An Australian athlete announced plans today (Sept. 14) to run the entire 13,000 miles (21,000 kilometers) from the North Pole to the South Pole.
Pat Farmer, 48, who holds records in his home country for the fastest run around Australia and across the desert interior of the continent , said the grueling, 11-month journey is aimed to raise $100 million for water and sanitation programs for the Red Cross, AFP is reporting.
The trip, planned to begin in March of next year, will take Farmer through 14 countries. Farmer will start at the North Pole, head south through the American continents, and will be airlifted from Argentina to Antarctica for the final leg of the race .
"This is by far the greatest challenge of my life," Farmer told AFP, adding that he had been training "like a man possessed."
"To be quite honest with you I don't know if I can run from the North Pole to the South Pole," said Farmer, who also served for a decade as an Australian government MP.
However, Farmer emphasized he does know that he is capable of running between 50 and 62 miles (80 to 100 km) a day, "and I do know that I can get up the next morning and do the same thing the next day," Farmer said.
Farmer said he expects to go through more than 40 pairs of shoes and 300 pairs of socks.
In 2008, two young English explorers completed a similar journey, although not strictly on foot, to raise awareness of climate change. Rob Gauntlett and James Hooper, both 20 years old at the time, journeyed from the North Pole to the South Pole aboard non-polluting conveyances: skis, sleds, bicycles, sailboats and their own legs.
Gauntlett fell to his death during a climb in the Alps in 2009.
Though Farmer's trip has been some 10 years in the making, he said it was a recent trip to Southeast Asia that inspired him to dedicate it to the Red Cross.
"I saw children covered with needlestick injuries in a dump trying to break syringes down to sell the metal inside for bottles of water," Farmer told AFP.
"It was a heartbreaking turning point for me," Farmer said. "By creating clean supplies of water and installing proper sanitation facilities things we all take for granted in Australia we can change people's lives forever."
Once Farmer completes his pole-to-pole run, he plans to head to the United States to address the United Nations about his trek and the plight of the children that inspired him.
"I believe I'm born with a gift," Farmer said. "My gift is to be able to run long distances faster and perhaps further than any other person on Earth, so I figure I'd be a fool if I had this gift and didn't use it."