From finding five kilometres daunting, to running over 20kms, Cecilia Johns is looking to push her physical limits by running a marathon
She is taking part in the Indigenous Marathon Project (IMP), established in 2009 by world marathon champion, Rob de Castella.
Fourteen members are selected to a team and train for six months in the lead up to compete in the New York Marathon.
With COVID still creating problems, this year the team will focus on a final marathon in Alice Springs.
Johns, who is a part of the 2021 team, said it was an awesome feeling when she received the news she had made the squad.
"I had been anticipating it for about a month," Johns said.
"It was really exciting when I got told I had been accepted to the team. There was a bit of anxiety about 'what if I don't get in', but I was really excited when I found out."
Having no prior training to suddenly running long distances was a daunting task at first for Johns.
"Going from not doing any long distance running, to basically diving into training, at first I thought five kilometres was the scariest thing ever," Johns said.
"Now I'm able to run 21km in under two months. It's been unbelievable.
"Coach kept pushing us, telling us to trust the process and follow our natural breathing pattern. It's a big stepping stone."
There are five camps which involve a 10km run in the lead up to the final marathon.
The pandemic has made the New York Marathon out of reach this year and head coach, Damian Tuck said COVID has made it difficult to compete in our own backyard.
"Cissy ran her half marathon over the July 3 weekend in Katherine, as we were supposed to all be in the Gold Coast, but COVID restrictions cancelled the event," Tuck said.
"All of our squad did the half marathon at their own locations."
The half marathon around Katherine brought out the community spirit and was a streamed event.
"A few local people and auntie and uncle from down South who grew up here ran with me," Johns said.
"Last year when the world was locked down, I thought to myself 'I'm going to get myself to five kilometres by the end of the year.' Now I'm doing half marathons."
Along with the physical aspect of the program, there is also an educational aspect and members get to study a Cert IV in Indigenous Leadership.
"Obviously with indigenous leadership, it's something that's passed down through connections and tribal," Johns said.
"However, with this it's giving me a different perspective on things. There are different sorts of leadership styles and ways of approaching situations.
"It's infused with Western culture from my eyes, but it's been really awesome and I've loved doing the course."
The IMP Midnight Marathon in Alice Springs marathon is scheduled for October 25, 2021. Besides doing her best, Johns has a strong message she wants to prove.
"Earlier this year I found out I have rheumatic heart disease at the age of 30,"Johns said.
"The message I want to push is that no matter what chronic diseases you have, you can still participate and live a happy and healthy life.
"It's something I want to prove and my big aim throughout this program."
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