Physical activity is very important to our health and mental well being. The Indigeonous Marathon Project Aims to promote healthy and active lifestyles throughout Indigenous communities nationally and reduce the incidence of Indigenous disease. It also aims to create Indigenous role models and inspire Indigenous people.
One of these role Models is Nat Heath who graduated from the Indigenous Marathon Project in 2012 .
Nat defied paralysis and medical advice to take out first place in his age category at the Port Macquarie Ironman on Sunday 3 May.
In 2010, Nat lost sensation in his body from the neck down and was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, an autoimmune condition where a person’s nerves are attacked by the body’s own immune defence system.
His doctors advised it would be unlikely he could participate in any kind of endurance sport in the future.
That was all the advice Nat needed to prove them wrong.
“I used the diagnosis as motivation to get better. I took it as a challenge to prove to the doctors, my friends and family that I could get my fitness back,” he said.
Fast-forward two years, Nat was selected in the 2012 IMP squad and ran the 2013 Tokyo Marathon following the cancellation of the New York Marathon in 2012, another set-back that demonstrated Nat’s resilience and ability to overcome obstacles.
In 2014, he became the first IMP runner to run a sub three hour marathon blitzing the Blackmores Sydney Running Festival Marathon in a time of 2:52.
Just eight months later, Nat took out the Port Macquarie Ironman in his age category (30-34) in a time of 9:28:08, qualifying him for the World Championships in the world’s most iconic and prestigious Hawaii Ironman.
He worked his way through the field, exiting the swim in 18th position, then steaming to fifth place in the bike leg before bringing it home in the run with a time of 3:18 to take out the top spot in his age group.
Nat shed tears of relief when he crossed the finish line.
“It was a real sense of relief. I had two goals last year. One was to run a sub three hour marathon and the other was to qualify for Kona.
“I worked so hard for this. I put a lot of pressure on myself to achieve the goals I set for myself and I couldn’t be happier. I’m really looking forward to tackling Kona – the biggest Ironman in the world,” he said.
Nat finished the Port Macquarie Ironman in the top 3% of the field, claiming overall 19th position overall from 674 athletes.
Nat’s passion, dedication and commitment to contributing to the lives of Indigenous Australians is obvious.
IMP provided Nat with the self-belief and confidence to relocate from his hometown of Newcastle, New South Wales where he worked at the University of Newcastle’s Wollotuka Institute, to accept a lower-paid position in Sydney as Program Manager for the Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience (AIME).
Nat possesses an incredible capacity to inspire others and become a role model, proving that no challenge or adversity is too great if you are willing to set goals, work hard and let nothing stand in your way.
If you or your organisation would like to provide support – financial or in-kind – for Nat’s World Championship Ironman, please contact IMP Communication and Fundraising Manager, Kellie O’Sullivan