Michael Purcell

On 6 November 2011, in front of two million spectators and more than 300 million TV viewers, Michael Purcell made his debut in The New York marathon - all 42km of it.

New York is a long way from the 18-year-old's home town of Charleville, and his journey there is one of determination.

In 2010, Michael suffered a life-threatening kidney disease and spent a lot of time commuting to Toowoomba for dialysis treatment.

During his recovery his dad learned about the Indigenous Marathon Project. Lead by Australia's former world marathon champion, Robert de Castella, the project aims to unearth an Australian Indigenous distance running champion and promotes healthy living.

"Dad saw a flyer, asked me if I was interested, and entered me," Michael said.

Fifty-six people were selected for try-outs around the country. Twenty people were selected for the squad and after numerous training camps and races the final 11 were chosen for the New York marathon. At 18, Michael was the youngest.

Michael recalls the pain of competing in the marathon. He rolled his ankle around the 10km mark and hit the pain barrier at 25km.

"It was harder than I thought it was going to be," Michael said.

"I didn't know there was going to be so much pain."

"I was thinking: it's only one day of my life; just do it and get it over and done with," he said.

"As I crossed the finish line, I just didn't believe it. It was the best feeling - I just finished a marathon!"

There were just 95 18-19-year-old males who finished the marathon. Michael was ninth. His time of 3hr 33min 34sec brought him home in 6282nd place, meaning more than 40,500 people finished behind him.

"All 11 of us finished," Michael says proudly of the Australian Indigenous team.
"I finished second overall (in the team)."

Michael's now hooked on running.

"I'm going to focus on getting into 5km and middle-distance (10km) running," he said.

"My aim is the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast."

Michael is extremely thankful for his family's support most especially his father's.

"All credit goes to dad, who got me into it," he said.

DESCRIPTION: Indigenous Marathon Project - the project's vision is to provide an opportunity for young Indigenous men and women to become healthy lifestyle leaders within their communities and inspire their family, friends and community to lead an active healthy life. For further information visit: www.themarathonproject.com.au