If ever you are looking for inspiration and a sense of how a real community works, then spend some time with Canberra marathon legend Rob de Castella and his Indigenous Marathon Project (IMP).
On the cusp of its tenth anniversary, the IMP was born out of Deek’s venture into the Northern Territory to discover Australia’s next marathon champion. Instead, what he discovered was a far greater calling; to lead a generation of Indigenous youth seeking not only to overcome a stereotype but also to be given an opportunity.
The outcome was the birth of the Indigenous Marathon Project with potential Indigenous marathon runners set a task of training for and completing the famed New York marathon.
The IMP, which has a partnership with the University of Canberra, has so far resulted in 75 Indigenous runners progress from basic running ability to completing the New York marathon.
The result for many has been life changing, building and supporting inner confidence and self-belief so that they know that they are capable of doing anything they set their minds to do if they work towards it. And full credit to every individual who has undertaken the program. It is not easy.
Spending time with some of the runners, it is obvious the affection they have for Deek. They call him “Uncle” as a mark of respect for what he has done to change their lives.
The next group of runners are about to head to New York. There are 11 participants this year. Each year about 150 people apply to be part of the project, and through a selection process about 12 people are successful and are invited to join the program.
It is a gruelling schedule to prepare somebody for their first marathon and Rob is there to guide and mentor them along the way.
As part of the project a corporate runner is nominated. That runner not only has to have the ability to complete a marathon but also needs to fund raise to help cover the costs of getting the group to New York. This year Canberra businessman, Chris Christis, holds that honour. As he prepares for his first marathon there is a sense that the experience has already changed his life.
It has certainly changed the lives of previous corporate runners such as Dexar Group CXO John Minns who was part of the IMP in 2016.
It is hard to quantify how the project has changed the lives of the 75 graduates but the best way is to meet and talk with any of the young people who have completed the program. They are testament to its success and are to be congratulated.
And Rob de Castella deserves every accolade. Rarely has one individual inspired so many through his desire to make a difference.