For the first time in IMP history, all 12 members of the 2016 squad have conquered the 30km Alice Springs run to earn their spot in the New York City Marathon in November.
In the dark of morning on Sunday 25 September, the incredible six women and six men laced up for the qualifying run through the tough desert terrain of Alice Springs as the final part of their six-month journey.
The sun was soon rising over the expansive rock escarpment, providing warmth and spiritual comfort as the runners made their way through the heart of Australia, working up a hunger for the Big Apple.
Alice Springs is a significant location for IMF, both as the heart of our nation and the home of many Graduates, including Charlie Maher, the first Indigenous Australian to finish the New York City Marathon as part of IMP and who ran the Berlin Marathon at the same time the squad took on their 30km event.
But finishing 30km does not mean automatic selection for New York.
Final selection is determined by those runners who have shown commitment to their training, finish the 30km test run, and successfully complete their compulsory education component, a Certificate III in Fitness.
The times from the 30km qualifying run were:
Jessie Thompson, Mt Druitt (NSW) – 1:52:21
Zibeon Fielding, APY Lands (SA) – 2:09:18
Saliman Bin Juda, Thursday Island (QLD) – 2:30:25
Wade Mongta, Bodalla (NSW) – 2:34:22
Billy Bell, Heywood (VIC) – 2:48:17
Wayne Sloane, Condobolin (NSW) – 2:50:39
Kimberley Benjamin, Broome (WA) – 3:05:40
Megan Highfold, Broome (WA) – 3:08:52
Tahnee Sutton, Adelaide (SA) – 3:14:56
Kristika Kumar, Wreck Bay (NSW) – 3:33:49
Candice Love, Murray Bridge (SA) – 3:36:10
Jacinta Smith-Robins, Bourke (NSW) – 3:41:17
In an intimate ceremony on Sunday night, all members sat nervously waiting for their name to be announced in the New York squad; and after what seemed an eternity, and in some cases –uncertainty – all 12 brothers and sisters booked their seat on the plane bound for New York.
To make the weekend extra memorable, Jacinta Smith-Robins of Bourke and Zibeon Fielding of APY Lands, SA were named the recipients of the Nadine Hunt and Charlie Maher leadership awards, as voted by their peers for their inspirational leadership qualities.
“This award means so much to me because the people who voted mean the world to me and I have so much love and respect for them,” Jacinta said.
“I didn’t really see myself as a leader so for my sisters to think of me like that is just unbelievable.”
IMP founder and director, Robert de Castella, said it was a fantastic final camp.
“This squad is 100% ready for New York and I’m so proud of their progress throughout the year. On announcing the squad to head to New York, there were lots of screams and tears; it was incredibly moving and emotional.’’
The squad was inspired and supported by former IMP Graduates including Dwayne Jones, a member of the 2015 squad who’s currently in training for the Athens marathon in November; and Ruth Wallace of Adelaide, and Sarah Carmody of Alice Springs, both members of the 2014 squad.
The Graduates are an integral part of the camp, sharing their personal stories of adversity and triumph, and encouraging the runners over the 30km distance.
All members of the squad will meet again in Sydney for pre-departure camp on 2 November before flying out to New York on Thursday 3 November.
To view a gallery of images from the final camp, click here.