Marathoner Harold Matthew has been running laps of his homeland, tiny Thursday Island in the Torres Strait, as he prepares to become the first Indigenous runner to compete in the prestigious London Marathon.
“Thursday Island is not a big place,” Mr Matthew says. “It’s like a 5km run around the island. It’s going around in circles. I’m doing five or six laps of the island.
“People say ‘Man, you’re crazy doing that’, but a marathon isn’t easy. It’s not like running 400m.”
Matthew says the beauty of the island is spurring him on as he counts down to the April 23 event.
“I love the island,” he says. “I was born and raised there. The view itself motivates me to push through.”
Matthew was a relatively late entry into the 36-year-old London event.
Australian marathon great Robert de Castella only told him on Friday that he had the chance to go, which meant being race-ready in just over four weeks.
Matthew, a married father of two, says he was so excited by the news that he had to go out and do a 15km run right away.
“When Rob said I am going to be the first Indigenous runner, I was emotional,” he says. “Not only for my community but for the whole of Australia and the Indigenous people.
“I didn’t know what to say. I’m looking forward to that and to sharing that story with my people and my kids.”
Matthew has run the New York marathon as well as marathons on the Gold Coast and in Honolulu, but this will be his first trip to London.
He says he has been studying up on the 42.2km course around the famous River Thames where the scenery will be very different to that on Thursday Island. His wife Deeanna will travel with him for support.
“Buckingham Palace — oh man,” he says. “You pass that (on the way) to the finish line.”
Matthew is a graduate of de Castella’s Indigenous Marathon Project.
IMP runners complete the New York City Marathon as part of a year with the program, and graduates have gone on to run international marathons around the world, including Athens, Berlin, Boston, Tokyo, Paris, Maui and Frankfurt.
Matthew says he plans to capture the action of his historic run on a GoPro camera.
By Wendy Caccetta