It is difficult to imagine two very polar-opposite environments – from the hot desert sands of Central and Western Australia and the icy, glacial expanse of the North Pole – both literally worlds apart. Kormilda College Alumni Adrian Dodson-Shaw is about to tackle the frosty extremes of the Arctic Circle as he prepares to become the first Indigenous Australian to race in the North Pole Marathon this April.
Adrian’s foray into marathon running began a little over a year ago, when he was selected into former world champion runner Robert de Castella’s Indigenous Marathon Project (IMP) to train and run in the world famous New York marathon.
“I really surprised myself,” Adrian explained.
“A good friend of mine, Charlie Maher, was in IMP’s first New York Marathon squad in 2010. He convinced me to have a go. At the time I was really unfit, unhealthy and not motivated about anything. But after seeing what it did for Charlie, I thought ‘why not have a crack’. I really do want to be a good role model for my young family, and this gave me that chance,” he said.
“Now my life has completely changed. Running in New York was just sensational – I will never forget that sense of such accomplishment when I crossed the finish line”.
Adrian was further rewarded for his outstanding marathon performance and serious training ethic, when the IMP invited him to take on the grueling challenge of the 42.2 km North Pole Marathon.
“The North Pole is going to tough going, but it is a once in a lifetime opportunity! I’m extremely excited, grateful and proud to have been chosen. It literally is running on top of frozen water in the Arctic Ocean, through snow in temperatures of -30°C or worse, for around 6-7 hours – now that’s a challenge,” laughs Adrian.
“I’m training for it at the moment on the beach, near my home in Broome. It sounds weird considering the contrast of climates between home and the North Pole, but running through both soft and hard sand along the beach is comparable to what running through soft snow and hard ice will be like,” he said.
The IMP is a not-for-profit charity established in 2010 by world marathon champion, Robert de Castella. Each year IMP selects 12 young Indigenous men and women (aged 18 to 30yrs), to train for the New York City Marathon and through their achievements celebrates indigenous resilience and success.
IMP supporters Trish and Don Griffin and the North Pole Marathon’s Director Richard Donovan have generously donated the entry fee and expenses for Adrian and his support runner Jon Brand to participate in the event, as well Robert de Castella who will be also going along in a support role.
Adrian went to school in both Alice Springs and Tennant Creek and completed his school education at Kormilda College as a Year 12 boarding student, graduating in 2001.
“I hold a very high regard for Kormilda and really enjoyed my time there. They provided me with a safe and structured environment with a strong focus on studying. I cannot say enough about the high level of tutoring support that I got there. I graduated with good results that I was really pleased with,” Adrian recalls.
“I strongly believe that school is number one – the most important thing in life is a good education. That’s what my family instilled in me, and I will do the same for my family. There are now so many terrific learning programs for students at schools, such as Kormilda, to be involved in. These programs are appealing because they are so engaging and interactive. The life skills drawn from these opportunities really make a difference,” he said.
“It’s sometimes hard living away from family at boarding school, but at Kormilda I enjoyed being around the others, who like me, were away from home. We had some great footy matches, especially with the Tiwi boys. I liked arts and particularly enjoyed our outdoor education camp at Kakadu. My classmates and I loved to get away and enjoy the good country of the outback”.
Adrian has been living in Broome for the past six years where he works as an Aboriginal Care Coordinator in the renal area of the Kimberly Medical Service. He shares his busy life with his partner and their two young sons, and also has a new baby on the way.
“You could say I’m on top of the world right now! My decision to embrace the IMP has been life changing. I’m fit, healthy and excited about my future – especially my determination to be an inspiring role model for my children, family and community”.