Thursday, November 4, 2010

Deek and the indigenous runners

By Brian Metzler as featured in the Web Only issue of Running Times Magazine

Perhaps no runners entered in this year’s ING New York City Marathon have come as far as Charlie Maher, Juan Darwin, Joseph Davies and Caleb Hart.

Geographically speaking, the quartet traveled more than 10,000 miles on Monday to get to the Big Apple. But their journey is considerably more far-reaching than the 20-hour plane ride across 11 time zones from their homeland in the Australia to the starting line of Sunday’s race.

Still, donning ASICS running gear on their fit frames, Maher, Darwin, Davies and Hart might otherwise blend into the crowd of more than 40,000 aspiring runners who have trained hard to run the 26.2-mile course from Staten Island to Central Park. But unlike their fellow road runners, these guys never dreamt of running in the ING New York City Marathon until Rob de Castella came calling.

Last year, the Australian Institute of Sport, in conjunction with a non-profit program operated by de Castella, the former marathon world record-holder and 1983 world champion, launched an ambitious program called The Marathon Project to discover and develop distance running talent among indigenous Australians, as well as to foster healthy lifestyles among endemic communities in remote regions of the country. Loosely known as the Running to America program, the initiative plans to send a small group of locally trained runners each year to participate in the ING New York City Marathon.