Adventurer Tony Mangan Shares How to Run and Walk Around the World

Tony Mangan is extreme. Not only have he cycled around the world. He has also run around the world – and now he is walking around the world!

In this interview, he shares why he is finally living his dream, so let’s find out more about Tony and learn from his tips on how to run and walk around the world.

Tony Mangan

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

My name is Tony Mangan. I was born and raise in Dublin, Ireland but also lived in the USA for eight years from 1994-2002 in Colorado, except for nine months in Florida.

At the moment, I have just crossed the Nullarbor desert plain, a 1,000 kilometer stretch from Norseman to Yalata in Australia. I am walking east towards Sydney.

I have also cycled around the world, so cycling has been a big part of my life. I also have a great love for rugby and soccer. My main interests are good conversations, rock and heavy metal music, especially live. Also, quality podcasts, like those made by the BBC.

Tony Mangan

How did you get into long-distance walking and running?

I initially got caught up in the running boom in the mid 80’s in Ireland by running a 10 km. The Dublin marathon was five weeks later as running a marathon was on my ‘bucket list’ to run one and never run another marathon again. I just entered, little did I know that years later I would be running them daily! But before that, I got bitten by the extreme bug when I lived in Colorado.

While running in Dublin during a high endorphin run, I devised the idea of a world run but didn’t act upon it for over twenty years.

While thinking of running the world I didn’t see how I could achieve it logistically. That was many years before modern equipment. It just seemed easier to throw my stuff in a cart and walk. It never occurred to me to run with a cart. There were a few years when I flip flopped between my plan A to run and my plan B to walk. Eventually, I found a way to run it. I wrote two books, which are not yet published. When realized I wanted to return to the road I decided that my old plan B would be a great idea, that’s where I am at the moment!

On the world walk, I am walking also for cancer awareness as my mother was diagnosed with it while I was on the world run. She had been healthy and it came out of the blue. She wouldn’t let me stop. So I decided to make it a cancer awareness walk. My message is: Life is precious and early cancer screening saves lives. I am heartened by the emails I have received from people who tell me they listened to my message and nasty things were discovered in the nick of time.

Tony Mangan

During your walk and run around the world, what were your most memorable moments?

It’s always with people interactions, there are so many. Like an old lady in Illinois who drove home and then returned to the highway to give me a bunch of grapes. Or the man who stopped me to offer me a half bottle of water in a remote area of Patagonia. Even though I had enough and there was a rare restaurant in sight, I didn’t refuse his kind offer, so as not to burst his bubble. Also, so many nights spent in Mongolian yurts, and under police escort in Mexico and Myanmar also stand out.

My favorite countries are the USA and Iran because I received so much hospitality and had amazing encounters with people. But I could name off a dozen including Argentina and China.

Tony Mangan
Photo credit: Tomáš Rusek

What have been the most difficult parts of your adventures?

While running through India on the world run my mother was sick. It was a particularly difficult country as I needed time on my own. This has always been respected when requested in any other country in the world, but India is different. It’s said that with India there is no in between for people either love it or hate it.

Along with so much uncivilized driving where people were literally driving for the place on the hard shoulder that I was running on. There were days when I had to run with a plastic baton in my hand and give people on bicycles and motor cycles my best Dirty Harry look! A few of them ran into my baton. My Van Halen days were over, for I don’t ‘Jump’ for anyone anymore!

Tony Mangan

What essential gear did you bring?

I keep it simple but you get what you pay for. My best friend is a hundred euro two litre thermos for it literally opens doors, which sometimes lead to bed nights. If I am getting a good reception in a restaurant, I get it filled and use my own tea bags or coffee. Paying for this everyday is such a waste, just do the math for this unnecessary expense over a thousand days!

I am also a great believer in pop up tents as I hate the hassle of erecting and packing up. They are not too reliable in a storm, but I say avoid storms and use with a bivy (bivouac shelter).

My equipment sponsor is a Dublin camping store, called Great Outdoors.

Tony Mangan

How did you finance your adventures?

On the world run, I had a redundancy cheque for nine thousand euro from my old construction job after I applied for voluntary redundancy. I also had small savings.

On my world run, I also got generous sponsorship from Richard Donovan, my friend, an Irish ultra runner and race director of many of the world most extreme races. These races include the North Pole Marathon and the World Marathon Challenge, which is a seven marathons in seven days on seven continents running event.

I also depended upon a PayPal link for my followers to sponsor a day or a hotel night on my world run website

For my world walk, I have absolutely no sponsors so this is a more hard-core budget expedition. I also have a PayPal sponsor a day, etc. link on my world walk website.

Tony Mangan
Photo credit: Siobhan Clifford

What kind of shoes and clothing do you recommend for long-distance walking and running?

I am always asked, which shoes are the best as I have tried them all, except for the four letter one that is! The answer is the easiest one to answer: Free shoes are the best.

How do you beat boredom and loneliness on the road?

I am rarely get bored or lonely, if so I listen to podcasts or music.

Tony Mangan
Photo credit: Tomáš Rusek

Which is harder: Running or walking around the world?

I would choose running as there is nothing more tiring than having to run tired. I was also injured for the last year of my world run and limped to a finish. After those 50,000 kilometers in four years, it took its toll. I didn’t recover from that left leg injury but it’s still strong enough for me to walk around the world. Besides, runner hate to walk, it seems to be a pride thing. Walking takes less toll than running on ones body.

Tony Mangan
Photo credit: Sputnik

What inspired you to write your book?

Once I started the run, I had to write the books! My followers expected it! I have so much material that I wrote two, for it would be a shame to cut some stuff out!

Part one of the book, “The Irishman Who Ran Around the World. Part 1: The Start and All of the Americas” covers from Newfoundland in Canada to Ushuaia in southern Argentina at the foot of the Americas. It describes my background from sports wimp who never lacked confidence despite being bullied in school. I took on the bullies and eventually beat them all up at their own game. So much so, that the teachers falsely considered me to be the trouble maker!

I went from there to cycling around the world, winning some prestigious ultra races, setting ultra world records and becoming the first runner in history to run two consecutive days of over two hundred kilometers per day (223 and 203).

While part two will be about my crossing across Oceania, Asia, Europe and a lap of Ireland to the finish, where it all began, at the finish line of my city marathon. My final footstep was exactly 50,000 kilometers and not a meter more, as one person said, “Anymore would have been showing off Tony!”

The best part of writing was the end where my mother outlived her cancer prognosis and crossed the finish line with me. She lived for another five months.

The hardest part, on the other hand, was writing the India chapter, it was so difficult that I had to take a week off!

Tony Mangan

What kind of advice would you give people who want to follow your footsteps?

Listen to those who have done it before. There is now a template. When I was planning mine there wasn’t much. Don’t wait too long, just get out onto the road and do it. Unless you are going for a record and are not injured you don’t need to be even fit as you will soon run, walk or cycle yourself fit! There is plenty of time for that, so don’t worry about letting your training slip in the final months. Consider a short trial run. Don’t over plan as you can do much of that on the road. Pace yourself on the road for comfortable weather as possible.

It’s never too late as long as you are breathing! Start with your dreams and not your circumstances.

Tony Mangan

Is there something you see a lot of long-distance walkers/runners do wrong?

Poor route decisions. Not connecting continents up correctly. Making spurious and sometimes false claims like ignoring those who have achieved before them.

A world circumnavigation on foot is defined as crossing at least 4 continents coast to coast on foot with no land gaps.

Crossing and recrossing the equator and all meridian lines around our planet. Starting and finishing at exactly the same location and covering a distance of no less than 26,232 kilometres. Keeping a detailed log book and proper documentation.

The WRA – World Runners Association has been set up and rules have been drafted to maintain the integrity of the sport. Though initially set up for world runners we act as a guideline for world walkers. One rule I campaigned for is that a maximum of 25% of the total expedition time taken off the road for breaks and rest days. I tried in vain to get the minimum distance raised to 30,000 kilometres.

How did the long-distance walking and running change you as a person?

It’s a cliche but I really appreciate western freedom and even the infrastructure we have. I have seen villages in India with no electricity because of so much corruption factories pay bribes to get the limited supply from limited power stations. The knock on effect of this is that there are many children who can’t do homework because of a lack of electricity.

Also, even though I hate the taste of it,  I will always appreciate clean healthy water, as many people in this world don’t have access to it.

Tony Mangan

What will the future bring?

I have one short idea, which I don’t believe has been attempted! I want to keep it quiet but it can be done in less than three months, in comparison to what I have done, it will be like travelling Rolls Royce style, lol!


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4 Comments

  1. Great interview and really interesting insight into your travels. Well done Tony

  2. Ireland for the future?

  3. Wow, what a story! Fantastic achievements so far, and hope all goes well with your walk. Makes my own trek around Britain look really tame. Best wishes and good luck.

  4. Hello Tony! Remember the two girls you met doing a charity run from Batemans Bay to The Alice and Darwin?? Well here we are home again and we have some great photos to share with you from our ‘hug up’ o the side of the road!
    I have sent them to you email address because I wasn’t sure how to add them to your facebook page. Lots of love, stay safe Dawn xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

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