STRIDING past Buckingham Palace, Joyrah Newman felt a burst of energy as she neared the London Marathon’s finish line.
“It’s this painful happy thing,” Ms Newman said.
“It’s one of the best experiences. You put yourself through so much and you hurt during the run but you don’t feel it when you cross the finish line.
“You’re almost like a new person.”
The Canberra-based public servant, who still calls Bamaga home, joined the Indigenous Marathon Project in April, 2021.
Started in 2009 by Aussie champion, Robert De Castella, IMP uses running to create inspirational First Nations leaders.
In the past, participants were selected from across Australia to train together.
Then, after just six months of preparation, the IMP squad members laced up their trainers and stood shoulder-to-shoulder with some of the best athletes in the world at the New York Marathon.
But with lockdowns limiting travel, Ms Newman’s squad was forced to prepare remotely for much of the year.
“It was really hard,” she said.
“My squad only got to see each other twice because of COVID.
“Normally you catch up six times at camps and do big events together.
“We did a lot of virtual catch-ups. I remember one time in July we were supposed to meet on the Gold Coast for a half-marathon and then the Premier cancelled the event.
“A lot of us had to go straight back to the airport and fly back to where we were from.”
Injury also hampered her preparation.
“A few days after I got picked, I fell over in a touch footy game,” she said.
“They did the MRI and could see a grade three tear of my ACL (anterior cruciate ligament).
“I said I think I’ll have to pull out but the coach said, ‘Let’s just give this a shot and see how you go’.”
Finally, after four months of intense physiotherapy, Ms Newman was pounding the pavement again.
Remarkably, she completed her first 20km run in August.
After making steady improvements, Ms Newman ran her first marathon in the nation’s capital last November, crossing the finish line in five hours and 58 minutes.
Having missed out on the chance to compete at the New York marathon, the IMP squad were given the opportunity to complete a marathon overseas in 2022.
For Ms Newman, the London event, held earlier this month, was too good an opportunity to pass up.
Recommitting to her training while trekking around Europe, the treasury analyst put in a 17km jog from her accommodation to the Eiffel Tower while in Paris.
After skipping over to Spain, she ran 30km through the streets of Barcelona before a 16km trot through the Emerald Isle in the lead-up to the event.
“When I got to the marathon all I wanted to do was just get up and do it,” Ms Newman said.
“It was beautiful being there but it was actually harder than my first marathon.
“There was such a sense of relief to do it. As soon as I crossed the finish line I was ready to go home. I was really happy for the journey to end.”
Clocking in at six hours and 22 minutes, Ms Newman’s IMP coach Damian Tuck said it was a remarkable end to an 18-month marathon journey.
“For her to continue her training to complete the London Marathon really demonstrates her resilience, commitment, and determination,” he said.
“Achieving all of this on the back of suffering a significant knee injury at the very start of her IMP year just shows how strong Joy is, what a leader she is, and why she is held in such high regard within the Indigenous Marathon Foundation”
Ms Newman said the experience had changed her as a person.
“It’s the start of something new,” she said.
“I had leadership qualities before but being given the platform to do something you thought you couldn’t … I’m basically unstoppable now.
“I think a lot of black girls need to almost relearn that.
In December, Ms Newman plans to return to Europe where she’ll compete in half marathons in Turkey and Georgia.