Indigenous runners bond at Classic first camp

They arrived in Canberra as strangers, from regional and remote Indigenous communities across the country, and left as a family of brothers and sisters bound by common goals; to lead, inspire, achieve and succeed.

The squad spent an intense five days at the Australian Institute of Sport commencing their Certificate III in Fitness (facilitated by AFL Sports Ready), a compulsory requirement of the IMP program, as well as completing running training and technique sessions, meeting IMP Patron, His Excellency the Governor General Sir Peter Cosgrove and Lady Cosgrove, and participating in the 10km event at the Mother’s Day Classic – the furthest distance run by most of the squad members.

Marrickville representative, John Leha, was 170kg when he accepted he needed to change. He is now down to 145kg as he gets ready to run a full 42.195km marathon in just six months, following in the footsteps of 43 other IMP graduates.

He highlighted IMP founder, Rob de Castella’s passion for helping Indigenous Australians and epitomised the enormity of the six months ahead.

“I feel blessed to have been selected in this team. For Rob to be so genuinely invested in not only the squad, but our families, communities and our people, it’s absolutely incredible.

“We all have a huge challenge ahead of us, but to be going through it with 10 other Indigenous Australians who have all bonded over the past five days to become great friends, will be a life changing experience and I can’t wait.

“I want to be a role model for my family and my community. Being part of IMP will allow me to do that, provided I put in the hard work, which is unquestionable. Bring on the next six months, I’m very excited,” he said.

Coach, Mick Rees, said the next seven weeks are crucial ahead of the squad’s half marathon.

“The half marathon, 21.1km, is their biggest running challenge to date and this period between camps will be tough. They really have to dig deep, stay consistent to their training and maintain focus.

“We can’t wait to see all 11 even runners cross the finish line at the Gold Coast. IMP is about celebrating Indigenous resilience and achievement and I’m already incredibly proud of this mob. The best is yet to come,” he said.

Click here to view a gallery of images from the first camp.