Runners shine on the Gold Coast

Beautiful one day, perfect the next.

It’s the old adage to describe life in Queensland; and it certainly rang true over the past six days.

Eleven Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island runners from Indigenous communities across the country made their way into the second camp on the Gold Coast on Wednesday 1 July, ready to tackle their biggest challenge to date – the Gold Coast Half Marathon.

It’s been seven weeks since the 2015 IMP squad’s first camp in Canberra. In just seven weeks they have trained incredibly hard to prepare their bodies, and their minds, for a gruelling 21.1km run on the sunny Gold Coast.

It must be remembered that just two months ago, most of the squad had absolutely no running experience.

No parkruns. No local running groups. No running partner. No running.

Over the past two months, they have learnt about easy runs, long runs, quality sessions, the sheer “excitement, joy and happiness” (note sarcasm….) of plunging into an ice bath and just how important consistency to training is.

The squad was inspired by IMP Ambassador, Aunty Pam Pedersen – our 72 year old pocket rocket who’s run every Mother’s Day Classic for the past 18 years, completed her first triathlon at the age of 58, runs four times a week and swims two, and ran in the 10km Gold Coast run.

World Ironman Champion and another IMP Ambassador, Pete Jacobs, shared his training stories with the squad and offered his running advice and even highlighted the importance of listening to your body. Pete ran with Daniel Lloyd for part of the half, then paced Chris Guyula who was nursing a foot injury.

And of course, there was Newcastle running stalwart, parkrun Communication  Manager and IMP Ambassador, Dave “Robbo” Robertson, who blitzed the 10km field, finishing in a time of 35mins! We are sure it was the performance enhancing IMP singlet he was wearing….

The squad addressed the special Main Beach parkrun on Friday afternoon, they had visits from IMP Graduates who imparted their words of wisdom having experienced the same feelings of nerves, uncertainty and excitement before their first half marathon, and they spent days in the classroom powering through their Certificate III in Fitness qualification.

It was a beautiful prelude to the big day; the most perfect day.

In darkness they rose, some well rested, others waking on the hour every hour in fear of missing their early morning alarm.

The drive to the race was a quiet one, as the runners were a combination of nervous, excited, apprehensive, eager to put their training into practice, and their heart likely feeling like it was pumping adrenalin instead of blood.

A warm-up, a last toilet stop, words of wisdom from coach, Mick Rees, and Deek, and it was time; time to line up with more than 8,800 other half marathoners and soak up the experience.

Off they went, no doubt similar to a feeling of parents seeing their children off to school on their first day – out there to make their own path, run their own race, and apply what they’ve learnt in such a short amount of time.

In the times of struggle, the runners all reflected on their purpose – their motivation and their reason for being here. Family, the determination to make change, and the passion to inspire their communities was the common denominator.

Each of these runners has overcome adversity and struggle beyond measure, finishing a half marathon would be a piece of cake by comparison.

They all eventually found their rhythm and in just 1hr 49mins, Murray Bridge (SA) runner Daniel Lloyd crossed the finish line, closely followed by Chris Guyula from Gapuwiyak (NT). And one by one, all of the 2015 runners were home!

In November 2014, John Leha from Marrickville in Sydney was 170kg. He’s since lost a staggering 35kgs and set himself a goal of finishing the race in under 3hrs. He smashed that goal by a whopping five minutes!

Here are the official results of IMP 2015:

Daniel Lloyd (Murray Bridge, SA): 1:49:22
Chris Guyula (Gapuwiyak, NT): 1:53:23
Dwayne Jones (Myatt Community, NT): 2:32:42
Aaron West (Queanbeyan, NSW): 2:41:41
John Leha (Marrickville, NSW): 2:55:08

Alicia Sabatino (Thursday Island, QLD): 2:07:09
Harriet David (Cairns, QLD): 2:09:12
Jaeme Bird (Bathurst, NSW): 2:19:46
Charmaine Patrick (Alice Springs, NT): 2:22:47*
Jacinta Gurruwiwi (Galiwinku, NT): 2:38:20
Eileen Byers (Coombell, NSW): 2:42:54

* Charmaine Patrick is a 2013 IMP Graduate who was invited to be part of the second camp, to inspire the squad, share her story and run the half marathon, after she was unable to complete the distance in 2013 due to injury and instead completing the 10km event.

Under the Queensland sun, the 2015 squad ticked off their biggest challenge. They ran out their inner doubts, their footprints left on the Gold Coast course and in the hearts of many who cheered them on, shook their hands, congratulated them on achieving an incredible goal.

Their self pride was evident, their self-confidence at an all-time high – and the pain in their bodies a reminder of how hard they worked.

And it wasn’t just the 2015 squad that achieved remarkable feats.

Harold Matthew succumbed to pain-staking calf cramps at the 25km mark that forced him to walk the majority of the remaining 17km, yet he still finished in 4:58, a gutsy performance!

In the half marathon, 2012 Graduate Korey Summers stormed home to finish in 1:24; maintaining 4min pace the entire 21km!

2014 graduate Allirra Braun put her niggling injury to the test and crossed the line in an impressive 2:06, while fellow 2014 Graduate Elsie Seriat, ran with her niece and 2015 squad member, Alicia Sabatino, both crosing in a time of 2:07.

And of course all of our IMP supporters who have fundraised, raised awareness and shown incredible passion and enthusiasm for our runners and the entire program.

Sunday 5 July; the day the 2015 squad dominated the Gold Coast Half Marathon and put them only two runs away from flying to the world’s largest marathon – New York City.

Sunday 5 July; it was the perfect day.

To view a gallery of images from the event, click here.