• Juan Darwin holding his son Campbell with Timesha (left) and Tyzell, in Sydney for the Fathers Day Fun Run. (NITV)
OPINION: One happy Dad from Maningrida believes running can rebuild your spirit and strengthen your family. He's calling out for others to join him in Sydney for a WARRIOR Run on Fathers Day.
By
Juan Darwin

31 Aug 2019 - 1:11 PM  UPDATED 31 Aug 2019 - 1:11 PM

I made history in 2010. I was one of the first four Indigenous Australians to run the TCS New York City Marathon. It is a 42km course and although I had never run more than 10km before, I finished the race. 

It all happened because I met one of Australia's champion marathon runners, Robert de Castella. 

Completing that course changed me. I believe running changes your brain chemistry, it rebuilds and revitalizes your spirit. And we all need a strong spirit to survive and thrive these days. Sharing this story is why I have come to Sydney. I am the ambassador for the WARRIOR Run on Father’s Day.  

Today I live in Maningrida, Arnhem Land, Northern Territory with my partner and three children. 

Maningrida is where I have a running club. For a long time, our starting line was away from community near the airport, because the funny thing about Maningrida is our cheeky dogs. They sometimes like to take a bite!

Recently though, we moved our starting line to the footy oval, so every one can see us as we run. We want to encourage fitness and increase our numbers. 

When I run, I feel happy, relaxed and steady.

As a teenager, I used to go to school in Maningrida and we’d have skin sports – Dhuwa and Yirritja. I am Yirritja and I used to beat the others in 100, 200 & 400 metre races, as well as the cross country race.

I was picked to join the Northern Territory team. I went to Melbourne and competed in the cross country and I went well in the race. I enjoy running, it's fun for me.

As kids we had loads of support from parents in our community, they cared for us.

My Dad used to play football with his brothers, and he taught me how to play football and basketball.  On the football field, I was the rover. I ran all over the oval, and other players would try to take me down, play rough, but I kept running and stayed focused.

I was known as the best runner in Maningrida. A friend in the community suggested marathon running. He took me for a drive in a troopie, to show me the long distance I would need to run.

When he stopped driving, he said that’s how long a race is. I said ‘I’ll try it, I want to do it’.

That's when I first heard about Rob de Castella and the Indigenous Marathon Foundation. 

I said to my friend, hey Japa (brother), I'll do the marathon. Next minute I was on a plane headed for Alice Springs to try out. I was happy, I made the team.    

The year was 2010. Sadly, the same year my brother was in a car accident. He survived the car accident but passed away the following day.

All my family supported me to carry on training while I did my Sorry Business.

My family and the people around me pushed me to go to New York with Rob and finish the marathon. My goal was to cross the finish line. 

Before the run, I wrote ‘family’ on my forearm so I could see it as I ran.

When I was getting ready, Rob gave me $20 to put in my shoe, just in case it was too far and I couldn't make it, I'd have enough money to catch a cab back to the hotel.

 

Importantly, Rob said to me, 'if you feel any pain look down at your arm and remember; I am doing it for my family'.

The message on my arm worked. I made it to the finish line. I felt sore but great.

When I was asked by reporters why are you here, my answer was easy. I did it for my community, my brother and my Dad.

   

Rob tells me, when you run with other people you share the journey. Every step you do yourself but you share the journey. And running can be about rebuilding your spirit.

Thats why I will be running on Fathers Day at Centennial Park in Sydney. And I encourage other families to come along and walk or run with us too. There will be market stalls, food, workshops, sport try-outs, Indigenous dances and music, bush food cooking demonstrations, sand art and more.

Before we start the run, we’ll have a special tribute to anti-domestic violence campaigner Charlie King, where all the men will link arms and say no more to violence.

We're want men to be noble warriors, someone who protects and provides for his community.

The Indigenous Marathon Foundation has been holding this run for 4years, this will be the 5th Warriors Run. 

I know Rob is thrilled, this is really important and he looks forward to this every year, catching up with the fellas.

It starts at 8am and goes until 2pm. You can enter either the 10km, 5km, or the 2km dash where families can run together.

Men from The Glen Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation Centre will bring along ochre and paint everyone up. They use culture to heal and recover men, incorporating dance and now running.

We all believe the WARRIOR Run is a great opportunity to acknowledge all the strong men in our families and communities, and do it in a strong and positive way.

Fathers, sons, brothers, uncles and grandfathers are invited to join in the celebrations with their families and share a memorable day.

To register for WARRIOR Run: www.warriorrun.com.au

For more information on IMF: www.imf.org.au