People usually say that running is not the way to overcome your problems, but for Queanbeyan mother-of-four Georgia Gleeson, it was just the outlet she needed.
Gleeson admits she was living an unhealthy life as she struggled to cope with depression and anxiety, before the Indigenous Marathon Project (IMP) turned her life around.
Headed by Robert de Castella, IMP uses the marathon as a vehicle to promote healthy lifestyles to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people all around Australia.
The project annually selects a group of young Indigenous men and women to complete the New York City Marathon with a mere six months of training.
Gleeson is a glowing endorsement of the impact the organisation can have on someone’s life.
“I was very unhealthy, a bit of a binge drinker, and it got to a point where I had to make some choices. It just came about at the right time,” said Gleeson.
“I started running in 2012, towards the end of that. I heard what the Marathon Project was about, and saw what their philosophy was and decided to apply for the following year, which I did, and got in.
“It’s life-changing. It really has changed my life and I don’t say that lightly either.
“How I’ve said it before is just what you learn about yourself in that process of training for a marathon, is what you can transfer to the rest of your life.
“You realise what hard work is about, the importance of being focused, determined, not being distracted, and what hard work gets you.”
Running has resulted in a complete lifestyle change for Gleeson, who has since become a running coach for Athletics Australia, leaving behind a career as a public servant.
Inspired by the impact that the Indigenous Marathon Foundation has had on her life, Gleeson started a running group for Indigenous people in Queanbeyan.
“When I came back [from New York] I decided to start up a running group, called the Queanbeyan Deadly Runners.
“The intention was just to start a running group and teach local indigenous people how to run for free, because I had the qualifications behind me, and not everyone has the money to access those type of people.
“So I started that group and [it’s] the same thing that Rob and IMF invest in you as an individual, all the faith and the guidance, I’ve just transferred that to my runners, and it’s changed their life too, so it’s incredible.”
The IMP will host the inaugural ‘IMF Father’s Day Warrior Fun Run’ on September 6 at Centennial Park in Sydney, with a number of fun runs also scheduled on the day right across the country.
“It’s a run to celebrate the men in our lives, which is a fantastic thing because I think that’s something that’s really lost.
“I think it’s really good to celebrate our men, their courage and their pride, and what it means to be a good person, a good fella, a good dad.”
Gleeson and the IMF are hoping that the event will become a mainstay on Australia’s running calendar.
“We have the Mother’s Day classic, so hopefully this will take on a similar thing for men and really celebrate something that’s really healthy and encouraging for men.”
Traditional Indigenous music and entertainment will be on display throughout the event, which will be offering a 5km and 10km run/walk.
Participants are being encouraged to wear Indigenous themed face paint markings in the event, to celebrate the work of the IMF and the success of its participants.
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