.

His two children, Brooke, 15, and Dillon, 13, will remain in Australia during his pole-to-pole adventure, but traveled with him to New York. During the early part of Mr. Farmer’s training, they and the family of Mr. Farmer’s media manager Greg Quail (what fund-raising marathon would be complete without a media manager?) holed up in a coffee shop on Central Park West as Mr. Farmer ran. While meeting with a reporter, they ate eggs and Vegemite on toast and talked about the weather. Some of the children sang Katy Perry and Justin Bieber songs.

After Mr. Farmer’s second lap, Brooke, Dillon and Mr. Quail left to meet him. As they saw Mr. Farmer ascending a hill toward them near West 110th Street, Dillon ran down and joined his father for a few hundred yards. At the top of the hill, Mr. Quail waited with hot chocolate and Brooke waited with water, hard-boiled eggs and Gu, a high-protein energy gel that looks like it sounds.

When the greeting and snack time ended, Mr. Farmer took off again, passing several runners on his way out of view. The children decided to go sledding.

“They just think it’s normal,” Mr. Farmer said of his children later at the coffee shop. At that point Brooke interjected, “He’s done so many crazy things.”

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