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Canberran to run in New York Marathon to support fitness program for indigenous young people

The towering skyscrapers of Manhattan will be a distinct change of scenery from the calm waters of Lake Burley Griffin for Canberra running enthusiast Ayesha Razzaq this weekend.

When Ms Razzaq travels across the world to pound the pavement in the New York City Marathon, it won't be to break any records or beat a specific time.

It will be with the clear vision of improving the lives of young indigenous Australians.

Ms Razzaq, a senior manager at Actew AGL, chose to run in this year's marathon on Sunday, November 2, to raise funds and boost awareness of the Indigenous Marathon Project. 

The initiative is helmed by former world champion marathon runner Robert de Castella and champions healthy lifestyles to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people through long-distance running.

Each year, a group of young Indigenous men and women from across Australia is chosen to take part in a six-month training and fitness education program to prepare for the world-famous marathon.

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Ms Razzaq was inspired to give back to the project as she reflected on the support and opportunities she had been afforded in her own life as she celebrated her 40th birthday this year.

She vowed to raise $42,195 to match the 42.195 kilometre marathon course and has already received more than $32,000 from local businesses.

"I feel this isn't about me or New York, it's really about confidence and passion and empowering these young indigenous people to make a difference in their communities."

Seven girls and three boys are taking part this year and Ms Razzaq said the impact the project had on those young people would have lasting benefits.

Some of this year's participants lost up to 30 kilograms as they trained, others were inspired to organise "colour run" events to promote fitness in their local area. 

Ms Razzaq, a firm believer in the ability of fitness to empower people, said the project was also a proactive way of tackling health problems such as cardiovascular disease and childhood obesity. 

She ran around Lake Burley Griffin four mornings a week and has taken part in three half-marathons to prepare.

"I'm a mum with two young kids so I had plenty of excuses not to do it.

"What running gives me is an hour to clear my head and get ready for the day."

Fellow Canberran Nadine Hunt, who is IMP's events and education coordinator, became the first recorded Indigenous Australian woman to finish the New York City Marathon in 2011.

The race courses through the five boroughs of New York City before finishing in Central Park and is the largest in the world, with more than 50,000 runners taking part in 2013.