Each month we speak to Olympian, gold medallist, and former Senator Nova Peris about topics important to her and important to mob.

Nova Peris sat down with NIT to talk about the Indigenous Marathon Foundation and how marathons aren’t as daunting as they seem. 


Over the weekend in Cairns and Darwin 10 Indigenous runners including yourself participated in a 25km race as part of the Indigenous Marathon Project, can you tell me about your involvement in the event? 

I’ve been the Indigenous Marathon Foundation (IMF) ambassador since its inception around 10 years ago. I knew the IMF was going to be in Darwin and I spoke to Rob de Castella (The founder of IMF) and he told me it was a 5:45am start.

So I was up at 10 to five, had a little coffee and had some breakfast and I thought I’m gonna go down there and support them. I didn’t run, I was there, walking – I think it was just over 10 kilometres with my husband.

Nova giving a pep talk before the race at 5:45am. Photo Supplied Nova Peris.


The idea of running 25km can be daunting, how do you encourage mob to get involved with marathons or the IMF? 

When you think marathon; it’s not ‘oh my god I have to be a runner’, and no you don’t have to be a runner. Even with myself, I’ve turned 50 this year and I eat well. I try and sleep well, I drink plenty of water – between two to three litres of water daily. And having exercise in your daily routine of your life is is paramount.

The mindset of being a marathon person is – there’s the distance you have to go and within that distance, you’re going to endure pain, everything’s gonna hurt, but you got to have that mental discipline to never give up. To keep going and pushing through that pain and pushing through all the barriers and that little voice in that head that says, ‘I want to quit, I want to quit’.

We, as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, were hunters and gatherers and, you know, it was in our DNA to walk and to do long distances.

I think that’s where sort of Rob thought about the concept of IMF.


IMF is a program set to promote healthy lifestyles — what do you think about their initiatives and why did you get involved?

Not living well and eating well and drinking and not keeping yourself hydrated, leads to all the things that our mob are dying from – like with chronic diseases and diabetes and heart disease.

So, what he [Rob] actually did was he found community champions to become role models in our communities. To say ‘look we can do it, you don’t have to run a marathon, but you can walk half a marathon.’

Next month, I will go out to Jabiru and support the IMF runners, I will push myself to walk 20 kilometres. It’d be fantastic to have other mob join me along the way and say ‘well Nova’s 50 And she’s gonna walk 20 kilometres’ or let’s be the start of something bigger and better. 

Nova and IMP team. Photo Supplied Nova Peris.


Now more than ever it can be hard to maintain health and fitness with COVID-19 and lockdowns — do you have any tips for keeping active? 

Now more than ever, when you look at what this COVID is doing to us it’s mentally draining on, on so many of us, especially the New South Wales and in Victoria. But there is an opportunity to sort of get out and exercise and to start looking after our bodies. Because having a healthy body can also have a really good impact on having a healthy mind,

IMF are actually doing a fundraising virtual run in November and a Father’s Day warrior run through the first week in September.

We always have the Mother’s Day classic, walk/run and this time it’s honouring the Aboriginal men to get out there with their kids. You can register online and the first 1000 entries of the Warrior Run will receive a free warrior medal.

You can join up to things like this, where it’s culturally safe.