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Banaga-y Biruu team to compete in the Uluru half marathon

According to Attunga’s Charlene Abra and herBanaga-y Biruu indigenous team of four runners, heading to Uluru for next month’sannual Australian Outback Half Marathon is nothing short of a dream come true.

“The decision for us to run in the event was made in 2019, but because of Covid, it hasn’t happened the last two years. For us to run at the Red Centre, the heart of our Nation and the sacred lands of the Anangu people, is a dream come true. The unique experience that will take runners through spectacular scenery, past Uluru and through Kata Tjuta National Park will stay with them for the rest of their lives,” Charlene said.

Participating in their first ever half marathon at Uluru on July 30 will be Charlene (Future’s Mentor for Tamworth Local Aboriginal Lands Council), and students Joash Boney, Latrell Allen, Izzy Kesby and Vienna Edwards, the latter four ranging in age from 16 to 18. Sam DeForge (Ranger at Tamworth Local Aboriginal Lands Council) and Lance Brooks (from Communities 4 Communities in Sydney) will accompany the team to Uluru as its mentor/coach. Charlene will juggle running with her teammates in the 21km section of the marathon with assisting as mentor/coach – “I don’t expect the team to do anything I’m not willing to do myself”.

Team Banaga-y Biruu, which means ‘Run Long Way’, is part of a program designed at leadership, wellbeing and fitness, its initiative being to reconnect, inspire and develop young Aboriginal people.

“Joash and Latrell have been with the program since it started two years ago, Izzy joined in 2021 and Vienna came on board this year,” Charlene said.

“Our hope with the program is to motivate and inspire our community and future generations. The growing number of youth suicides, along with other mental and physical health disorders is heart breaking. We’re passionate in being a driving force for healthy living. All it takes is to inspire one person, and that creates a ripple effect. You never know who is watching and who you are influencing. You may even save someone’s life.”

In preparation for the marathon, the team has been training together twice a week as well as training solo other days. Team Banaga-y Biruu, which will head out on June 28 and return home August 1, also benefited by a recent workshop conducted by University of Newcastle Physiotherapy’s Luke Wakely and the physiotherapy students who taught them the finer points of technique, warm up/cool down protocols and injury prevention.

“Everyone is really looking forward to the trip, and we’ll definitely be lacing up again next year,” Charlene said.

By Vinnie Todd