Pat Farmer and the Trans-American Footrace 1995
Pat Farmer and David Horton
FARMER SAYS FIRST DAY OF CROSS COUNTRY RUN CRITICAL
Huntington Beach, California, 16th June 1995
Two years after finishing second in the most challenging cross country running race on earth, Sydney ultra marathon champion, Pat Farmer, has returned to the starting line of Trans America Footrace knowing that tomorrow's opening leg will be one of the most critical days in the whole event.
"The first day is a killer," said 33 year old Farmer tonight as he prepared a pre-race meal of spaghetti and rice.
Since the 1993 Trans America Footrace, Farmer has been haunted by the memories of letting US champion, Ray Bell, get too far ahead in the early stages of the run and then not being able to peg him back. Bell won by more than 16 hours. Farmer's second place time was 80 hours ahead of the third runner to finish.
"If Ray Bell wants to hammer it hard on the first day then I'll just have to duck in behind him and stick with him every step of the way," Farmer said.
"Unfortunately for me, because I want to win the race this year and I learnt from my mistakes in the past, I can't allow him to get too far ahead of me, not even on the first day."
The 4,718 kilometre race begins in Huntington Beach, on the Pacific coastline of California, at 5 am tomorrow morning. Fourteen runners from Australia, United States, Germany, Slovenia and Japan will be at the starting line. Thirteen of the entrants are men, with one female runner, Japan's100 kilometre champion, Eiko Endo. The race will end in New York City in mid August.
Farmer predicts the first day - an 86 kilometre run - will quickly sort out the contenders from the pretenders.
"There are a lot of injuries that you can get on the first day. The first day is usually chaos and most of the runners are trying to sort themselves out and trying to be pretty dominant. Everybody will hit it hard."
"The types of injuries will certainly be chafing, blisters and some will get bruising around the balls of their feet and that will be a painful injury to carry after the first day."
There are no days off during the race to recover from injury. In 1993 Farmer ran about 1000 kilometres from Chicago to New York with a painful pulled muscle in his groin.
Apart from the 1993 winner, Farmer expects stiff competition from Dusan Mravlje of Slovenia.
But the main competition will be within himself.
"There's a battle against yourself all the time, you either win or lose against yourself," he said.
Farmer, who works as a landscaper in Sydney, has left his wife Lisa and new baby, Brooke, at home in Australia for the duration of the event. Although there's no monetary prize for the Trans America Footrace, Farmer hopes to be able to collect an award even more valuable than cash in New York in August.
"The prize is knowing that you've won the toughest race on earth and in my case, hopefully I will have run it in the fastest time and I'll be able to hold my head up and say 'I'm the best long distance multiday runner in the world,'" he said.
PAT FARMER SOLDIERS ON
Georgetown, Colorado, 11th July 1995
Two Trans America ultra runners failed to make the steep climb through the Rocky Mountains today while injured Australian, Pat Farmer, soldiered on with a stress fracture to his left leg and a renewed determination to just finish the world's longest running race.
Less than a week ago Pat Farmer was running in second place and pushing the current leader Dusan Mravlje of Slovenia every step of the way. But the record breaking pace the two runners set caused a stress fracture to Farmer's leg three days ago.
"If I went to see a doctor he would tell me I should have stopped running three days ago," said Farmer tonight while he iced his swollen shin bone and prepared for an acupuncture treatment.
"I don't want to hear that."
Today the field of 13 runners dropped to eleven when Mike Sandlin of Texas and Ed Kelley of California failed to make the steepest climb of the 4700 kilometre run from Los Angeles to New York.
Sandlin withdrew with an ankle injury and Kelley, who has a groin injury, failed by two minutes to make it to the finish within the allowed time frame.
Farmer said the route over the 11,000 foot Loveland Pass pushed him to the limit.
"Today was the longest day of my life. When I got up this morning, my leg was aching and I knew it was going to be a long tough day."
At one point Farmer said he considered throwing in the towel.
"I just got to the stage and I grabbed a pole and couldn't take another step," he said. " I couldnt move my leg and I thought that was it."
A few minutes later Farmer's leg went numb and he was able to finish the final 10 kilometres of the race.
The landscaper from Campbelltown, Sydney came second in the Trans America Footrace in 1993 and had returned to the event to win it in 1995. Over the past three days he has fallen to fourth place overall and now is battling just to survive.
Despite fading hopes of winning the race, Farmer said he is determined to make it to New York.
"What I really want is to get over this injury and have another shot at Dusan," he said.
FARMER'S FIRST WIN SINCE LEG INJURY
21st July 1995
Sydney ultra runner, Pat Farmer, today won his first stage of the Trans America Footrace since an injury two weeks ago threatened to end his run across the United States.
With 29 days left in the 4700 kilometre trek, Farmer is still in with a chance of winning line honours in New York but says the leading runners will have to suffer injuries for him to close the gap.
"I am working very hard on a dream, on a hope that something will happen to the other runners and let me back into this race," said Pat tonight after a 60 kilometre run to the town of Cuba, Kansas.
"Winning today gave me a little confidence that I am still in with a chance."
His chances have been boosted slightly over the past 48 hours with signs that overall race leader, Dusan Mravlje of Slovenia is having difficulties with his knee or ankle.
Dusan finished in fifth place on Saturday- one of his worst results since the race began on June 17 in Los Angeles. Dusan ran with a taped ankle and appeared to be limping slightly.
Farmer suffered a suspected stress fracture to his left shin bone during a heated week-long running duel with Dusan through Utah and Colorado.
The injury caused Farmer to drop from second to overall fourth place, twenty hours behind Dusan.
"I think about Dusan's lead all the time," said Farmer. "It plays on my mind a lot. I came over to win this race and that is why I am finding it hard to stay focused."
The Trans America Footrace began with 14 runners. Three have withdrawn. The group covers an average of two marathon courses a day on the 64 day run from Los Angeles to New York.
Farmer described the scenery through Kansas as flat and boring and said it was a struggle to get motivated in the morning.
"Before the race, I felt like I just wished this race would end and to feel like that in the morning is a pretty depressing way for it to start."
But the news of an injury to Dusan lifted Farmer out of the doldrums today and he led Dusan by 15 minutes at the finish. It was not enough to make a big difference to the Slovenian's overall lead but Farmer is patient.
"I am trying to make the best of a bad poker hand - I am trying to bluff my hand through to the end of the game and hoping I can win," he said. "I know I am running a bluff. That is why I push hard for a win - just to frighten these guys a little bit."
FARMER'S ROLLER COASTER RACE
26th July 1995
Australian ultra runner, Pat Farmer, has dropped to overall fifth place in the worlds longest footrace after another roller coaster week of racing through America's heartland.
Farmer, 33, of Campbelltown in Sydney had been recovering from an injured left shin bone and was showing signs of moving back up the ranks until a stomach problem slowed his pace this week.
On Monday and Tuesday, Farmer finished in tenth place in a field of eleven runners because of stomach pains and diarrhoea.
"It left me with no energy at all," explained Farmer tonight. "I just feel like everything that can go wrong has gone wrong in this race."
The Trans America Footrace began in Los Angeles forty days ago and will end on August 19 in New York City. The runners cover an average of 80 kilometres a day in the 4700 kilometre long event. There are no days off allowed to recover from injuries.
Farmer had been in second place in the race until suffering a stress fracture to his left leg in Colorado three weeks ago which almost forced him to retire.
He dropped to fourth place overall but appeared to be on the road to recovery until the stomach ailment.
"It could have been something I ate or drank," said Farmer. "Or it could be the heat. Most days are over 30 degrees and the humidity is hell."
Slovenian soldier, Dusan Mravlje, leads the Trans America footrace ahead of Americans, Ray Bell and David Horton. Farmer lost his fourth place spot on Tuesday to Japanese runner, Nobuaki Koyago who has won the last four days of the race.
Farmer said he was feeling better now and was pleased with his fourth place finish in today's leg from Hamilton to Brookfield Missouri.
"I think I am through the worst of it."
Overnight, Farmer received dozens of letters from school children in Australia which he admitted also helped to lift his spirits.
"I am getting a lot of mail, especially from kids and that is helping me to find a reason to keep on going," he said. "I just want some good luck for a change."
Farmer came second in the 1993 Trans America Footrace and returned this year in the hope of becoming the first Australian to win the event.
FARMER TURNS UP THE PACE AGAIN
30th July 1995
Putting in his best performance in two weeks, Pat Farmer, has picked up the pace in the Trans America Footrace and is once again applying pressure on the race leaders.
Farmer, 33, of Sydney finished in equal second today and signalled his intention to try to move up the rankings during the final three weeks of the gruelling running race from Los Angeles to New York.
The eleven remaining ultra runners from six countries have covered just over 3000 of the 4,700 kilometre run.
Slovenian soldier, Dusan Mravlje holds a commanding lead over US runners Ray Bell and David Horton.
Farmer is in overall fifth position, just two hours behind Japan's Nobuaki Koyago.
"I am confident I can win some more stages and get back up there," said Farmer by phone from tonight's stop over in New Berlin, Illinois.
"I want to start winning some stages. I have just had a lot of things go wrong. I want to get on with the job I came over for," he said firmly.
Farmers problems began in Utah when he suffered a stress fracture in his left shin and was forced to slow down and give up second place. Since then he has struggled with stomach cramps and sickness.
I think I was so stressed out about my injury and my position in this race that it broke down my immunity. he said. "I am sick of being sick."
During the past week the athletes have been running through the heartland of America in temperatures above 35 degrees Celsius with oppressive humidity.
"It is no wonder so many people are dying from the heat in Chicago," said Farmer. "They are predicting a thunderstorm tomorrow night but I hope it comes sooner. "
Farmer's injured shin has been treated with acupuncture and ice and is no longer giving him serious pain. But a package arrived from Australia today with an unusual bandage for him to try.
"Apparently this bandage has been used on some famous race horses that have had shin splints and other problems and if it worked for horses they figured it could work on me," explained Farmer. "I am going to give it a try tonight."
With hopes of a victory now all but gone, Farmer said the many messages of support from home were making the run much easier.
"They have certainly made up my mind that there is no way I am not going to finish this race," he said.
"I am not running for myself any more. I am running for all of them."
The Trans America Footrace began in Los Angeles on June 16 and ends in New York on August 19.
FARMER EQUAL FIRST AND FEELING GOOD
31st July 1995
Australian ultra runner Pat Farmer continued his assault on the Trans America Race leaders today by sharing equal first place in an 86 kilometre run through Illinois and jumping to overall fourth place.
Farmer battled sweltering heat that peaked at 35 degrees Celsius to finish along side the overall leader, Dusan Mravlje of Slovenia, and the second and third placed American ultra runners, Ray Bell and David Horton.
The four-way tie for first placed lifted Farmer to fourth place overall, past Japan's Nobuaki Koyago who has suffered a leg injury and struggled to finish today.
"It was one of those days when I just had to survive it," said an exhausted Farmer after arriving in the town of Decatur. "I had to make sure that I was able to capitalise on the fact that Koyago was having a lot of problems."
There are eleven runners from six countries competing in the Trans America Footrace which began in Los Angeles on June 16 and will end in New York on August 19.
The 4700 kilometre event is considered the toughest running race on earth.
Farmer said the challenge today was the high mileage and the scorching heat.
"The humidity is incredible. There is no wind. Not a breath of wind in the air," he said. "
"Everytime I came to an aid station I tipped a bucket of water over my head and the drinks were double up. I really had to work hard just to survive the day let alone finish in the place that I did. "
But with the improved placing Farmer now sees a ray of hope in the remaining 19 days of the race.
"When we get towards the mountains in Pennsylvania something could happen to any one of the three front runners," said Farmer "That is the strategy that I am working on at this stage."
COOLING RAIN BRINGS BLISTERS TO TRANS AM FIELD
4th August 1995
Torrential rain came to the Trans America Footrace course in Indiana today giving Pat Farmer a welcome break from the oppressive heat and a couple of blisters, larger than a fifty cent piece.
Farmer, who has won three stages of the cross country race during the past week, struggled into fifth position today after heavy rain bucketed the course and caused problems for all the runners.
"When you feet are hot and your shoes are hot combined with the wetness from the rain and puddles of water it causes the skin to separate and creates the blisters," said Farmer tonight via telephone from a motel in Dublin, Indiana.
"I am not complaining too much because as I have said in the past, nobody has ever died from a blister and the other runners have plenty of them as well."
But Farmer said he'd much prefer the rain than the 35 degree Celsius temperatures and the 97 per cent humidity of the past week. The severe conditions resulted in the fourth retirement from the worlds toughest running race since it began in Los Angeles 49 days ago.
Kiyoto Nagata, 58, of Japan was the oldest runner in the field and was trying to be the oldest person ever to complete the 4700 kilometre race from Los Angeles to New York.
But Nagata collapsed while running into Indianapolis on Friday and was rushed to hospital suffering from dehydration.
"When this happens to another runner you realise you are human and it can happen to you," said Farmer. "You talk about commitment, what you are prepared to give. He was prepared to invest his life in this run. He had to drop before he would give up."
Nagata was put on an intravenous drip and remains in hospital, recovering. Because there is no time off allowed for injuries in the Trans America Footrace, Nagata was disqualified.
Pat Farmer, the only Australian in the race, is in overall fourth place and hopes to move up the field during the final two weeks of the run. Slovenian soldier, Dusan Mravjle is the overall leader. US ultra runners Ray Bell and David Horton are in second and third place.
Farmer said the heavy rain, which continued for most of the 8 hour run on Saturday, caused foot problems for all of the athletes.
"I have a couple of huge blisters on the ball of my right foot about the size of a fifty cent piece and pretty deep," he explained. "The little toe on my left foot is also pretty bad. My toe would be better if it was cut off. "
But Farmer said he did not blame the blisters for his slower performance today.
"It is just my body telling me it is time to pack it in," Farmer said. "Every now and then your body will throw up a new reason to stop and you have to fight on."
FARMER WINS HIS 18TH STAGE OF THE US RACE
9th August 1995
Applying plenty of pressure from behind, a homesick Pat Farmer pounded his way through Ohio today and won his 18th stage of the Trans America Footrace.
But Farmer, who is overall fourth place in the 4700 kilometre race from Los Angeles to New York, is running out of time to move up the field.
The race is scheduled to finish in Central Park in 10 days and the injury plagued landscaper from Sydney is twelve hours behind third placed David Horton of the United States.
"David Horton has a lot of difficulty up hills and we have just begun the hilly stretch of the run," said Farmer from the town of St Clairsville, Ohio today. "On actual time it would be hard to pull that time back but these hills could cause him to have all sorts of problems so the race is not done yet. "
There are ten remaining runners from six countries in the Trans America Footrace. Four runners have retired. The race has been led from the start by Slovenian soldier, Dusan Mravlje. Former Trans America winner, Ray Bell of the United States is in second place.
Farmer who was in second place until a leg injury nearly forced him out of the race, came to the United States to win the event.
"For the moment, I have just got to chalk this race up to experience and even though it is not over yet it is very hard to imagine winning from where I am placed," conceded Farmer today.
But he also stressed that there was a long way to go and all the runners had to face new obstacles through Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
The weather conditions over the past few days have ranged from floods to heat waves and have taken a toll on the athletes.
On Tuesday, eight hours of heavy rain caused minor flooding along the race course.
"The rain was rushing down the hills across the road and it was flowing up and around our knees, not our ankles, our knees," said Farmer.
"It made your legs so heavy and it made my blisters and feet a lot worse. I have the ugliest feet in the world"
The rain had cleared for the 100 kilometre run to St Clairsville today. Farmer shared a four-way tie for first place with Mravlje, Horton and Bell.
The Australian is running with a stress fracture in his leg, large blisters on his feet and lingering stomach pains. But he said the toughest pain lately had been dealing with the heart ache of missing his wife, Lisa and their six month old daughter, Brooke.
"I feel as though I have been away for an eternity," said Farmer. "I just want to hold that little baby and hug her and never let her go. That is really what I think about most of the time during the day."
FARMER CHALLENGED BY JAPANESE RUNNER
12th August 1995
With a week to go to the finish line of the Trans America Footrace, Australian ultra runner, Pat Farmer, is facing a new challenge from behind and a new opportunity to move ahead.
Farmer, 33, of Sydney is in overall fourth place in the 4700 kilometre race across the United States but is being pushed hard by fifth place Nobuaki Koyago of Japan.
Farmer finished in second place after a 60 kilometre run through Pennsylvania today, one second behind Koyago.
"We battled it out right to the finish line. We went neck and neck in a sprint for the last eight kilometres of the race," Farmer said.
"This is going to be a close battle all the way to the finish because he wants my place."
The race will end in Central Park, New York City next weekend. Farmer is four hours ahead of Koyago on overall time.
"I cannot keep on losing time to him otherwise I will drop back to fifth place," said Farmer. "I am even dreaming about it but I wake up telling myself that he will not take any more time from me."
The Trans America Footrace began in Los Angeles 57 days ago with 14 runners from six countries. Four runners have retired. The overall leader is Slovenian solider, Dusan Mravlje, who holds a 12 hour buffer over second placed Ray Bell of the United States. David Horton, also of the US, is in third.
The hilly course through Pennsylvania is causing Horton to slow down and could open the door for Farmer to move up to third place.
"David is having a lot of trouble on these hills," said Farmer." He walks up the hills because he can't run them and then runs down the other side."
Horton finished an hour behind Farmer today but is still 12 hours ahead on overall time.
"I hope I can capitalise on his problems because the rest of the course is hilly," said Farmer.
The athletes will spend tonight in a motel in Shellsburg Pennsylvania. The motel accommodation was a welcome break from camping out in school halls, gymnasiums and community centres for the past week.
Farmer said last night the runners stayed at a National Armory Hall in Ligoneir which was one of the worst places he'd ever slept.
"It was absolutely filthy. The floor was hard wood, it was very hot and there was no air conditioning," Pat explained. "But the worst thing was when I got up during the night I noticed there were maggots on the floor next to me. So I pulled up my sleeping bag and washed it off and moved but I had trouble sleeping after that."
FARMER FINDS AUSSIE SPIRIT IN TRANS AMERICA RUN
New York City, 19th August 1995
With tears welling in his eyes and an Australian flag on the back of his sweat soaked t-shirt, ultra runner Pat Farmer ran into New York City today to finish the 4700 kilometre long Trans America Footrace in fourth place .
Plagued by illness and injuries, Farmer's dream of winning the world's toughest running race ended weeks ago, but the 33 year old landscaper from Campbelltown Sydney says the reward of just finishing this time was enough.
"There were many, many times in this run when I did not think I was going to see the finish line and I didn't even know if I was going to get back home again," said Farmer at the finish line in Central Park."The flag on my back kept me going."
Farmer and 13 other athletes from six countries began running in Los Angeles, California 64 days ago. They covered an average of two marathon courses every day in the non-stop journey through 12 States.
Farmer, who came second in the 1993 Trans America Footrace, became ill and dehydrated in the Nevada desert and urinated blood for more than a week. He was able to recover from the sickness and close in on the overall leader, Slovenian soldier, Dusan Mravlje. The pair ran head to head in a bitter battle for first place through the rest of Nevada, Utah and the start of Colorado when Farmer's quest for first place was suddenly cut short.
The record breaking pace on the hard roads took its toll on Farmer's left shin which fractured under the constant pounding.
Despite a physician's warning to pull out, Farmer soldiered on. The race allowed no time off for injuries so Farmer was forced to hobble along in constant pain through the Rocky Mountains.
"It was just murder," recalled Farmer.
"There were quite a few times there when I thought I was going to collapse and I thought I might cash in on that death waiver that we signed at the start of the race."
With the assistance of strapping, acupuncture, massage and icing, Farmer was able to recover enough from the injury to start to run again. Farmer moved back up the field but never had any real opportunity to make up the lost time.
Farmer finished the grueling race in fourth place behind Mravlje and American runners, Ray Bell and David Horton.
It took him 461 hours, 13 minutes and 50 seconds of running to reach New York City. He took more than five million steps on the way to the finish line.
"It was tremendous to see the outline of New York City. It has been such a battle just to make it to this point," said Farmer today, adding that the feeling of making it this time was even better than his second place finish in 1993.
"After what I have been through I am not disappointed at all. I am happy I have made it to here," he said. "I am proud to have upheld the Australian spirit of never giving up."
Farmer will return to Australia on Thursday where he will be reunited with his wife, Lisa and five month old daughter Brooke.
"I just want to let Lisa know, we made it," he said.
Six of the male runners, including Farmer, broke the previous fastest record for a Trans America crossing. The only female runner, Eiko Endo of Japan, finished in eighth place overall and became the fastest woman to run across the United States with a time of 551 hours.
Don Winkley, 57 of the United States, became the oldest runner to finish.
"It is just tremendous," said a tearful Winkley. "To think someone can run across a continent is just incredible. It is the greatest thing I have ever done."