PAT FARMER has dodged polar bears, evaded rogue militias and braved snow blizzards during a 21,000-kilometre run from the North Pole to the South Pole to raise funds for the Red Cross.
The former federal Liberal MP and intrepid athlete has returned to Sydney after running through 14 countries and raising almost $100,000.
"There's something special about fighting the elements and doing something for another person, hurting yourself, to be able to improve their quality of life," he said.
His aim was to raise awareness about water and sanitation problems. A school and a clinic on the outskirts of the town of Com in East Timor have been connected to a clean water supply with the funds raised. Wells will be built in Samoa and rural Australia.
"I intend to raise a lot more money," he said.
Red Cross data shows 880 million people lack basic water supply and four million die each year from diseases linked to unsafe drinking water and poor hygiene.
Mr Farmer left the North Pole in early April last year and ran through Canada, the United States and Central America. He had to cut short his journey in South America so he could complete the Antarctic leg of his journey before conditions worsened.
After hoisting a Red Cross flag at the South Pole, he flew back to Puerto Montt, Chile, where he had stopped running, and ran the final 2500-kilometre stretch to Ushuaia in Argentina. The feat of endurance was completed in 10 months and 13 days.
Mr Farmer averaged 80 kilometres each day, the equivalent of almost two marathons, pushing through stress injuries and painful infections.
Kim Beazley, the ambassador to the United States, arranged soldiers and federal police to protect Mr Farmer as he made his way through Central America.
"As I ran through Nicaragua I actually feared for my life because there's a lot of people carrying machetes," he said.
The father of two holds multiple records, including whipping around Australia in 191 days for a 15,000 kilometre run.
Robert Tickner, the chief executive of the Red Cross, said Mr Farmer's intentions were noble. "There aren't many people are willing to put their life on the line for humanitarian reasons."