The head coach and talent spotter for the Indigenous Marathon Project isn’t just looking for fast legs and endurance in his athletes.
“I am looking for a sense of purpose; someone who will inspire their community,” Adrian Dodson-Shaw says.
He reckons he’s found it in Bodalla’s Wade Mongta, who ran the 2016 New York Marathon at the age of 19.
On his way to completing the 42 kilometre course in 4:18:58, Narooma News readers may have seen the lanky youth clocking up the training miles, running between his hometown and Moruya, or on the back roads.
Foundation founder, the former world champion and dual Commonwealth Games marathon gold medallist, Robert de Castella, says Mongta’s real race started “at the finish line”.
The race to inspire his Eurobodalla community to outrun diabetes and heart disease and to fly into HSC classes and tertiary education is the one that really matters.
That message landed on willing ears at the tiny Bodalla Memorial Hall on Friday night, when the foundation hosted a packed Return to Country ceremony for the athlete.
Struggling to hold it together were proud former teachers, Len Miles, of Moruya High School, and former Bodalla Public School principal Max Wallace.
Both were shocked to be singled out to receive plaques signed by Robert de Castella.
The first Mr Wallace knew of the New York goal was finding Mongta, “about 10km out of Bodalla, on a 34 degree day”.
“Here’s Wade running, and I pulled up and said ‘what are you doing, you silly bugger? It’s hot’,” Mr Wallace said.
“He said he was training for a marathon. I went home and got water for him.
“I have seen him grow from a little fella and I have seen the steps he has taken and the commitment.”
“I was not expecting it at all,” said Mr Miles, who Mongta claimed as a father figure.
“I welled up. When he first came to me, he was quite an angry lad who did not believe in himself. I saw the goodness in him straight away and he went ahead in leaps and bounds.”
From the day he filled out the form to do this, I could see the determination, the change in him from that moment- Len Miles
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.