From little things big things grow

Powering up the hill to Coogee past the Federal Sports Minister, Mark Arbib, Caleb Hart looks strong, light on his feet and ready for New York. Closely behind Juan Darwin and Charlie Maher cruise up the hill in one of their final runs on Australian soil before flying out on Monday to run the New York Marathon.

On Sunday 7th November Caleb, Juan, Charlie and Joseph Davies will be the first Indigenous runners to run the New York marathon. Running with them this morning they look relaxed and take in the sights of the coastal run as they chat to Mark Arbib. The minister has come to meet the 4 runners, wish them all the best in New York and join them for a run from Coogee to Tamarama & back. IMP 2010Everyone enjoys the comfortable pace as they take in the views across the beaches & headlands, but it’s a world away from Alice Springs, Darwin, Kununurra and Maningrida (Arnhem land), where the boys have done the majority of their training. The change in scenery & lifestyle is dramatic for them, as just an hour earlier they were answering questions from news crews and running and stretching for the cameras. But an even bigger challenge awaits them in New York, quite possibly the polar opposite of many of the rural communities the boys are used to. But just like their training for the marathon, the boys are taking in their stride. Busy streets, cooler weather and the never-ending buzz of New York will be quite a culture shock but participating in one of the greatest marathons in the world will be an amazing experience for the 4 runners. It is only the first year the Indigenous Marathon Project (, led by former marathon legend Robert de Castella, yet the program has high aspirations including promoting increased physical activity in indigenous communities, providing support and opportunities for talented indigenous runners and taking an indigenous distance runner in the 2016 Olympic marathon.

Before then however Caleb, Charlie, Joseph & Juan have an unforgiving 42.2km through all 5 boroughs of New York. There is no doubt it will be a big challenge, but the boys have overcome so much just to be here today. The state of indigenous health in Australia is shameful and a major priority of the federal government and organisations such as Generation One . And despite less opportunities & support for young indigenous men & women in Australia the boys have risen to the challenge. Also Charlie & Caleb have been through a busy football season playing for the Northern Territory Thunder and balancing training and recovery in their marathon preparations. Coming off hard games and regular travel to IMP Coogee 2010Brisbane & Darwin with the team Charlie needed to use ice baths and other recovery techniques to keep himself strong  & injury free. Meanwhile Juan has had to overcome the packs of local dogs in Arnhem land that will snap at the heels of anyone in a run. Forced out of town Juan had to get lifts from the local AFP officer and then run back into town, stopping & walking as soon as the dogs were around. Later continuing his training in Darwin, Juan has carries the recent loss of 2 family members. But despite all this he keeps working hard, quietly training determined to set a great example for others in his community. I’m sure the rest of the family, especially Juan’s little boy, back home will be very proud of the amazing achievement. While today Joseph’s battle has started early as he fights a bad flu, desperate to get back to full strength this week before the big race.

Throughout the year the boys have had to do much of the training on their own with support of the head trainer (& former marathon champion John Bell), as well as regular training camps. One such camp at the AIS in Canberra earlier in the year gave them an insight into some of the elite programs and a feel for just how cold it might be in New York next week. Charlie laughs as he tells me he needed to put socks on his hands to protect him from the chilly May mornings in Canberra. Hopefully despite all their obstacles and through all their hard work the marathon on 7th November will be an amazing success and a landmark moment for indigenous running in Australia. Good luck fellas!!

I’ll be there in NY to follow the story and will continue to write more on the boys in the coming days….

Speak Your Mind



Get every new post on this blog delivered to your Inbox.

Join other followers: