Under blue and sunny skies, Mt Druitt man, Jesse Thompson, led the squad to the finish, completing the race in a time of 2:45 to become the fastest Indigenous Australian to finish the race as part of IMP.
The race was the culmination of six months of training and commitment, in conditions about as far as you can get from the remote desert communities from which many of the squad has come.
The New York race, held on Sunday 6 November (early Monday morning Australian time) was the first marathon for the 12 outstanding Indigenous competitors in a field of more than 50,000 runners with thousands more supporters lining the streets to cheer them on.
It has been a remarkable year for the squad, many of whom had never run before, but who embraced the challenges in front of them with determination and fortitude.
IMF director and former world champion runner, Deek said he felt immensely proud of the 2016 squad and their achievements.
“There is no place like New York, and there is no run anywhere on the planet like the famous New York City Marathon.
“It is the biggest, most exciting and one of the toughest marathons, and it’s an extraordinary achievement for all 12 runners to qualify to run it.
“These 12 young Indigenous leaders are following in the footsteps of 53 other Indigenous Marathon Project Graduates, who since 2010, have ignited a culture of distance running across Indigenous Australia. I am so excited to again see a group of amazing Australians pass this massive physical, emotional and spiritual test.
“Prior to IMP no Indigenous man or woman had completed the New York or any major international marathon. Today Australia has 65 Indigenous international marathoners, and inspirational role models.
“In so doing, all 65 have inspired thousands to get active and improve their health and fitness, but maybe even more importantly, they have shown family and community how proud, strong and determined young Indigenous men and women are, when driven by their purpose – to make life better for the next generation.”
Adrian Dodson-Shaw, a 2014 Graduate, said his second visit to New York – this time in his role as head coach – was possibly even more exciting than his first.
“I have been following this year’s squad since they first tried out. I’ve seen them meet for the first time and form lasting friendships. Their running has improved out of sight and I’ve watched them grow into strong, confident individuals and role models in their communities.
“It has been a privilege to watch each and every one of them fulfil their dream to cross the finish line of the New York City Marathon. “They are Graduates now, and their journey doesn’t stop here. I look forward to seeing them return home as community heroes, inspiring others to follow their dreams and live long, healthy, active lives,” he said.
The 2016 squad’s results at the marathon are:
|Jessie Thompson, Mt Druitt (NSW)||2:45:48||Megan Highfold, Broome (WA)||4:17:58|
|Zibeon Fielding, APY Lands (SA)||3:28:58||Kimberley Benjamin, Broome (WA)||4:30:08|
|Saliman Bin Juda, Thursday Island (Qld)||3:56:37||Tahnee Sutton, Adelaide (SA)||4:36:14|
|Wade Mongta, Bodalla (NSW)||4:18:58||Candice Love, Murray Bridge (SA)||5:25:36|
|Billy Bell, Heywood (Vic)||4:53:12||Kristika Kumar, Wreck Bay (NSW)||5:27:32|
|Wayne Sloane, Condobolin (NSW)||5:04:21||Jacinta Smith-Robins, Bourke (NSW)||6:17:30|
Each year IMP selects a squad of young Indigenous men and women (aged 18 to 30 years), to train for the New York City Marathon, complete a compulsory education component – a Certificate III in Fitness – and through their achievements celebrate Indigenous resilience and success.
The IMP relies on the generous support of the Australian Government Department of Health, Department of Regional Australia, Local Government, Arts and Sport, Qantas, ASICS, Accor, Good Oil Films and the generosity of the Australian public.