Ten runners from the 2021 Indigenous Marathon Project (IMP) Squad completed their first marathon in the dark last weekend.

Just outside of Alice Springs, on Arrente Country, the runners mustered up their grit and determination to power through the 42.195km track.

Despite the brutal conditions, and the temperature close to 30 degrees, the runners
reached finish line at Simpsons Gap under the full moon.

Squad after receiving race singlet. Photo Supplied.

Proud Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander man and 2021 squad member, Tristan Nelliman-Adams said his run in Mparntwe (Alice Springs) was “nothing short of amazing”.

“Don’t get me wrong, running the marathon was hard. Probably the toughest thing I have ever done in my life physically, mentally and emotionally but to sum it up, completing the marathon was life changing,” he told the National Indigenous Times.

“We ran a 7km track up and back making the whole loop 14km and completed this 3 times.”

Nelliman-Adams and the nine other participants went from no marathon training to tackling this run is a matter of seven-months.

“The training involved a gruelling seven-months, which saw us constantly training towards milestones,” Nelliman-Adams said.

“These milestones involved preparing to run a 10km, 21.1km (half marathon), 25km, 30km and the 42.195km (full marathon).

“Constant weekly phone calls from Head Coach Damian Tuck and IMF Founder Rob De Castella kept us accountable with our whole squad also constantly checking in on each other to make sure training runs were being completed.”

The midnight marathon didn’t go as planned for Nelliman-Adams, but that night will stay with him forever.

“My foot becoming numb after 9km due to a shoe issue, my lack of nutrition causing me
to hit a wall early in the run, my head-torch died and the way the race panned out I had no
support runners with me for majority of the race,” he said.

“All this meant that for basically 22km of the race I ran busted, alone, in the dark and was physically and mentally struggling.

“I had to dig very deep to get myself out of the hole I was in because I was in a pretty dark place literally and mentally.”

Nelliman-Adams said the thought of his family, friends, mob and culture got him through the race.

“All of these allowed me to find a second wind and finish the race strongly. I had certain spiritual moments that happened during the run which presented how strong the spirituality is on Arrente Country,” he said.

“Towards the back of the race my Mum, who had flown all the way from Weipa in Cape York taking 4 planes just to be there, ran the last 1km with me which got me home.”

“I grabbed both the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags and crossed the finish line and the feeling I got is something I’ve never ever felt before.”

Nelliman-Adams said the experience was something he’ll “never forget”.

“The whole experience was something I’ll never forget including the Welcome to Country/Smoking Ceremony, the beautiful scenery of Simpsons Gap, an amazing lightning show which lit up the Mparntwe night sky,” he said.

Tristan Nelliman-Adams. Photo Supplied Nelliman-Adams’s personal social media.

The 2021 runners now join the 119 young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men and women who have completed the IMP program since 2010.

By Teisha Cloos