Pat Farmer's View of the 1995 Trans-American Footrace
Pat Farmer: Middle row, 2nd from right
Visit Trans America Footrace page on patfarmer.com here
Pat Farmer collapsed into a plastic chair in the shade with an iced chocolate milkshake, his favourite post race drink. His eyes were glazed, his hair was soaked in sweat and his jaw hung loose with exhaustion. He had just finished another 80 kilometre stage of the 4700 kilometre Trans America Footrace and it hadn't killed him yet.
Although the 64 day run from Los Angeles, California to Central Park, New York City, receives little media attention, it is considered the toughest ultra running race on earth.
For Farmer, a 33 year old landscaper by trade, the grueling footrace had taken on proportions larger than any sporting event. This was war and for every single day of the two-month-long run, he was under enemy fire.
Every day was a relentless struggle against many forces- other runners, endless black tar roads, hills, mountains, heat, and injuries. But the 'mother of all battles' was against the enemy within himself.
Farmer left his wife Lisa and their 5 month old daughter Brooke behind in Campbelltown, NSW, and promised to return with the grand prize- first place. After coming in second in 1993's event, he was mentally and physically prepared to win this time.
But the race had other plans in store for him.
From the start, a soldier from Slovenia, named Dusan Mravlje set a cracking, even suicidal pace. A series of brutal heatwaves baked the heartland of America killing hundreds of people. There was injury, illness, heartache and casualties.
The runners covered, on average, the equivalent of two marathons every day. They slept in motels, school gymnasiums and under the stars. There was a time limit for each stage of the journey and there was no time off to recover from injuries.
Of the14 runners from six countries, ten would make it.
Pat's quest to win was dashed early in the race with a stress fracture to his shin. From that moment on, he had to find a new goal. After each day of the run, Pat would sit in the shade and ask himself the question, "Why should I go on?"
These are the reports he filed, and scavenged from a Swiss Student's website :
Huntington Beach - 16th June 1995 - The night before the race
I looked around at the other runners today at the press conference and I knew the winner was there. I did not know whether the toughest competitor was going to be one of the runners I was looking at or whether it was going to be myself. There's a battle against yourself all the time and you either win or lose against yourself and when you give up on yourself that's when you've lost it.
I don't like to admit this to too many people because people take it the wrong way, but the fact is that this race goes for 64 days and we run over two marathons per day every day and I'm out here to try and win this race and to push myself to an unknown limit. I don't know what that limit is. I haven't reached it yet but there is a point when your body can't take it any more and it collapses. I haven't taken my body to that point yet and I'm scared that this might be the time that it happens . I'm prepared to do that because I have just put so much emphasis on this race...maybe too much. I've put everything into this race. For the last two years since I finished second last time, I've thought of nothing but this race. ..I will do the absolute best that I can. I am a very proud Australian and this is an opportunity to represent my country, to be something special. I can think of nothing worse than to live my life and go from A to B and to get to the end to have hardly made an impression and the only way I can do that, make an impression, is through what I'm doing and by winning this race.
When I was at school, I listened to a lot of people who told me what to do with my life and it just ran off me like water off a duck's back.
But then, about ten years ago, I saw the Sydney to Melbourne ultramarathon and I saw what a human being could do if they were determined enough.
I wanted to do that too.
I finished second in this Trans America Footrace in 1993 behind Ray Bell of the USA. Since then, I have thought of nothing but this race and trying to be the best that I can be in it. Maybe that is just the thing that will either make me or break me this time.
Two years ago when I was trailing Ray by 16 hours after the first week of the race, every day I thought I could win. The moment I started thinking I couldn't win, it would have been too hard to run 80 kilometres, whether it was for one day or two days or sixty four days. If I didn't think I could win, I couldn't have kept going on. It was the only thing that kept me going.
This is the toughest footrace on earth. Nothing comes close to the conditions that we will go through. Nothing else is as long as this, as tough as this. 64 days of torture.
In the end, the prize is knowing that you have won the toughest race on earth. In my case, hopefully it will be that I have run it in the fastest time and I will be able to hold my head up and say I am the best long distance multi runner in the world.
Day 1, 52 miles - 17th June 1995 - Rancho Cucamonga, California
This is what I do. I run. The wait before it all is perhaps the biggest pain of all. I'm not excited. It's fear of the unknown. I know what to expect. 64 days of torture. It was a particularly tough day today because of the weather. It began and it was cold and then it warmed up a lot and it was very hot and I felt myself cramping up a bit at the 35 mile mark because I was not taking in enough water. Then I slowed down a bit through the middle of the race and was able to push on.
I was hurting bad around the 35 mile mark. I knew it wasn't going to be a picnic on the first day. It never is and it wasn't. It was damn hard.
I'm happy with the time I've run and the way I've finished and my position in the field. Anywhere in the top six in the first week is good. I want to take a hot bath tonight to loosen my muscles up, my calves. 63 days to go but the first day is a challenge and at least I've got the nerves over and done with now and I can just get down to business.
Day 2, 44 miles -18th June 1995 - Victorville CA
I came in fifth today, it was very, very tough day. The weather was very, very hot- had to come over the rise into Victorville very warm and I was struggling but I'm starting to run myself in and hopefully things will pick up from here. I had a bad day but I'm still settling in getting stronger each day and more acclimatized each day. I can improve on my first day's performance. The race had its first casualty, Masao Makaza of Pasadena. He pulled out -barely made the cut off on first day and suffered from exhaustion today. Tomorrow and all this week will sort out quite a few of the slower runners and maybe a few of the faster runners too.
Day 3, 39 miles - 19th June 1995 - Barstow CA
Today was a relatively short day in comparison to the rest. It's only 44 miles into Barstow from Victorville but tomorrow, Barstow to Ludow into the heart of the desert will be 52 miles in temperatures of 120 degrees, extremely hot. I'd say it would have been over 100 today. I ran quite well and was consistent all the way through- could safely say I consolidated fourth place.
I suppose I'm in a pretty good condition and can pickup the pace from here, The first few days is just acclimatising... Everybody is a little concerned about the desert and it will be tough. The leader, Dusan, is a world class runner over ten days but has never run further than that and it will be interesting to see how he tackles this through the desert. I'm hoping the hotter conditions will slow him down a bit. Second placed David Horton will come into his own in the Colorado Mountains so my idea for David is to apply a bit of pressure through the desert to him and pick up my time through there.
The harder the conditions, the more it will play to my advantage...I'm sleeping much better and had the first decent night's sleep I've had last night. From tomorrow onwards, the heat will be heart-wrenching stuff. It's what people expect the desert to be. These first three days have been nerves and hype and a settling in period for every body. Now its down to business...
Day 4, 52 miles - 20th June 1995 - Ludlow CA The Mojave Desert
Last night was a difficult night because we were staying close to a railway line. There was a lot of shunting going on because of the trains and it was really noisy. Hardly any of the runners got any sleep at all.
Then when we did take off, we knew that Dusan Mravlje was out to set the pace again on a long day through the desert. I knew he would be running better times for the first ten miles and it was mentally draining. I said to myself that this is the day I have to make an impression, I have to stay with him.
I put it up to Dusan and I went head to head trying to take the lead but we both found it near impossible and came over the line tied in first for today.
There's not much to look at out here - just one straight line, as far as the eye can see. What we could see was just a black line of licorice - that's the road.
It appears to be a lot more barren than the outback of Australia where at least you can see termite mounds. There are just mountains in the distance and flat desert and a very dry heat. I don't tend to sweat but I get very, very hot in the head. My blood feels like it's almost at boiling point. If I am perspiring, it is drying out so fast.
A scorpion was running along side us today. I saw a couple of little geckos and the occasional snake. Only that and ultra runners were alive in the desert today...
Day 5, 28 miles - 21st June 1995 - Amboy CA
Today was stage five, a shorter 28.5 miles from Ludlow to Amboy where we are staying at a local school. Dusan, Ray and myself took off at a cracker jack pace this morning. Ray was going very well and Dusan and I just held back hoping something would happen. But Ray was able to sustain the pace over the whole distance. His time of 3 hours and 33 minutes was a new record for this leg. Dusan and I crossed the line together and ran a time of 3hours and 36 minutes and 49 seconds which also broke the old record. David Horton was 4th. I'm now in third place passing Manfred but Dusan is still nearly 3 and a half hours ahead. It's early days yet.
Day 6, 40 miles - 26th July 1995 - Kelso, Calif
I'm sun burned on my arms and legs and am trying to stay covered up as much as possible. I run everyday with my face covered in zinc.
Many of the runners, including myself, are suffering from the heat and are urinating blood. It's a common sight with ultra runners through these temperatures because your bladder becomes dehydrated. It leads to dizziness and fatigue and obviously low iron levels.
The whole thing, the whole race, is not good for you and we all knew that at the beginning - we're all human and you can't get through this race without injury. The winner will be the person who can cope with that the best.
Day 9, 55 miles - 25th July 1995 - Moapa, Nevada
We ran through Las Vegas this morning and while everyone was taken up with the glamour of Vegas - it looked very nice because the lights were still on when we left - it was also a very depressing place. As the sun came up and the lights went down I could see all the people who were down and out and had no money. They were lying in the gutters and at the bus stops, some had no shoes on. That was the other side of it. Two extremes of it. It effects you as you run past.
Then we finally got through the Las Vegas traffic. It was a real hassle because the place is open 24 hours a day and people are coming out of bars drunk and they're driving crazy.
The route began with a steep climb into the mountains which took its toll on most of the runners .
Somewhere on the road, Dusan and I and the American runners David Horton and Ray Bell mentally must have come to the agreement that it was too hot or long a day to fight it out. Words didn't have to spoken, we just crossed the line together. It was the first time in the history of the race that four runners have crossed the line in first place and that was an indication how terrible a day it was. You didn't want to let the other person win but couldn't push yourself anymore. It was better not to lose any time to David or Dusan than trying and go for the lead and ruin myself for tomorrow.
It was so hot, scorching hot, 109 degrees. It was soul destroying to be in the city one day and think that at last the desert is out of the way and it will be much cooler and then you are hit with it again.
I am still in an excellent position to win this race because I have got more experience than the two runners, but honestly I forgot how painful this run is. My body just forgot how damn hot it is here, how hard it is. It just sort of hits home. I'm still positive I can win this race but the last few days have just brought me back to reality. I'm going to have to put everything on the line. Once I, attain second place, which I think I can do over the next two weeks, once I do that I'm going to have to lay it all on the line for first place.
Day 11, 46 miles - 27th June 1995 - St. George, Utah
My stomach was very tight and still is, like someone has got it in a winch and is screwing it up. That's the blood loss - I am urinating a fair bit of blood. I'm going to see how it goes one more day (before I see a doctor) and I'll take it from there.
You don't really know what the other runners are feeling and suffering from. It's a closed shop. You don't tell anyone anything and they keep it to themselves. They try to get spruced up so they look in top shape as the others cross the finish. You try to get a psychological edge on the others but when you to get to your room and shut the door, that's when you collapse.
You can only hope Dusan is going to run out of steam but I can't stop thinking about two years ago when I let Ray Bell get too much of a lead on me and I wasn't able to catch him. There's nothing I could stand worse than to go through that mental torment again. I want to be calling the shots in this race.
Day 15, 29 miles - 1st July 1995 - Salina, Utah
I'm in a little town called Salina. There is a little motel and a cafe across the road and that's about all there is in the town. We are surrounded by hills with snow on the top. It's overcast and pleasantly cool which is a nice change for everyone.
Up until now, Dusan and I have not talked much at all during the race. Maybe one or two words now and then if something happens on the road ahead or there is a snake or something. Even though you're running side by side, you are focusing and concentrating so hard that you don't talk.
But today at the twenty mile mark, Dusan looked across at me. He knew, because the Australian press was there that I wanted to win. He said to me "You want a war today" and I said "Yes". And he said, "You don't want to finish together? You know I can run very fast."
I said " I don't want to finish together" and he said "Well a war, that's the way it's going to be."
We came down to two miles to go and started upping the pace. I was in the lead with about 1 mile to go when Dusan started to put on a sprint. I went with him and we sprinted that last mile. Dusan got me by 1 second at the last moment and he was filthy, he was not happy that he had to push himself.
The race organisers thought it was madness and they were right. It was crazy for him to do it. What if he would've injured himself? It wouldn't have mattered a bit if he had let me win by a second or ten seconds but he wasn't prepared to let it happen. It showed a stupid side of a very intelligent man.
Day 18, 45 miles - 4th July 1995 - Green River, Utah
I'm in my hotel room in Green River but the truth is I'd probably be better off sleeping back at the lookout in Eagle Canyon where we were last night.
The roof in the room has got a hole in the ceiling. There is a light fixture that has been pulled out and half the wires are dangling down. There's a chair with upholstery ripped off it that looks like a dog has been in here.
The walls have got kick marks all over the place and I don't know how they got there. It's like someone has been playing squash in here. There's a framed painting above my head which looks like it was done by the owner of the motel at kindergarten. The carpet reminds me of the Royal Pub at Granville back home - when you walk in, you stick to the carpet like someone has spilt beer on it. The bed spread is supposed to be creamy white, but I think it's really a multi colored coffee stain.
Day 22, 40 miles - 8th July 1995 - Glenwood Springs, Colorado
This has been a roller coast race so far and right now I've hit the bottom.
Problems for me began only two miles into the race when my left leg started to play up quite a lot. I think that it's a shin splint. It's giving me hell. I had to limp from the two mile mark to the finish and luckily for me, it was a short day.
My leg is bruised and swollen up around the ankle and in front of my shin. I think it's a fatigue problem. I just can't understand it. I felt good this morning but after the start, wham, it just hit me. It is really sore and painful. I was in the lead and I had to back off. Dusan was pushing the pace pretty hard and I dropped them at the twenty mile mark.
I haven't had this type of injury before. It's very painful to walk on. As soon as I got to the finish line, Dusan and Ray Bell were waiting there to see what was the matter with me. I just kept on running past them and ran back to the hotel and locked the door. I am going to get some ice on it. It looks like a golf ball on the front of my shin.
It couldn't have happened at a worst time for me. I think I said before that I could get into New York on one leg and I wasn't so sure Dusan could. Looks like I'll have to prove that now. I won't be giving up, but it's really frustrating that things are happening to me and not to Dusan...but these things happen I suppose.
Day 23, 55 miles - 9th July 1995 - Avon, Colorado
Today we met an Australian physiotherapist and athlete who took a look at my leg. She thinks it is a stress fracture. The middle particles of the bone come away and it gets all inflamed around that area.
That explains the pain that I am going through. My leg hurts, every step, is every time the foot moves up or down. I am hoping it will go numb then I will be able to keep going at least.
I am pretty depressed, it was a very demoralizing day. I had to hobble from the start all day and finished in 11th place. It was really hard to see all those runners go past. I knew Ray Bell was lurking in third place so I was trying to get in as fast as I could but every step was agony. I am concerned about tomorrow because we go up Vail pass tomorrow. It was the run I was looking forward to but now, how quick things can turn. Two days ago I had the best run I had in my life. I threw down the gauntlet to Dusan and the others and then the next morning - that was it. The stress fracture was obviously the result of the pace I have been setting. People might look at me now and say this guy is pretty stupid and that I should have just sat in there in second place and cruised along for second place and looking back that was probably a good move. But I can't face my family or my friends, especially Lisa, my wife, I just can not face them if I just sit back and have a picnic. I have to go for the win. That is what I came over here for.
I had a lucky break because there was a flood on the cycle way and the police would not let us on it so the race organisers cut 17 miles out of the 55 mile long route. Dusan beat me by about three hours today and Ray cut my lead by about the same amount. I'm now more than four hours behind Dusan and just three hours ahead of Ray in third place.
If they had not have shortened the course, I don't even know if I could have finished the whole amount. Maybe I have been blessed and I will have another shot to recover a little bit.
Tomorrow we cover 36 miles but it's not the miles I am worried about. I am looking up at the mountains, at the top of the mountains that is where we have to go - we will go. It is going to make things a little difficult - My thinking is all mixed up at the moment. Maybe we will get a storm and the run will be called off and I will have a chance to recover. I am just getting desperate and grasping at straws. Things have changed so horribly over the past two days.
Day 24, 36 miles - 10th July 1995 - Frisco, Colorado
I woke up and I felt really terrible becaused I tried to move my ankle and it was very stiff and I knew I would have a tough day. I stayed with the leaders for about five minutes and then dropped back and back and then Don Winkley, who is a lovely old guy, ran along side me. He wanted to talk about my injury but that was the last thing I wanted to talk about. I was trying to block it out.
Then we passed the thousand mile mark and Don wanted to take his photo with me at the 1000 mile mark and it was the last thing I wanted to do. But ran back about 100 yards to the sign and I got this photo taken for Don. And then he took off and he left me in is wake. Here is this guy who has been the caboose for the whole race and he left me behind and it was depressing. I had been used to running with the front. It was a case today of just surviving.
We were climbing all the way to Vail Pass and the scenery was terrific. It is a beautiful place to be. The thing that kept going through my mind is that my leg is on fire and I could see all this snow beside the road and I felt like I would have loved to have taken my shoe off and dropped my leg in it. I would have loved to have put my leg in the river that was flowing by. But if I had done that it would have cost me valuable time and I would not have made the cut off.
I covered 37.9 miles in 10 hours and fifty minutes. I would normally have covered it in about six hours. But with an injury when you are hobbling all the way its almost impossible. What has saved me is that we have had a spate of short days. If anything is going to give me a chance to get back in the race it is that.
I have carried this now for three days and the injury can either get a lot worse or better.
Basically, the story is that some tendons have torn and have pulled off little pieces of bone from my shin. Every time I over-extend, it tears the tendon more and that is why it hurts so much.
I kicked a bit of ice today and it felt like somebody grabbed a knife and stabbed it in there.
A couple of things were going on my mind today. One was that I have to get through this day because people from Australian 60 Minutes and America Online are going to be there at the end of the day.
Another thing was that even if I make it through today and tomorrow, I have to finish this race. You just don't give up. I look back to how I trailed Ray Bell by 16 hours across America in 1993 and I did not want that to happen again. Thats why I pushed things like I did. I was more prepared to die out there on the road than face the prospect of falling behind again.
I fell behind Ray today into third place overall.
When this is all said and done and we arrive at Central Park there is no scale of prizes. Everyone gets a plaque to say you finished the race. The prize really lies out here on the road between California and New York and when it's all over and done with, the runners will remember one or two very special moments and that is their prize.
For me that prize might be the toughest day I had and overcoming that. That was today.
Day 34, 44 miles - 20th July 1995 - Mankato, Kansas
There was one special thing about the day. We had a magic sunrise. The sun came up like a raging ball of fire that was absolutely magnificent. I was running with David Horton at the time and we were talking about how the ultra runners are poor in monetary terms. There are few material gains for any of our races. But we are very rich in experiences and this sunrise is one of those experiences you cannot buy. I think David and I will both remember that sunrise as one of the special moments that have happened amidst the war that we are in...
Day 35, 41 miles - 21st July 1995 - Cuba, Kansas
Winning today gave me a little confidence that I am still in with a chance. I keep thinking to myself that I can apply some pressure to these guys and move up in the placings. You see a few people looking drawn and tired in the face and you think there is a problem and they look at me and think the same thing. I would like to feel 100 per cent and hammer it every day, but that's not happening yet.
I pushed for the win and I probably forced this injury on myself . Now that it has happend I see the other runners who hung back are benefitting now. It was easy for those guys and yet it is so hard for me. Why has it just fallen into their laps? Now I have to work so hard to get that back again.
I suppose it's part of being an Australian - you are always a battler.
Day 36, 44 miles - 22nd July 1995 - Cuba to Marysville
I was originally looking forward to running into Marysville because it was a place that really stood out in my mind from the run 2 years ago. It's famous for the Pony Express and there's a big statue of it right there on the right hand side of the road, before we turn into the school, where we're staying for the night. It is also famous for these black squirrels.
I remember calling my mother ,Mary. Giving her a phone call from there 2 years ago and describing the town for her, so it was something for me to think about on the way to there.
When the run started off it was cold but it didn't take long for it to warm up at all. When Dusan, Ray, David and myself got to the four mile aid station, Ray hit it and I went with him. I could hear David and Dusan laughing in the background and having a big joke about how we wouldn't be able to pull away from them later on and that they would soon catch us- but we took off like rockets.
We got ahead by about four to six miles and we were really pushing it hard. We got to the ten mile aid station- everything was looking fine. We got closer to the 20 mile aid station and I started to have a lot of difficulties trying to keep up with Ray. Just about this time, Dusan had caught up to us and was making things unpleasant again, so Ray and I decided that we would hit it again and pull away from Dusan.
We went to do that, but when I went to step on the gas, there was no fuel in the tank. I got away by only about half a mile, Ray continued to push on and I had to back off at that stage.
It wasn't long after that Dusan caught up to me again. I spent some time sitting on his tail letting him drag me a long. Then I had to let him go as well. Ray went on to finish first- Dusan came in second. Dusan went out of sight from me around about the 38 mile mark and I lost him all together. I was then in no man's land- on my own and concerned with whether I'd be able to stay in front of Horton and Koyago.
We got within 4 miles to the finish and I noticed they were bearing down on me very fast- they were only about 10 metres behind me. So I hit it again from there. I told Gerard and Yuki I didnt want to have any more drinks.
I hammered it from there and was able to pull away and in fact put on a good lead from those 2 guys- it gave me a bit of strength and made me feel good that I was able to do that. Especially to Koyago who's someone who's got an excellent kick in the end. So even though I had a very tough day all the way through, I was happy just to be able to kick away after all that.
I ran into the finish line and sat under an umbrella set up by the race organizers. Tony, from the race's sponsor- Moonbat, of course came over and brought us some drinks as he does everyday- he's very helpful with the runners as they finish. Ray Bell's wife made me a pancake with blueberries and I had that, nice also.
I hadn't long finished that when I tried to have a sleep in the gymnasium where we were staying for the night. The temperature in there was just roasting hot- I couldn't sleep or rest. Instead I went with Gerard and Yuki down to the park and they got some photos with the Pony Express statue and then we rested for a little while underneath a tree. That is something that I dreamed about a lot of the time that I've been running. I'd run past trees and thought about how nice it would be to be able to stop and rest and just lie underneath one. So that's exacly what we did.
That evening we had a 2 mile crew race around a track at the park. It was good -Gerard came second and Yuki won the womens. They were both happy with that and everybody was in good spirits.
Then we went to try to rest for the night. We were set upon by a plaque of everything from mosquitoes to grasshoppers- all sorts of insects inside the gymnasium- it was incredible! It was absolutely roasting hot. It was 9 o'clock at night- still steamy and very, very hot- we found it hard to sleep. The lights were out.We couldn't go down to the showers where it might have been cooler because you couldn't see where you were going- there was a main switch- I dont know who hit that- So after a while, you couldnt see where you were going anyway.
It was murder in there. I spent all night in there trying to shoo off the flies and the rest of the insects and I dare say the rest of the runners did too.
I finally just got up at 12:10am- I tried to sleep outside and there was this storm- a little bit of rain in that. It didn't really cool things off. It actually made things just a little bit more humid and it certainly didn't scare off the insects. So I hopped in the van and tried to sleep in there for the next 3 hours, but unfortunately wasn't able to nap at all.
Day 37, 59 miles - 23rd July 1995 - Marysville to Hiawatha
You can imagine how upset I was when it got to 4o'clock and Gerard came knocking on the side of the van because it was time to get going again. I felt absolutely terrible. I hadn't had any sleep at all. My legs were covered in welts from the insects and the rest of the runners were the same.
It was a terrible night- I was already covered in sweat and I hadn't even started running.
So anyway that was the start of the day. We got to the starter's line and I found myself having difficulties with stomach cramps before we've even started the race. As we took off into the race, it wasn't long before, in fact it was only the four mile mark, when I'd lost sight of the runners- Bell, Dusan, Koyago and Horton. I simply couldn't keep up with them. The stomach cramps time that I was having were obviously a sign of diarrhea.
I spent a lot of the side of the road, going down into the bushes or into the tall grass trying to go to the toilet and getting back onto the road again and trying to push on.
This left me with absolutely no energy. I got to around the 20 mile mark and I found that the other runners had begun to overtake me. Manfred Leisman overtook at this point. I pushed on a bit further at the 30 mile mark and Jun Onoki, one of the other Japanese runners, overtook me at that point. He was very concerned about my condition because he wasn't used to seeing me out the back there. He's a doctor and he wanted to prescribe a lot of things for me to take but I decided against that but I don't like taking stuff I don't know much about.
I just tried to push on, but I couldn't stay with him for very long. And then the other doctor and the oldest runner, Nagata, got up to me.
He was very concerned about my condition. He had seen me going off into the bushes from a distance and he knew what was going on. He pushed on towards the 40 mile mark I was at the 38 mile mark and I felt absolutely terrible.
I got to the 40 mile mark and I started walking. I walked across the road and went over to my vehicle and sat down for the first time in the whole race. It was amazing- I went through all that trouble with my leg injury but it was a bout of diahrrea and stomach cramps that absolutely stopped me.
I went to the back of the vehicle and put ice over the back of my head. It was extremely humid and I was roasting hot at this stage. The temperatures were well over 100 with the humidity very high. I was feeling it. I was sunburnt very badly on my legs and on my arms and at the back of my neck, even though I had cover on it. It was getting blown around by the trucks that passed all the time.
So, I'm sitting at the back and I could see the disappointment in Yuki's eyes and in Gerard's as well. I felt like I was helpless and there was nothing I could do to cheer them up. There was nothing I could do to cheer myself up. I was at the 40 mile mark and I was seriously contemplating whether I'd be able to finish or not.
It was then that I asked Gerard how we were doing for the cutoff and he said that we had plenty of time and that it wouldn't be a problem at all. I spent about another 10 minutes there just rolled over with ice on the back of my neck and on my head. I was trying to collect my thoughts and get the energy and the strength to push on.
It was at this stage that Kaiho and Eiko Endo, the woman runner ran past me. Eiko crossed the road, came over and gave me a rub on the back and cheered me up a little bit. Then she wished me the best and pushed on. That made me feel good that so many of the Japanese runners truly cared about my condition and about me finishing or not.
A few more minutes passed by and I finally summoned up enough courage to get going again to push on. I made up my mind that I had 20 miles to go. If I broke that up into aid stations that was just 10 aid stations. So just five aid stations to the 50 mile mark and then I'd take it from there. If I thought of it in smaller numerals that would make it easier to cope with. That's what I told Gerard anyway.
I put my walkman on and I listened to some music from home that my brother had sent over to me.I pushed on and listened to that for the next 4 miles and then I had a 10 mile break without it. I then listened to some other music for the next 10 miles.
Today was the first time I did any walking. I clearly remember looking up at Yuki and Gerard and seeing the disappointment in their eyes. When I put on my brother's tape he had some words of encouragement on the tape that came along at just the right time. He said - You never fail until you give up. I was feeling like a shot duck, I was sunburned and I had no energy. But those words kept me going. I broke the race up into sections. At the fifty mile mark I didn't think of ten miles left, I thought of it as just five aid stations.
I came into the finish and Moonbat representative Tony, was there. I put my head between my legs and tried to gather my composure.
Tony came up and put his hand on my shoulder and he said ,"You are a very brave runner. "
It made me feel like there is a lot more to this than just the race. It is important to push on. I came so close to pulling out at the forty mile mark - the closest I ever came to quitting anything in my life
But now I realise there is something more to this. I'm having an influence on the people who are around me. When I looked up and saw Gerard and Yuki - I felt like I was really letting them down. It was like their whole world was crumbling down. They had really set their sights on New York. It is their run, just as much as it is mine. I think that goes for all of the crews of all the runners.
I was so close to tossing the whole thing in and it scared the hell out of me - I would have hated myself if I did.
Day 39, 48 miles - 26th July 1995 - Brookfield Missouri
I got a lot of mail from Australia today. It helped me a lot. Some of it came from little kids in an athletics club. It lifted me. The kids were eight to ten years old. One letter said "Just make sure you win Mr Farmer". Another kid asked me to send him back a snake skin.
Day 48, 53 miles - 3rd August 1995 - Indianapolis, Indiana
The heartbreaking news of the day was that Kiyoto Nagata, 58, the oldest runner in the race, was forced to withdraw.
He is now in hospital on an IV after collapsing at about the 14 mile mark. He was dehydrated badly and he couldn't keep any fluids in. Exhausted, he collapsed and was rushed to hospital.
I was devastated.
As I was running, I saw his support vehicle go speeding past in the early hours of the morning. I was running with the front pack and we realised what was probably happening. I could see the other runners were feeling the same thing. But we didn't dare discuss it. We ran on in silence.
When this happens to another runner you realise you are human and it can happen to you. When we push on through the tough days, it makes you think nothing can ever stop you but when something happens to one of your colleagues, all of a sudden you think it can happen to you, just like it happened to them.
It makes you want to be just all the more careful. I was deeply upset about Kiyoto being forced out. It just plays on your mind. Instead of thinking about finishing, you think about not finishing.
Day 64, 30 miles - 19th August 1995 - Central Park, New York City
We hit the George Washington Bridge - the entrance to New York City and everyone just went wild. Manfred Leisman of Germany was yelling his trade mark, "Cocka doodle doo" cry - and he threw his hat off the bridge into the water.
I just ran on and took in the view. I was a little more subdued than the others because I had seen the view of the New York City skyline before. I was deep in thought about things back home and what the moment meant to me. It meant that I was able to conquer all of the problems that were presented by this run. All of the hassles of this run.
At the finish line I was asked if I was disappointed with my fourth place. I am not. This run has been a disaster for me. Everything that could have gone wrong on the way has gone wrong. Yet despite all of that, it has turned out more successful and better for me than I could have ever imagined. I have received so much support from other people, from people back home and people I don't know.
I was dead set on the idea of winning. That was the only thing on my mind. I thought people wouldn't care if I came anything but first. But I have learned through this run that they do care and when you do something really special and you see it through to the end, those qualities do count. That has hit home to me.
I wanted to be the best ultra runner in the world. But today I really just feel a tremendous feeling of being an Australian. For years I kept on reading about great Australians and what a typical Australian is. In Gallipoli they never gave up, and they never gave up in World War II.
I just feel like an Australian at the moment. I just feel like I measure up to that now. That is what I feel like - not an ultra runner - even bigger than an ultra runner. I feel like somebody that just doesn't give up.
I feel like somebody that never quits.
From www. coolrunning.com.au