Australian Ultra-marathoner begins run across India for charity

Record-setting Australian endurance runner and former parliamentarian Pat Farmer on 26 Jan 2016 began his run traversing the length of India – from Kanyakumari to Kashmir – with the primary goal to raise funds for the education of girls. The run also aims to cement relations between India and Australia; encourage tourism and personal relationships with a view to create awareness of India as a tourism destination and showcase it as a positive country in Australia.

Farmer, 53, was given a rousing reception on the border between Tamil Nadu and Kerala at the
township of Kaliakkavilai. Tourism Department officials and Arjuna awardee Smt. Omana
Kumari were present.  Farmer will travel a distance of 4,600 km from India’s southernmost point to Srinagar over a period of 60 days, covering an average of 76 km a day – or roughly equivalent in length to two marathons –across some 10 states.

The first leg of the ‘Spirit of India Run’ will see Farmer journey through Kerala –as a guest of the
state Tourism Department – from Poovar on up through Kochi and Kasargod before crossing
over into Karwar in Karnataka. He will then hug the western coastline upwards into Goa,
Maharashtra, Gujarat and beyond.

A Kerala Tourism branded vehicle and a liaison officer are accompanying the run. The Tourism
Department has already accounted for the run’s logistics in the state, including accommodations
for the crew at each halt.

Farmer expects to cross the finish line in Srinagar on March 30, following which he is slated to
fly to Delhi for a reception in his honour. A number of similar gatherings are planned at the
various halts on his route to maintain the run’s momentum and message. Kerala Tourism and
India Tourism have jointly arranged ‘India Evening’ functions in Farmer’s honour at Varkala on
January 27, Kochi on January 29 and a send-off on February 4, at Kasaragod

Stopovers will also entail visits to schools and other educational institutions to impart such 
lessons as the importance of universal education and health.   The nine locations covered in Kerala are Poovar, Varkala, Harippad, Kochi, Guruvayoor, Feroke, Vadakara, Payyanur and Kasaragod. 

“It’s a long way. Every day, it’s big mileage and it will be tough – especially over the first week to 
get acclimatised to the heat and humidity,” Farmer said. “But I don’t want it easy. This is not an 
Australian journey. It’s about the spirit of India.”

“My driving force, what keeps me going, is being able to make a difference. I care about supporting people, about helping people,” he added.

 Farmer’s endeavours over a two-decade –long running career have taken things several steps further.  He has completed ultra-marathons in the Middle East – a 20-day campaign spreading the message of peace over a 1,500 km stretch from Lebanon to Jerusalem, and Vietnam. He also holds the record for the longest continuous land run around Australia. But he is perhaps best known for his astonishing year-long 20,000 km slog in across 14 countries between the Earth’s two poles in 2011. Some five years later, he will keep a similar pace – though Farmer clocked well over two marathon-lengths daily across North, Central and South Americas during the ‘Pole to Pole Run’ – in India. 

His runs have also gone the distance in terms of raising funds for their intended charities: the five-stage polar crossing (described as “The Greatest Run in History”) raised $100 million for the 
International Red Cross in aid of the organisation’s relief programmes in the developing world.  Farmer has also netted millions for causes back home, like Lifeline, Cancer Council, Australian  
Red Cross and Diabetes Australia. More significantly perhaps they have also facilitated dialogue on pressing issues. The Middle East run, for instance, saw individuals across national, racial and religious divides come together to spread the message of peace.    

The two-month –long run hopes to do much the same to show that “Education of the Girl Child” can be achieved by taking it “one step at a time”. Farmer hopes to raise 100,000 AUD (about Rs 48 lakh) through the run. “It costs about 50 AUD (about Rs 2,400) to educate a girl for a year,” Farmer said. “The message is getting across. I’m confident we’ll get there.”

Besides the financial contribution, Farmer hopes his efforts will help promote bilateral ties between India and Australia. The run already enjoys strong support from the Ministry of External Affairs, the Ministry of Tourism, a number of state governments and the various Australian High Commissions in India.

To this end, embarking on the ‘Spirit of India Run’ on January 26 is particularly symbolic since 
the date holds meaning to both countries: commemorating the formation of the Indian Republic 
and the founding of Australia, or Australia Day.   

Australian Ultra-marathoner begins run across India for charity Australian Ultra-marathoner begins run across India for charity Reviewed by Welcome Kerala on 07:55:00 Rating: 5

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