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Marathon running coach putting his money where his mouth is

A year ago, 34-year-old Mick Rees could not have imagined running a marathon, let alone quite a few kilometres more.

As Indigenous Marathon Project's head coach, Mr Rees was used training others to prepare for marathon running but it was only last year he decide to set that challenge for himself.  

In just 10 months, the father of three from Stirling has gone from no running experience to preparing for the 50-kilometre ultra marathon as part of next month's Australian Running Festival

Mr Rees has been involved with IMP since 2012 and became their head coach last year.

"I wanted to experience what our runners go through. I haven't got a long background in running but I've got a strong history in coaching, especially coaching Indigenous sports and Indigenous sporting pathways," he said.

"In IMP, we put our squad through a 20-week program where they go from no running to the New York marathon. I thought to be a better coach, it would be good if I put myself through that process so I put myself through a 14-week program where I went from no running in June last year to the Melbourne Marathon.

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"I see it as professional development because by me going through the same process the runners go through, I know how they feel, I know what it's like to feel sore after a long run, to handle and manage niggles and I've got a stronger idea of what the athletes go through which benefits my coaching."

Mr Rees said one of IMP's mottos was "the harder the struggle, the greater the reward".

"We want the challenge to be as hard as possible, because the harder it is, when you overcome it, the better it feels and the more empowering it is," he said. 

Mr Rees said his own marathon challenge was as much about improving his coaching and "walking the talk" for his squad as it was about setting a good example for his children. 

He said having a young family, travelling extensively for this year's IMP trials and coaching had made difficult to manage his training but he persevered with his goal to run the 50-kilometre race in April. 

"I wasn't able to do as much training as I wanted which was a big obstacle," he said. 

"The biggest challenge was getting my head around it mentally because it's very daunting. One thing that never ceases to amaze me is the capacity that our young Indigenous people have got who come through the IMP pathway. Seeing that change and seeing these Indigenous graduates come through IMP develop that really motivated me ... and if I'm going to ask them to do it, then I need to step up and do it myself and it was that drive and motivation that kept me going." 

The 2015 Australian Running Festival features the adidas 5 kilometre and 10 kilometre on Saturday, April 11, and the half marathon, marathon and ultra marathon on Sunday, April 12. 

For event information or to enter, visit runningfestival.com.au.