The Indigenous Marathon Project (IMP) will reach its annual peak next week when this year’s team converge on New York City.
Brewarrina local Michaela Skuthorpe is among ten other athletes who have been training for six months to get ready for the New York Marathon.
“I realised the other day, before joining the Project, the longest I’d run was two kilometres in year six,” Skuthorpe said.
The 29-year-old spends her time in her hometown helping the community keep themselves fit and healthy and was ecstatic when she got the call to say she’d made this year’s team.
“Getting the phone call was totally unreal. I had in November last year, got out of a 12-year relationship. It was a game changer,” she said.
“I never felt so connected to my country until I started running.”
For Skuthorpe and many of the team, it’s their first attempt at long distance running, according to IMP head coach Adrian Dodson-Shaw.
The athletes were selected at an event in Dubbo and the IMP team looked for people who could lead their communities, by completing the Project.
“She is a shining light within the community, she’s achieved a lot within her workplace,” Dodson-Shaw said.
“Most people grow up and move away. She’s stayed there because she wants to help out. She’s a real role model.”
In 2010, Olympian Robert De Castella led four Indigenous athletes to the Big Apple to become the first Indigenous athletes to compete in the famous event.
Eight years later and the program has grown to include more than double the athletes, and a passionate support staff.
Dodson-Shaw says many of the athletes who have joined IMP in 2018 have similar leadership qualities. The coach himself is a graduate of the program from 2014, and he’s since soared to incredible heights in the running world, becoming the first Indigenous Australian to run a marathon on the North Pole.
In 2016 Dodson-Shaw took on the role of head coach at the IMP. Last year was the first year he selected his squad, and he says he’s very proud of the achievements this year’s cohort have made.
The program includes training camps in Canberra, the Gold Coast (a half marathon), Sydney (City to Surf) and a 30km time trial in Alice Springs.
“You don’t understand how you can make brothers and sisters within a night of sharing stories. Every camp after that first night we shared together was like getting back together with your siblings, sharing the stories and struggles,” Skuthorpe remembers as she prepares to fly out next week.
Apart from those organised events, the athletes are self motivated, with phone support from Dodson-Shaw back in Canberra.
“I’m confident they’ve done what they’ve needed to do and I’m happy with how they’ve prepared. It’s always a busy and hard couple of months of training.”
The team comes together again on October 29th for a two-day pre-departure camp in Sydney before flying out on October 31st. The Marathon begins on November 4th (the 5th AEST).
This year people who can’t make it to NYC to support the team are being encouraged to run 42.5km in the virtual run across the month of November, to help raise funds for the athletes.
You can join the virtual run by registering here: https://www.imfvirtualrun.com/store
By Keiran Deck