New York City Marathon runners make their way down 48th Avenue toward Vernon Boulevard in the Queens borough of New York on Sunday, Nov. 6, 2011.

New York City Marathon runners make their way down 48th Avenue toward Vernon Boulevard in the Queens borough of New York on Sunday, Nov. 6, 2011.

Indigenous Sights from the 2011 New York City Marathon

It was a gloriously beautiful day for the New York City Marathon on Sunday, November 6th.  One of the greatest days of the year in New York (you will not find another day in the year where strangers are as kind, and supportive, of each other as you will during the marathon) is also an opportunity for the city to celebrate it’s many nationalities and heritages, including indigenous people who come from far away to compete, or who live in the city and come out to support the runners.

No indigenous group traveled farther to compete in the NYC Marathon then the Australian runners who made up the Indigenous Marathon Project. All 11 of former world champion marathon runner Rob de Castella’s Indigenous Marathon Project runners completed the marathon yesterday, coming from some of the most remote communities in Australia to compete in one of the world’s largest marathons.

Supported by the Australian Government, De Castella’s nonprofit SmartStart for Kids established the Indigenous Marathon Project in 2009.  As Running Times Magazine reported, the former marathon world record-holder and four-time Olympian launched the Marathon Project to discover and develop distance runners from the indigenous population of Australia.  De Castella lists one of his ultimate goals as having a indigenous marathon runner on the Australian Olympic Team, hopefully as soon as 2016.

Much like Notah Begay’s efforts to promote healthy lifestyles in Indian Country here in the states, De Castella’s project’s aim is foster the same kind of healthy living amongst indigenous Australians, who suffer from a similar disproportionate rate of diabetes, drug and alcohol abuse amongst their communities as American Indians do in the United States.

“The difference in life expectancy between white Australians and indigenous Australians is about 15 years, and that’s just a disgrace,” Castella told Running Times Magazine, “There is so much poverty and social unrest and drugs and violence and social dysfunction in the indigenous communities, and we as a nation have to do something. And I really think running, and especially the marathon, has the capacity to change lives.”

In yesterday’s marathon, all eleven of his runners completed the grueling 26.2 miles, an impressive feat for anyone.  This year’s team included four women.  The runners were Nadine Hunt, Bianca Graham, Bridgette Williams, Sam Shepherd, Arian Pearson, Patrick Keain, Reggie Smith, Nathan Sutherland, Michael Purcell, Kiwa Schilling and Caine Schofield.  Here’s a shot of the team:

Indigenous Marathon Project team

Black and white images, credit: Rodney Brown. Center: Teresa Griego Photo

Indigenous Marathon Project team from Australia

Along the marathon course, you’ll hear many languages—Spanish, Japanese, French, Hindi…the list is extremely long. It’s a day where New York gets to celebrate its incredibly diversity.  Here’s runner John de Guzman, who completed the marathon wearing this headdress:

John De Guzman in headdress

John De Guzman in headdress

For a sense of the scope of the marathon, here’s a shot from above the Verrazano Bridge, which connects the boroughs of Staten Island and Brooklyn, and where the marathon begins.

Marathon View from Above the Verrazano Bridge

Marathon View from Above the Verrazano Bridge

Here is a man carrying the Chilean flag, and carrying some extra weight in the form of his running atire.

Chilean man carries flag

Chilean man carries flag

Thousands of people run to raise money for charities.  Here’s a runner who Notah Begay III would find much in common with.

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Indigenous Sights from the 2011 New York City Marathon

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