Zib striding out to help his community
Running up to 90 kilometres a week on the dry, dusty tracks of outback South Australia, young Indigenous man Zibeon Fielding cuts a lonely figure.
He’s the only marathon runner in his home town of Mimili in the APY Lands and his training routine not only involves the endless pounding of his feet but swiping away flies, side-stepping snakes and coping with scorching temperatures.
But Zib is adamant the pain is all worth it as heads towards his biggest running test so far – a 62km ultra marathon from Mimili to neighbouring Indulkana on May 20. The event is significant not just for the distance to be covered, but because he is using it to raise awareness about the health conditions facing Aboriginal communities and the need for more health services.
The 24-year-old, who is a health practitioner at the local clinic, is hoping through the ultra-marathon to raise $50,000 for The Purple House, to assist with the purchase of a remote dialysis unit.
As Zib explained, Indigenous people from remote Australia are being diagnosed with kidney failure at unprecedented rates and without ‘on country’ treatment options, dialysis patients are forced to relocate to Alice Springs or Adelaide, away from their family and friends.
He also hopes that his running will inspire younger Indigenous people to make good health and lifestyle choices, so that such treatment isn’t needed as much in the future.
While there is plenty of space around Mimili where you can run, Zib said his interest in the sport only began when he came to Adelaide to complete Year 11 and 12 at Mercedes College.
“Seeing the culture of running there, it was good to be part of. I had friends who were runners and that’s where I get my running from – from being part of the Mercedes cross country team.
“I was very fortunate to go to Mercedes and that was another achievement in my life to be able to go to such a beautiful school with beautiful people who were so encouraging.
“It was an honour to be the first APY man to go to Mercedes and complete Year 12 and I was glad to be one of about 80 Indigenous students all around Australia who completed school that year. “
When he graduated in 2012 Zib decided to study to become a health practitioner so he could return to Mimili to help his community. He also wanted to pursue his running and for four consecutive years applied to be part of Robert de Castella’s Indigenous Marathon Program.
Finally successful in 2016, he started the arduous training program and in November that year completed the New York marathon in a quick time of three hours, 28 minutes.
With the idea of completing an ultra-marathon to raise money for a dialysis machine, Zib thought that it would be good to complete the Boston Marathon last month as a “warm up”.
Race day conditions, however, turned out to be anything but warm, with Boston hosting its coldest marathon on record.
“The conditions were horrendous,” he said.
“The rain was piercing straight in your face so you couldn’t see the runner in front of you – and if you could, all you could see was them swerving from one side of the road to the other because the wind was so strong.
“But knowing that you’ve put in the hard yards six months prior and the reason I was there was to run for my people and be a role model, that passion and drive kicks in and boosts your confidence in the race when you’re fatiguing.”
Despite “hitting the wall” at the 27km mark and the ice cold conditions, he went on to run a personal best.
Now his mind is clearly focused on the 62km ahead.
“I’m not sure how I am going to chuck on another 20km because after Boston I was wrecked, I poured my heart and soul out on that day.
“But I am passionate about my people and if it takes me running an ultra-marathon to be a role model and make a difference in the community, then that will and might will kick into place. A lot of people are relying on me and I’ve put myself in this predicament now so there’s no turning back.”
To support Zib’s run and donate to help the purchase of a remote dialysis unit, go to https://shoutforgood.com/events/zibeon-runs-for-dialysis-on-country
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