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First Nations runners complete New York Marathon

Jackson Clark -

Ten First Nations people have embarked on the trip of a lifetime, travelling over 15,000km to successfully complete the 2023 New York Marathon.

The participants formed the squad of the Indigenous Marathon Foundation, a health promotion charity that uses running to celebrate Indigenous resilience and achievement, and create inspirational Indigenous leaders.

Sissy Austin, Jamie Collins, Peter Farrell, Joel Etherington, Arthur Pitt, Jobastin Priest, Faith Stevens, Jack Stevens, Lauren Vanson and Jade Ware were the ten members who passed the final selection stage, which included the successful completion of a 30km test run in Alice Springs.

The majority of the squad were from non-running backgrounds and had to work hard throughout the year to prepare their bodies for the arduous 42km run.

Gunai Kurnai, Yuin and Palawa man Joel Etherington ran a time of 3:54:42 at this year's New York Marathon.

The marathon was the culmination of a six-month program, which also included a personal commitment to health and nutrition, engaging in a Cert II or IV in Indigenous Leadership and Health Promotion, and specialised training in running, coaching, media, First Aid and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander First Aid.

The IMF's official website states that the completion of the education and leadership component will 'give them the skills and confidence to be impactful role models within their communities'.

Former marathon world champion and founder of the IMF Robert de Castella says the squad showed a tremendous commitment to the project.

"The marathon is synonymous with struggle, endurance, and achievement, so to go from no running to running the biggest marathon in the world, in the biggest city in the world, in just six months, is almost beyond comprehensive," de Castella said.

"This amazing group of young First Nations men and women will do this next month, and when they cross the finish line in Central Park, they will forever be marathoners, and it will change, inspire, and uplift them, their families, and their communities.

"Running an international marathon provides an opportunity to not only represent their families and communities, but our entire continent as well.

The finish line at the New York Marathon. (Image: Indigenous Marathon Project.)

"One where they will be exposed to the 'world' of marathon, the biggest sport in the world running side by side with all cultures, ages, and abilities.

"One where they will showcase their true purpose and return home with memories and stories to last a lifetime as impactful, influential, and power role models and change agents within their communities."

This group of graduates join the 132 members who have already undertaken the journey since the project was established in 2009.

Over 50,000 runners from all over the world competed in front of over a million spectators lining the streets of New York for this iconic event.

The project is open to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged between 18-30 with no running experience required.

Each year, 12 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are selected out of hundreds of applicants.

The applications for next year's Indigenous Marathon Project squad will open in mid-December as the foundation celebrates 15 years.

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