A Hunter resident says he is still on a high after completing a unique midnight marathon at Simpsons Gap in the Northern Territory.
The event was organised by the Indigenous Marathon Foundation (IMF), a health promotion charity that uses running to help foster inspirational Indigenous leadership.
This year’s edition marked the IMF’s 10-year anniversary and, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, saw it return to its Alice Springs roots for a marathon under the moonlight.
Cameron Manning, from Tenambit, completed the 42.195-kilometre event in a time of 4:18:13, placing him second overall.
The 27-year-old, a member of the Gomeroi nation, said he had previously trialled in each of the past three years to be on the 12-strong marathon team.
His fourth attempt, however, proved to be successful.
“It feels definitely unique, really special to be with all 12 squad members who are in the project this year,” he said.
“[Alice Springs] was the first time a lot of us have met each other.
“Doing the marathon really changed my mindset about [running], in regards to the mental benefits of running – that’s what I got out of it and what I want to share.”
The IMF was founded by former marathon world champion Robert de Castella, who took four Indigenous Australians with no prior running experience to the New York City Marathon in 2010.
This group became the first Aboriginals to complete the event, which races across New York’s five boroughs.
Since 2010, the IMF has selected 12 running novices from Indigenous backgrounds to travel to New York to test themselves in the marathon.
The participants have a limited six-month training period, which de Castella said was testament to the runners’ great “personal and family commitment” to push themselves.
“To now have 108 IMP graduates, who have not just run a marathon, but also competed the IMP education program is incredible,” de Castella added.
Alongside the athletic commitment that the 12 selected runners make, participants are also required to undertake educational training, including a Certificate IV in Sport and Recreation, a Level 1 Recreational Running Coach Accreditation, CPR and first-aid qualifications, as well as media training.
Manning said this year’s education program was held over Zoom.
“[The educational training] was every six weeks for a couple of days,” he said.
“For me, it’s not been so hard as I am currently studying at the University of Newcastle, so I’ve incorporated that into my studies.”
Manning said that participating was “really special and something we’ll never forget”, and expressed his desire to continue working with the IMF as an alumni.
“As I have two young kids and my work background is with community work, I want to use running to positively engage young people,” he added.