“I’ve run against people from every race and culture, and whilst we have seen a wonderful representation of Indigenous athletes in the explosive sports such as AFL, league, boxing and sprinting, I’ve been surprised by the lack of Indigenous representation in distance running or the marathon.

“With research we have discovered that there are no avenues or opportunities for Indigenous long distance runners. I believe that we need to explore the possibilities and beg the question: How do we create champions without opportunity?

“At the moment, there’s no real culture of distance running among Indigenous Australians, but I believe there is potential given the history of endurance evidenced by a nomadic existence, traditional hunting and recorded history of an extraordinary ability to cover vast distances.

“The overwhelming response we’ve had demonstrates this latent interest in marathon running. I think we have the potential of identifying some real talent New York takes front stage when it comes to hosting and delivering a truly spectacular marathon. It is a 42.195 kilometer, river of mankind and everything good about our human spirit.

“What better event than this to take our Indigenous running team to, to highlight their potential on an international stage.”

World champion marathon runner

Robert de Castella is Australia’s greatest ever marathon runner.

He set the world record in 1981, became Australia’s first Track and Field World Champion in 1983, won two Commonwealth Games marathons in 1982 and 1986 and dominated the event worldwide for most of the 1980’s.

While he represented Australia at four Olympic Games, finishing 5th, 8th, 10th and 26th, Robert is probably best remembered for the Brisbane Commonwealth Games when he came from over a minute back to catch, and eventually run away from, duel Tanzanian champion JumaIkanga.

Robert’s dominance resulted in him being voted World Best Marathoner of the 1980’s decade.

In 1983, he was voted Australian of the Year and honoured with an MBE. In 1986 he was inducted into the Australian Sporting Hall of Fame and in 1990 he was named World Marathon Runner of the Decade by Track and Field News.

As Director of the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) for five years in the early 1990s, Robert re-positioned the AIS as a centre of excellence after the drugs in sport debacle of the late 80’s.  He was also involved in establishing the elite sports system being used today by our Olympic athletes and teams.

In 1995 Robert established his own not for profit company, SmartStart for Kids. SmartStart works through schools to encourage children to be healthy and active. It especially targets escalating obesity, poor nutrition and inactivity and has resulted in large improvements in child fitness and health. The SmartStart longitudinal database of children’s health and fitness statistics has enabled valuable reports to be generated and a range of follow up services for students, parents, schools and government.


A former Australian champion over 800m and 1500m, James had an early exit from his professional career in Athletics at only 23. Wasting no time, James completed his bachelor’s degree in Sport and Exercise Management at the University of Technology Sydney and undertook a number key roles in the sport of Athletics over a 5-year period including 3 years as the CEO of Athletics ACT.

From a young age James was a competitive athlete, enjoying not only athletics but soccer and rugby. Running was always going to be where James ended up after turning many heads at local state competitions where he would regularly win races against men who would go onto represent Australia. James went on to represent Australia at 3 world championship events from youth through to open age. James continues to be a passionate runner, albeit with a hip replacement, clocking up regular runs with his professional athlete wife Britt, who he also coaches.
Following his professional running career James started to recognise the impact running had not only on the physical health but the mental and social health of individuals and communities. James has been passionate about running being accessible to all people as a way to connect them with a healthier lifestyle and their communities.

James has a small stable of female runners he coaches in the ACT, including his wife Britt a 4 time Australian 800m Champion, Commonwealth Games and World Championship representative, and a number of talented marathon runners.



Tim holds a bachelor of commerce from the Australian National University and upon graduation in 2006, was selected into the KPMG Sydney graduate program. Here he gained a strong understanding of and appreciation for business administration in Australia.

Tim was also a very keen runner and during this time, pursued his athletic dreams making several senior State and National distance running teams. He has represented Australia at a senior level on three occasions over Cross Country and Road Racing, was crowned the 2009 Oceania Cross Country Champion and placed 6th in the 2008 City 2 Surf in Sydney.

Whilst a string of frustrating injuries put a halt to his athletic dreams, it led to Tim joining Rob at IMF from 2011-2013 where he was the first IMP Coach and Manager during the early years of the Foundation. He coached / mentored 30+ IMP graduates to marathons across New York, Boston & Tokyo whilst also establishing the inaugural Deadly Fun Run Series & championship event at Uuru.

Tim departed IMF at the end of 2013 and added to his experience working at Qantas managing their international Sports & Commercial Sponsorship Portfolio. Tim joins us back at IMF as General Manager after departing his most recent role as Group Head of Partnerships at Crown Resorts.



Amanda Dent has an extensive career with Rob de Castella, initially working in children’s health in 2008 under Rob’s SmartStart for Kids program.

The program focussed on addressing childhood obesity through encouraging children to adopt active and healthy lifestyles. Amanda delivered the program into a number of schools which included beep test, fitness and flexibility testing and educating children on correct nutrition.

In 2014, Amanda transitioned to IMF and is currently the Project Officer of one of IMF’s core programs, – Indigenous Communities for Activity and Nutrition (I-CAN). I-CAN is a program that delivers fitness equipment and running tracks to Indigenous communities across the country to address school attendance and inactivity.

The program, which after installation is owned, managed and maintained by members of the community, has seen an increase in school attendance and fitness levels in children of all ages.

Amanda also assists with the general running of the IMF office.

Amanda holds a Diploma of Sport and Certificate IV in Fitness and Administration. She has also previously worked in the fitness industry through Sport Development with Hockey New South Wales.


Damian joined the IMF team in February 2021 after spending two and half years working and living in Maningrida NT – a small remote community in West Arnhem Land.  In this role, Damian designed and implemented AFL football themed health and fitness programs for the school students of Maningrida as well as managing the local Men’s competition and established Women’s football in Maningrida.  He found this role particularly rewarding and it is where he was first introduced to the Indigenous Marathon Project (IMP) through Juan Darwin, one of our first graduates.  Juan and Damian worked closely together for AFLNT and have developed a strong friendship.

Before his Maningrida experience, Damian was employed by the Commonwealth Government in Canberra working across various policy, program and corporate roles largely in health and sport.

Damian’s sporting background is mainly in AFL football being a player, coach, administrator as well as recruiting work for the St Kilda Football Club – he sees these skills as being very transferrable to his role as Head Coach of IMP.   Damian is very excited about joining the IMF team as he has seen first -hand the wonderful impact the Foundation makes on an individual and the community they are a part of.


Elna describes her job at IMF as the dream triangle: people, running, empowerment. “That basically sums up my life-purpose, and I get to do it every day.”

Haling from South Africa, Elna spent her childhood idolising Olympic distance runners and remembers her track coach using the Dick Telford method in the 80s.

“And here I am today, thousands of miles across the ocean, working for the man who was coached to world marathon glory by Mr Telford himself.”

As an avid endurance athlete, Elna’s greatest achievement to date was completing the 90km Virtual Comrades Marathon in 2020 – right here on home soil around Lake Burley Griffin.

“I love setting myself seemingly impossible goals and then through discipline, focus and tenacity achieve them, primarily to inspire others.”

An entrepreneur and business owner for over two decades, Elna has pioneered many social impact programs which delivered significant change in the lives of individuals and communities. As the Fundraising & Partnerships Manager at the IMF, she will tap into this experience to spread the #RUNSWEATINSPIRE word and to cultivate reciprocal relationships with our supporters and funders. “I believe that we are a national organisation with a global message that knows no colour, culture or creed. I look forward to engaging with corporate Australia, government and international bodies to celebrate our collective vision of building a resilient, healthy and inclusive society, be it through running or the shared journey”.

Next on Elna’s sporting list is the long road to Ironman completion with a few ultra runs mixed in for fun.


Our FrontRunners Manager is Lisa Ross, a Punthamarra and GorrengGorreng woman.

Lisa joined IMF in March 2020. She has vast knowledge client services, relationship building and policy development. She also has experience from working in education, centrelink, and the justice sector. Her background in supporting Indigenous people amplifies her skills for the FrontRunners Manager position.

Lisa brings to the FrontRunners role an enthusiasm to support and build up the IMP Grads. She would also like to help all the graduates with a Personal Development Plan (PDP). The PDP will assist the graduates to set and achieve their goals.

Lisa is well travelled around Australia. She is originally from QLD but grew up in Canberra. Her knowledge of her own culture helps her to connect with our graduates. Lisa is married with three children.


An avid book lover, Laura spent her childhood writing elaborate stories. In primary school, she realised the power of words when an impassioned letter of apology to her teacher managed to get her out of a lunchtime detention. From that moment on she knew she wanted to be a writer.

Before landing a job in communications, Laura worked as a ballet teacher, nanny, cinema manager, an event manager and a freelance filmmaker. In 2015 she started at the Canberra Weekly magazine as a journalist, eventually progressing to the role of Arts Editor. In 2017 she moved across to a communications officer role with a large Canberra-based not-for-profit, before accepting the position of Communications & Marketing Manager with IMF at the end of 2018.

Laura is constantly in awe of the inspirational runners she meets across both the Indigenous Marathon Project and Deadly Running Australia, and is proud to be able to capture and share their stories with the wider community.

In what little spare time she has, Laura is ensuring her autobiography will one day be an interesting read. This includes travelling, doing crazy things like jumping out of planes and swimming with sharks, and making horror films with her sister.