There’s a theory in sports psychology that when you’re finished, when your lungs hurt and your legs feel like they’re going to fall off, you are at about 30 percent of your capacity.
This sounds outrageous but for those who have left the comfort of casual exercise and entered a level of training they’ve never experience, it’s entirely plausible.
For Kimberley runner Torey Rickerby, graduating from the Indigenous Marathon Project (IMP) last weekend helped him stretch past that 30 percent barrier.
“I’ve learnt that I am stronger than I think I am. It’s amazing how far you can push yourself,” Torey said.
Rickerby is graduate number 78 in the eight-year-old project after completing the New York Marathon on Sunday alongside 10-other Indigenous Australian athletes and 50-thousand competitors. Hundreds of thousands of supporters lined the streets to watch the athletes go by.
“It was absolutely buzzing. We started the day, catching the bus to Staten Island,” Rickerby said.
“You come off the bridge, off the highway, straight into Brooklyn and there’s people watching for the next 40 kilometres,” Rickerby said.
The 24-year-old from Derby in WA’s Kimberley region tried three times to enter the Project, finally being successful for the 2018 intake.
“I wanted to get involved, because I was inspired by past graduates; Allirra Winmar from last year, and Kimberley Benjamin from the 2016 squad. I saw this new-found confidence that came out of the Program for them,” Rickerby said.
The Program starts at the beginning of the calendar year. The IMP team comes together for several camps, including running half marathons on the Gold Coast and a 30-kilometre race in the outback.
Each athlete has to try out for the program and they’re selected for their potential to reach the end, which requires a whole lot of self-motivation as they have to do the bulk of the training in their own time.
The athletes are all asked to think about their reason for embarking on such an arduous journey and they’re reminded to reach for that purpose during several camps that bring the 11 members together.
Torey was also encouraged to train harder when he saw the impact that going for regular runs, and making sacrifices, had on his friends and family.
“The power of leading by example can be undervalued. Little things, like saying no to beers on the weekend, inspired my friends and family to make healthier choices. But it was something I didn’t think [would happen] at the start of the Project,” he said.
Rickerby says he had to dig deep to find his reason several times throughout Sunday’s marathon as he came to finish in just under four hours.
“I wanted to run it without stopping, that was my goal. There were a few times where I felt like stopping, but I just slowed down and sort of shuffled,” he said.
“There’s points in the race where it gets hard, it takes you to the state where you’re literally just taking one step in front of the other. But once we start something we always finish it. And finish strong,” he said, reflecting on the attitude carried by all the IMP graduates.
The team arrived in New York on Halloween and were greeted by thousands of people in Times Square. That moment, to the moment the team said their goodbyes to each other, seems like blur to Rickerby.
“I can’t believe we ran a marathon on Sunday,” he said, an air of sadness in his voice that his IMP journey has come to an end.
It has been a huge 2018 for the young man. He graduated as a mechanical engineer in the middle of the year and is looking forward to getting started in January.
“I’ll take the results of the marathon to the workplace; I’ll be bold and take opportunities when I go into my full-time role. Simple things, like being able to present to people without thinking the world is going to break down around me,” he said.
Outside his professional life, he has no plans to quit running. Another marathon is on the cards, and he hopes to run a few times a week to maintain his fitness and mental health.
IMP has also gifted the athlete something incredibly valuable: credibility. He plans to start the first WA Deadly Runners program and the confidence he has gained by walking the walk, will allow him to talk the talk.
“I wanted to find this new confidence, so I could feel credible when I was inspiring youth. I needed a really strong affirmative voice. So that I could inspire people.”
The Indigenous Marathon Project will turn its attention to next year’s group of runners now. You can apply to be involved by visiting the Indigenous Marathon Foundation website.
Rickerby is now travelling around New York and Los Angeles, sightseeing with fellow IMP athlete Damien Crispin, who is also from the Kimberley.
By Keiran Deck