For me, running has always been a part of my mental health. I used to joke that I go to the gym for my sanity break. I think it’s important if you’ve got a busy, stressful job to stay physically fit because it also keeps you mentally alert.Is that a message you are trying to send Australians about the need to keep fit?
Everyone tries to stay fit in different ways. For me I love running and cycling. For the former Prime Minister John Howard it was a very vigorous daily walk. But I certainly think it’s important to be as fit as you can given your age and general health. It’s my intention to keep exercising for as long as I can.You said after running the Mini-Mos 10K in June that the stresses and strains were starting to take their toll – what’s the key to juggling your work, family and training commitments?
Getting up very early in the morning! It takes a lot of discipline to keep running or exercising. Normally, I get up at 5am, which is ok if you’ve gone to bed early the previous night, but if you’ve had a late night or exhausting few days it can be pretty hard to do. But it’s important, for me at least, to keep it up.
I was basically following my standard fitness regime, except instead of going to the gym after Question Time, if I got the chance I would jump in the pool and swim for a kilometre. Basically, my standard regime is when Parliament is sitting I’ll get up a 5am everyday and ride up and down Red Hill in Canberra four times, and go to the gym for 30 minutes after Question Time. When Parliament is not sitting I get up early and run 8K. Then one morning on the weekend I’ll try to get out for a 90K bike ride, if not it might be a 40 or 50K ride. So, basically I do about 10 hours every week.
Well I don’t think I do spend a lot of time exercising. I basically do a little more than an hour a day and normally you get that hour by stealing it from your sleep. I figure that if I compare myself to John Howard, John would spend almost the same amount of time exercising, but instead of going for a run it would be a walk, or rather than a ride on the weekend it would be a game of golf. So, I don’t think it is a particularly large amount of time and it’s mostly done between five and six in the morning.
When I was playing rugby back in my uni days I thought it was important to maintain my general fitness and the easiest way to do that was running. During my late teens I started going for at least two or three jogs a week. It became more of a daily routine when I stopped playing rugby after university.How many fun runs have you participated in over the years?
Gee whiz! I guess I’ve probably been in about 15 Mini-Mos runs, seven marathons more recently at the Blackmores Sydney Running Festival, six City2Surfs, two or three Manly Soft Sand Classic runs, and a couple of Mother’s Day Classics. These days, I guess as it’s become better known that I love running, I get invited to do lots of these things. If I can, I like to take up those invitations.A lot of these runs and the Pollie Pedal raise money for charity, what is it about running for a charity that motivates you?
I think if something has a good cause associated with it, it adds to what you’re doing. The Pollie Pedal was originally conceived as a way for politicians to get to parts of the country they don’t often visit and I suppose there was a PR dimension to it, but over the years it’s become quite a big fund raiser, collecting about $1.5million for various charities.Can you recall a race that was particularly testing or took a lot of courage to get over the finish line?
I’ve kept mainly injury free, but I did have trouble with my ITB last year. I had to stay off my leg for a month before the (2009) Blackmores Sydney Marathon. On the day I went out like a steam train, but after 25K my legs were like lead. I half walked and half staggered the last 17K for an embarrassingly bad time of 4:51.
Then there’s the (Port Macquarie) half ironman last year, when I still had the ITB issues. I got off the bike having done what I thought was a pretty good time on top of what I thought was a pretty good swim. I’d started thinking I could break six hours, but I as soon as I put my foot on the ground at the start of the run I thought: ‘Oh God’. It was an awfully difficult half marathon to finish.Have you ever had moments in a race where you felt like giving up?
I think there are lots of moments when you feel like giving up, particularly in ironman and half ironman events. I’m not a great swimmer and I had little panic attacks before the Port Macquarie Ironman. On the third lap of bike circuit we were riding into a very strong headwind and that took a fair bit of inner mental encouragement to keep going. Then when I started the run leg having just swum 4K and ridden 180K I thought: ‘this is impossible’, but you’ve got to keep putting one foot in front of the other. By the half way mark in the marathon I was confident that I was going to finish (13:57:01).Are there lessons that you’ve learnt from those tough moments that you apply to your daily work?
I’ve learnt you have to run within yourself; stick to your basics, but whatever you do keep going. I think that’s probably important to remember when you’re facing a political marathon too!
Running shoes! I find it very hard to run without shoes.I asked for that didn’t I? What sort of shoes to you wear?
I’ve tried all the main brands. Normally, I just go into Athlete’s Foot or somewhere like that and find out what they think is the best running shoe for the best price.Do you run with an iPod?
The only time I tried it was when Pat Farmer and I did a 24-hour stair climb in 2006. I thought if I’m going to spend that long running up and down the stairs at Sydney’s Centrepoint Tower, I was going to need something to keep me sane. So, I had a very helpful friend lend me her iPod. I listened to all sorts of music for much of the 24 hours. The alternative was to just watch the stairs, which can get pretty monotonous.Have you heard Pat Farmer is planning to run from the South Pole to the North Pole to raise money for global water programs?
It’s a remarkable ambition. Pat is an absolutely amazing human being and that is an extraordinary goal that he has set himself, but if anyone can do it, it’s Pat Farmer.Pat is an Australian running icon, who are your running heroes?
My early inspiration came from Charlie Lynn an ultra-marathon runner, who is better known for his Kokoda Track Foundation. While I’ve never been directly touched by Cliff Young a lot of people seem to be inspired by him. Guys like Pat Farmer and Charlie have been exemplars for me.Do you see yourself as having a similar persona and leading the way for others?
I’m not putting myself up as any kind of running hero. For me it’s an important component of my daily life, but it’s a personal thing. If other people notice, that’s fine, but I’m not trying to make it an intentional part of my public persona. My main job is to be a politician not a runner.
Celebrity's Who Run Marathons
Top Marathons Around The World
Source Article: Q&A with Tony Abbott, Runners WorldRunner’s World Australia & New Zealand is a magazine (and website) that informs, advises, and motivates runners of all ages and abilities. Visit us www.runnersworldonline.com.au