Only 16 more minutes to go, I told myself a couple of days ago when I set a running target on the treadmill. Good girl, only 11 minutes left. Now it’s less than 10, less than five. Only three and a half. And so on, until eventually the challenge was met and I fist-pumped the air. A new PB (personal best for the non-athletes amongst you).

I can say  – head held high, chest puffed out – yessiree, I’m a 20-minuter. I have the fortitude to stick at difficult physical challenges.

While this makes me feel pleased as punch, it also makes me consider just how astonishing John Olsen is.

John is a quiet unassuming bloke (bet he never fist-pumped at the 20 minute mark) who has walked very long distances. He’s gone from the north to the very south (Cape York to Bruny Island), he’s gone west to east (Shark Bay to Byron Bay) and he’s gone diagonal (Cape York to Cape Leeuwin).

On foot. Unaided. Alone. Unless you count his little trolley, Wilson, as company.

John would be counting, don’t you think? The days, the blisters, the mercury rising, the black toenails, the dingoes howling near his tent, the water left in his canteen, the trucks juddering past flicking up stones, the hot showers, the days without hot showers, the people who stop and say hello, the packet meals, the hours of solitude, the days of rain, the metres of mud, the wide-open cracks in the track.

When the bloke and I drove 8000 kms a couple of years back (our ‘Straya, Up the Guts tour), I thought about John a lot. How he has covered stacks more kilometres than that on foot. John Olsen is a bloody marvel. And he’s going to be a Pants on Fire storyteller at the June 13 event. Come and be marvelled. Come and hear this quiet achiever’s story of counting.

Get your tickets ($12) here

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