When you are walking over 20,000km around the world, there’s a fair chance that sooner or later you’ll end up in Mount Isa.
Irish world walker and ultra marathon world record holder Tony Mangan, 61, is used to walking hot and difficult Australian terrain including the Nullarbor, and it was a chance meeting on that run, or in this case, walk, a couple of years from Scarborough beach in Perth to Bondi Beach in Sydney, that would eventually see him trudge up the dusty track of the Barkly Highway.
Mr Mangan said a month into the walk he met a Mount Isa friend of Kim-Maree Burton on the Nullarbor who posted a photo on Facebook and almost immediately the invite came out to visit Mount Isa and its famous Irish Club.
“At that stage, I hadn’t planned the (northern) Australian walk but funnily enough, I never said no.” Mr Mangan said.
“But when I got to Sydney, I was having a great time, I was loving the country, enjoying the adventure and people were listening to my message, so I thought why not.”
That message Mr Mangan said is about cancer screening – “life is precious, early cancer screening saves lives”, he told me on more than one occasion and it is printed on his cards.
“People who are screened early have a 40 percent better chance of beating it.”
And it was the experience of his mother who suffered cancer that compelled him to take that message on the road.
“It came out of the blue because we don’t have cancer in the family,” he said.
“At the time I was in Argentina with two years left of my run to go and her prognosis was about two years.”
Tony said his mother wanted him to continue the run – a ‘jog around the walk’ that would take four years and 40,000km.
“I wanted to do it because I’d been talking about it for over 20 years and in short, my dream had become her dream,” he said.
“I reckon we kept each other going.”
Tony’s mother was there to watch Tony finish the run in the Dublin Marathon in 2014 to finish the world run.
“She had been through a lot of ups and downs but that day she was feeling well and she crossed the finish line with me,” he said.
“It was the biggest thrill of my life. She lived for five more months.”
The restless Tony was soon on the road again this time to walk, not run.
He set off in 2016 through Europe and China then on to Australia with Christmas in New Zealand.
He then set off to Brisbane and is onto Darwin before heading back to China and reckons there is at least two more years on the road.
As we spoke on the road outside Mount Isa, a cattle truck went past and went out wide, the driver tooting as he went back.
“The truck drivers have been brilliant. Not one rude driver all the way from Perth,” he shouted.
Mr Mangan walks with his buggy called “Karma” which contains his food, water and camping gear.
It’s the people he meets on the road that sustain him like the farmer he met at a gate 20km out of Cloncurry.
“I asked him could I pitch my tent at the entrance off the road, he said sure,” he said.
“He started asking me what I was doing, I started asking what he was doing, the guy does mustering from a helicopter but that night he was culling kangaroos and he told him he gets $40 for a cut-up kangaroo and he gets as many as 70 or 80. ‘Forty dollars?’ I said, ‘that’s the same cost as a slab of beer’ and he said ‘yes, do you want a beer’, so we had a beer and a nice chat.”
Tony also had a nice chat on his final 20km walk into Mount Isa – he was joined by Kim-Maree Burton who first extended the invite to town.
Mr Mangan plans to take a well-earned one week break in Mount Isa staying courtesy of the Barkly Hotel with a few speaking engagements lined up.
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