CARLA Snow returns to Coffs Harbour next weekend to participate in the Bendigo Bank Coffs Running Festival.
Booked for the 10km event, 24-year-old Carla has become a passionate runner thanks to involvement in the Indigenous Marathon Project.
The project provides opportunities for young indigenous men and women to experience the incredible sport of marathon and distance running.
It aims to promote healthy and active lifestyles throughout indigenous communities nationally and reduce the incidence of diseases particular to those communities.
These role models then inspire indigenous people.
The Indigenous Marathon Project gives a select group of young athletes an introduction to work with Project Director and legendary athlete, Robert De Castella, the former world champion marathon runner.
Their aim is to prepare for one of the biggest running events in the world, the New York City Marathon.
"Anyone who has run a marathon before knows that it is one of the hardest things you can possibly do," De Castella said.
"And anyone who has ever done anything hard knows that the harder something is, the more personally rewarding and satisfying that thing can be.
"For young indigenous men and women, to finish the marathon is an experience that engenders enormous pride and significance for them.
"It also sends a message to their families and communities about the importance of physical activity and a healthy life."
Carla took part in the 2013 New York Marathon.
"It was without a doubt the best day of my life," Carla said.
"There were over two million people as spectators and it was amazing to run and have people cheering out your name and encouraging you all the way."
Growing up in Coffs Harbour as a member of the Craig mob of the Gumbaynggirr nation, Carla now works as a physical education teacher in Newcastle thanks to her involvement in the Indigenous Marathon Project.
"The project is like having a ripple effect where they take a member of the community, educate and inspire them through undertaking the physical training for a marathon and helping them gain a Certificate IV in Health and Leisure," Carla explained.
"We then go back to our community with a greater understanding of what it means to be healthy and share and inspire our mob to lead healthier lives."
With a passion for the health of indigenous youth, Carla continues to inspire her community as a NSW Touch Football representative and coach of an Under-21 touch team.
She is keen to change the outlook of young people without drive and aims to change their perception in the community.
Carla is still involved with the IMP but is considered a graduate.
She participates in various running events, volunteers and provides support for the current squad.
Coffs Harbour Running Festival race director Mick Maley is thrilled to have Carla participate in the 2014 event.
"Carla is a brilliant role model for young people and an excellent athlete," Mick said.
"She is excited to return home for the Coffs Running Festival and although it will be her first time taking part, she can't wait to run on her local track and enjoy the lifestyle she loves so much about home."
To register for the Coffs Harbour Running Festival, or for more information, go to villagesports.com.au
Events include a 10km, Half Marathon, 5km and 3km distances all on the stunning Coffs Creek Walkway.