More Than A Stroller
An Interview With Tony Mangan
Pushing More Than A Stroller
An Interview With Tony Mangan
By Claire Nana
Frank McCourt, author of Angela’s Ashes describes his experience of writing like this: “it is as much a blessing as a curse.” McCourt goes on to describe a “burning desire” that wouldn’t leave until exercised. Tony Mangan describes his experience of running around the world much in the same way. For Mangan, like McCourt, it was like a thirst that simply couldn’t be quenched any other way. (Mangan calls it being “almost a prisoner of his dream”.) In both cases, what I am describing is what Abraham Maslow called the “highest need” in the hierarchy of needs.
Self-actualization is something that we simply can’t let go. In Tony Mangan’s case, perhaps it was the next logical step after having cycled around the world, or perhaps there were questions left unanswered, but when he describes running around the world, it is in places seen, or people met, as well as in places unseen – those that exist inside of himself. For Tony feeling connected with people at a slower pace is "one of the great benefits of slow travel.“
Tony Mangan is the third official member of the World Runners Association, an organization formed to help promote and facilitate runs around the world. Yes, there are rules and now there are records. At this very moment, 4 athletes have completed at least one run around the world following the rules of the association.
The journey around the world took him 4 years and he covered 41 countries from east to west. The necessary supplies – tent, clothes, food, water -- were contained in a stroller, which he pushed most of the way. And while he encountered physical exhaustion crossing the Andes, Mangan tapped into the same chunking (breaking the process into small segments) and visualization that fueled his competitive ultra-running career (48 Hour Indoor Track World Record holder - 266 miles at Brno, Czech Republic and 48 Hour Treadmill World Record Holder - 251 miles in Ireland). Mangan also employed a “No Exit” strategy. He explains “it was very, very tough especially in the Andes, I had an energy crisis and really had to break it down into small segments in my head. When I was chronically fatigued I played mind games in my head, I used a lot of visualization which was the basis of my successful competitive ultrarunning career. I had no option... just to continue!”
Mangan describes his life as somewhat “obsessed with running,” and feels as though few people will ever comprehend the complexity or challenge of the journey. Yet Mangan also feels as though he was put on this earth to run around it, he has many other interests such as arts or music. And while the undertaking itself may be hard to imagine, probably the reasons are not.
Arguably having children and ultra-running are both viable forms of self-exploration. But here is where Mangan encourages us to do our own rethinking. Just as we don’t mass produce children, we shouldn’t mass produce miles. Children are brought into this world to develop their own unique talents and skills, and hopefully, someday contribute to the greater good. Similarly, we should look at running not in terms of miles run, or time spent doing it, but rather an inward exploration of ourselves – our inner strengths, motivations, and deepest desires.
The qualities required to run around the world are the same qualities we seek in our daily life. Mangan explains these qualities as “a strong mind, and not just that but your ability to tap into it, also confidence.” Regarding his secret to success, Mangan believes “very few people really appreciate the 'magic formula' of slow running. So many people are stopwatch fanatics; I rarely used my stopwatch on my run. I don’t think there is a place for it in journey running.”
So load up your stroller – or whatever you decide to push – and go for a run. You just might be surprised where the journey takes you.