Corporate Challenge makes a 10-year difference for IMF athletes

Rob de Castella has been a powerful voice for the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge Sydney from the very start.

Australia’s most decorated marathon runner was there in the pouring rain at Centennial Park on November 15, 2000 to support the first crowd of 2,180 entrants from 136 companies in Sydney’s debut Corporate Challenge.

“I strongly encourage everyone in corporate Australia to get behind this event,” de Castella said at the time. “The Corporate Challenge is only 5.6 kilometers, which makes training for the event easy enough for even the busiest executive.”

The 21st running of the Corporate Challenge in Centennial Park will take place this year on October 25, and for the 10th consecutive year it will benefit the Indigenous Marathon Foundation (IMF), the not-for-profit organization de Castella founded in 2013.

“We are grateful for the continued support from J.P. Morgan over the last 10 years,” said de Castella, who represented Australia in four different Summer Olympics Games. “Their support has specifically supported our community impact program, IMF RAW (Running and Walking).”

“RAW provides training and coaching education to Indigenous and non-Indigenous volunteers in over 40 communities and contributes to the delivery of over 200 running and walking events each year with over 2,000 participants,” de Castella said. “These events are free, safe, and inclusive and encourage regular physical activity, community connection, cultural immersion, and promote physical and mental health and wellbeing.”

“Without the support of the Corporate Challenge, we would be unable to provide these programs, qualifications, and opportunities to many of our RAW community,” de Castella said.

The IMF was established after the impact and success of the Indigenous Marathon Project, which de Castella created in 2010 enabling Indigenous athletes to train for and compete in the New York City Marathon, and then return to Australia as inspirational change-agents and leaders. “They continue the ‘ripple-effect’ through IMF RAW,” de Castella explained.

Here are a handful of the inspirational accomplishments from some of the athletes that have benefitted from IMF training and support:

Charlie Maher

Charlie Maher is a Western Arrernte man from Alice Springs, and was part of the inaugural Indigenous Marathon Project (IMP) squad alongside Juan Darwin, Joseph Davis and Caleb Hart who ran the New York City Marathon in 2010. The achievements of these four men created a strong ripple effect, which led another 128 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and counting to complete a marathon through the IMP. In 2022, Charlie became the first Indigenous Australian man to complete all six world major marathons – a 12-year journey in the making.

Chloe Wighton

Chloe Wighton is a Wirajduri Galari woman from Gilgandra in central west NSW who completed the New York City Marathon in 2022, with no prior formal running experience. With an archaeologist background, Chloe recently founded her own business called Bila Group, from the Wiradjuri word for ‘River’, providing specialist Indigenous consultancy advice on archaeology and heritage. She says the IMP helped her see what she is capable of, sharing “you may think you can’t do something, but the reality is, you can.”

Wynston Shovellor-Sesar

Wynston is a Karajarri man from the Bidyadanga Community 180kms south of Broome and is currently living in Broome. Wynston completed the New York City Marathon in 2022, with no prior formal running experience. Wynston lost over 20kgs during his marathon journey, however, shares that the journey far exceeded the physical benefits. As a Marine Parks Officer, Wynston recently travelled to Vancouver where he presented and facilitated at the International Marine Protected Area Congress Meeting, the top global gathering for marine conservation.

Brendan Larcombe

Multi-marathoner Brendan is a Minjungbal Bundjalung and Gooreng Gooreng man from Tweed Heads NSW, currently living in Cairns. After experiencing significant adversity, Brendan entered a rehabilitation clinic for drug and alcohol addiction in 2018, describing this time as a low point and place of darkness.  It was during this time that Brendan found the power of running. It was through his introduction to the Indigenous Marathon Foundation that Brendan felt the sense of belonging that he had always been searching for. “I now feel like I belong to something special”, Brendan says. “I’ll take running as far as my body lets me…When I’m running, I feel most free.”

Sydney will be the 13th of 15 events in the 47th year of the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge Series. In 2023, the Series has seen a dramatic spike in  participation after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Entries to date have increased by more than 70%, forecasting a great event in Sydney on October 25.