Lauren McIntosh, Siren Sport, Cape York Weekly
The success of the Indigenous Marathon Project has received high praise from a number of former representatives, including Weipa product Bianca Graham.
In 2011, Bianca and Nadine Hunt ran the New York City Marathon with IMP.
They crossed the finish line together in 3 hours, 40 minutes and 44 seconds to make history. They finished a joint third out of 11 IMP squad members.
“We started off together but there was no plan, it just happened,” said Bianca of their joint crossing.
“It wasn’t until the very end (when) we could see the flags and were like we’ve done it. And we grabbed each other’s hand and just ran across the finish line.”
In reflecting on their run, Nadine said: “I remember running past so many of the IMP boys and checking they’re okay, but we’d keep going.
“When we finished, we were laughing and crying and crying.”
Founded in 2010, IMP – now a part of the broader health promotion charity the Indigenous Marathon Foundation – supports and trains a select squad of Indigenous people to run a marathon in just six months.
Bianca and Nadine had heard the stories of the inaugural IMP runners – all men from remote communities in central Australia.
“I remember the flyer said, ‘Do you want to run a marathon this year?’ I always thought marathons (were) in the Olympics and that’s it, I didn’t know anyone could do it. And certainly not people from Weipa,” Bianca recalled.
Nadine, a Iamalaig woman of the Kulkalgal Nation (Yam Island) and Kaantju, who grew up in Cairns questioned her right to participate.
“Here we are female fair skinned Indigenous Australians from a kind of regional urban area. Do we fit that mould of what Australia thinks Indigenous Australians should be? Also, like women haven’t done this before, can we even do this?”
Bianca said that running a marathon skewed your sense of what is hard.
“You are so proud of yourself,” said the Torres Strait Islander who grew up in Weipa.
Today both Bianca and Nadine are still heavily involved with IMP, seeking to give back to the community.
“We don’t actually realise the influence”, says Nadine.
“We have runners who have built their confidence so much they will never go back to a domestic violence relationship.
“There’s such a bigger picture. It’s about providing a really positive space for mob to come together and be healthy and be active.”
This article appeared in Cape York Weekly, 8 March 2022.