Ultra-marathon runner and proud Catholic Pat Farmer is on a mission. The former MP headed off from Hobart this week for a grueling 14,500 km run around Australia in support of the “yes” vote in the Voice to Parliament referendum and said the one thing pushing him to put one foot in front of the other is his faith.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Tasmanian Premier Jeremy Rockliff farewelled the 61-year-old who will run the equivalent of two marathons every day for six months in what he describes as his “most important cause so far”.
He said running is his vocation and he never underestimates the power of prayer which has helped him complete some of the world’s toughest road races.
“Literally every kilometre I run is another decade of the Rosary, it’s the one thing that gets me through some of my darkest times,” he told The Catholic Weekly.
“Sometimes when I’m doing it really tough, I say 10 Hail Marys, an Our Father and a Glory Be and that’s another kilometre done. And on some of those really, really hard days that’s the only thing keeping me going.
“I guess at the end of the day we are all supposed to live what we believe, and running is my God-given gift which I use to help others.
“Nobody knows the needs on the ground better than the Indigenous people themselves, and better that they represent themselves then be represented by somebody else that has so many other needs and concerns to represent at the same time.
“I see running as my vocation, I came across it by chance, and I’d be foolish to have this talent and not use it for the good of others.
“After months and months of training and preparations for what perhaps could be the most important run of my life, I have asked for God’s help and believe with all my heart that if I do God’s will, I can do anything.
“This will be my legacy and everything I’ve ever done in the past has brought me to this moment in time to educate Australians about the policy which has sparked intense debate around the country.”
Farmer will run around Tasmania before flying to Perth and making his way up the west coast to Broome, Darwin and across to Townsville.
From there, he will run down the east coast to Brisbane and then on to Sydney and Canberra before making his way to the Red Centre and meeting the Prime Minister at the finish line on 11 October at Uluru.
The former Liberal MP, who held the Sydney seat of Macarthur from 2001 to 2010, said he was passionate about the referendum as he had seen first-hand the need in health, housing, and education in Indigenous communities across the country during his ultra marathon career.
He started running within days of watching the late Cliff Young shuffle past his workshop while working as an apprentice mechanic back in 1983 and has rarely stopped running since.
From California to New York, around Australia to mark the centenary of Federation, across the scorching sands of the Simpson Desert, up and down a record 101,939 steps inside Sydney Tower, he is also the only person to run from the north to south poles.
He has raised millions of dollars for charities including St Vincent de Paul, Lifeline, Red Cross and Father Chris Riley’s Youth Off The Streets.