Kaiya O’Brien was one of eight people to represent Port Macquarie at the Indigenous Marathon Foundation’s annual National Deadly Fun Run Championships last weekend in Uluru.
Ms O’Brien, a 13-year-old Biripi woman, competed against 150 other runners from across 22 Aboriginal communities in conditions she described as “very hot”.
Under the sweltering sun, Ms O’Brien ran 3kms in the morning fun run and by the turn of the afternoon she had ran the base of Uluru in a relay alongside 3 other fierce Port Macquarie runners.
“It was pretty fun, it was a great experience… [to be around other mobs] was really great,” she said.
Four representatives from each community are chosen to compete in the relay - a male, a female, a junior and a senior.
Port Macquarie, however, had two out of around 27 relay teams that placed 8th and 9th on the day.
Ms O’Brien started running about two-and-a-half-years ago to get her body moving and to stay active socially.
“I run alongside my friends and a few of my cousins,” she said.
Each year, the relay teams hand over tokens of appreciation to pay respects to the local Mututjulu Elders,
“We gave them two relay batons and we had a weaved basket and the painting,” said Ms O’Brien. “My pop made the painting and my Aunty weaved the basket.”
Ms O’Brien said she would like to work towards running in the annual 42,195km New York Marathon.
Charlie Maher, an Indigenous Marathon Foundation (IMP) graduate and one of the four inaugural members of the IMP, mentored Ms O’Brien and the other Port Macquarie runners on their journey to the heart of Australia.
“You see the kids faces when they go to Uluru and they get that opportunity, it's what it's all about", he said.
"They see [that there is] more to running: the impact they make; the confidence and well-being they build; that's what I love about it."
He Maher said running a marathon alongside other IMP members was daunting at first, but the team took “a vision to inspire their families” with them.
Putting his fears aside, Mr Maher was one four of the first Aboriginal Australians to compete in the New York Marathon in 2010.
This year marks eight years of the Uluru championships and was the biggest turnout yet with six communities signing onto the day for the first time ever – Wauchope in NSW, Ntaria in the NT, Mareeba in QLD, Cherbourg in QLD, Bramble Bay in QLD and East Arnhem Land in the NT.