19-year-old Wade Mongta of Bodalla hopes to run the New York Marathon later this year with the Indigenous Marathon Project, but first he has to be selected out of dozens of other candidates.
The Indigenous Marathon Project, with world-champion marathon runner Robert De Castella as director, every year prepares 12 Aboriginal men and women of all abilities to run in perhaps the world’s most famous and toughest marathon in New York.
Head coach Mick Rees is currently undertaking a national tour recruiting this year’s participants and on Friday he was at Bodalla where Wade tried out for the squad.
In addition to the timed 5km run, some planking and a beep test, the most important step was the interview.
“We pick the squad based on character and purpose,” Mr Rees said. “We are looking to identify and develop passionate young indigenous men and women, passionate about making positive social change and being role models and leading by example.”
He told the inspirational story of John Leha who last year shed 43 kilograms during his preparation for the marathon. He was selected after battling depression and losing a brother to cancer. Since the marathon, Mr Leha was now himself a fitness coach with lots of clients.
“You don’t understand and have got no idea about how powerful your ability is to influence,” he said. “The project requires dedication and commitment and just turning up today is a huge step.”
Wade himself hopes he has what it takes to be selected as one of the 55 runners who travelled to New York over the past three years thanks to the project.
“My childhood and lifetime dream has been to run for Australia,” he said, and he enjoys sprinting and distance running.
His mother was there for the try-out and said Wade had showed promise from an early age having won his first State medal at age 12 while attending Bodalla Public School for long jump.
Now he was known to go for long runs either west along Eurobodalla Road or even on the highway to Moruya. And athletics ran in the family with his cousin Angie Blackburn having trained at the Australian Institute of Sport, while another cousin ran in the Stawell Gift sprint race.
The selection process continues with Mr Rees travelling to all parts of Australia to seek out the most determined and inspiring potential marathon runners. Find out more at http://imf.org.au/