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From Queanbeyan to New York and triumph

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An Aboriginal woman and man stand on a street holding the Aboriginal flag. Behind are many people dressed in running wear crossing a finish line, above which hangs a banner on an overhead walkway.
Cara Smith and Layne Brown of Warilla at the NYC Marathon finish line. (Photo courtesy of Indigenous Marathon Project)
16 Nov 2017

Going the distance of a full marathon in a big city like New York across the other side of the world is no mean feat. Cara Smith, a relative newcomer to long distance running, from Queanbeyan, NSW crossed the finished line in the 2017 NYC Marathon, running the whole way.

In 2015, inspired by the physical and mental changes in a friend who took up regular running, Cara joined the Queanbeyan Deadly Runners. In 2016, she had her first child but was determined to continue her regular exercise, going for long walks with her newborn and running when she could.

In April this year, she was selected to join the Indigenous Marathon Project (IMP). The project takes Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, who show commitment to changing their lives, to the streets of New York.

Her selection in the IMP team caused a rush of emotion as Cara realised how far she’d come and what she had achieved.

‘I was over 106kg, eating bad food and in a bad headspace before I started running,’ Cara said.

‘Now I’m down to 91kg and I’ve dropped 2 or 3 dress sizes. I have more energy; I am more alert, happier and calmer. I’m giving better care to my son, have greater mental strength and feel open to challenging myself.’

After selection, Cara was so excited and keyed up, she often woke at 3 or 4am to go running, even on very cold and frosty mornings.

Before the NYC race, she was nervous, excited and determined.

And now?

“I ran the whole way,” Cara said proudly.

‘Even through the tough times I never thought of stopping. The atmosphere was the best and really helped me to keep going.’

Cara said she did not ‘hit the wall’, but acknowledges there were plenty of “little hedges” along the way.

“I was really looking forward to the finish line,” she said.

“It was so hard at 30km, then again in the last 3km. But I loved it. I’ll have a good rest then sign up for the next marathon.’

One of the ideas promoted by the IMP is that ‘The finish line is just the start line’. Cara wants to ensure the positive changes she has made to her life will continue after the marathon.

She also wants to help other people in her hometown realise the benefits of regular running and exercise.

‘I want to continue running with the Queanbeyan Deadly Runners group. But I want to begin an afternoon session for young mothers and older women and men,’ Cara said.

‘I also want to start a walking group for new mums to get them out of the house and get them around other people, doing something healthy and setting a good example for their kids.’

Setting herself challenges and achieving them is now part of Cara’s life. Next stop is the Berlin Marathon in September 2018.

Ten Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young adults stand arm in arm in two rows dressed in yellow running singlets which display their names. Around their necks are draped medals.
Squad, back row left to right: TJ Cora (Cairns), Luke Reidy (Perth), Layne Brown (Warilla, NSW), Roy Tilmouth (Alice Springs), Scott Cox (Broome), Zane Sparke (Port Macquarie). Front row left to right: Maletta Seriat (Thursday Island, Qld), Cara Smith (Queanbeyan, NSW), Allirra Winmar (Perth), Natasha Shires (Karratha). (Photo courtesy of the IMP)

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The Australian Government is committed to ensuring that Indigenous people improve their health and enjoy the emotional and social wellbeing experienced by other Australians.

The Indigenous Marathon Foundation plays an important role in this commitment, encouraging Indigenous people to live healthier and more active lives.

Each year the Indigenous Marathon Project 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.