15 November 2021
Running to close the gap – marathon runner Zibeon Fielding
The Mimili healthcare worker helping to improve Indigenous health and education
Healthy living is a marathon, not a sprint. And few people know that as well as Zibeon Fielding.
A proud Yankunytjatjara man from Mimili, a township in the APY Lands in the north-west corner of South Australia that is home to “a population of 250 on a good day”, he’s a healthcare worker that walks it - well, runs it – just like he talks it.
“I come from a community where I see poor health outcomes first hand because I work at the clinic as a health practitioner,” explains Zibeon. “So I wanted to showcase good healthy living and exercise in the community.”
That’s an understatement. After three years of knockbacks, he was admitted to Robert de Castella’s Indigenous Marathon Foundation on the same day his daughter was born. (“It was a beautiful day, that day,” he says.)
With the foundation’s support, he took on the challenge of training for the New York Marathon, travelling to the US to run alongside some of the world’s very best. “And the run was terrible!” he laughs. “I didn’t know what I was getting myself into!”
Even so, he completed the 42-kilometre event in less than three-and-a-half hours – a very respectable time.
I wanted to be able to go home and say: ‘I’ve done this, I set my mind to it, I’m a man of my word, and I can go further now’.
Helping his people one step at a time
Zibeon’s next step was an ultramarathon to help fund a dialysis service in the APY Lands through Purple House. The service allows people to remain on country and not have to move to Adelaide or Alice Springs for regular treatment. But Zibeon insists that’s only part of the solution.
“Dialysis is a treatment for a disease,” he says. “I thought: ‘What can I do to prevent it from happening?’ And these kids had put in for a grant for a community gym and I thought: ‘What a bloody great idea!’ I wanted to help fundraise money for them, and that’s how I became the first person to ride a pushbike around the whole APY Lands, all 710 kilometres.”
That gruelling and inspirational ride through his homelands raised over $30,000 towards the community gym.
He now has his eyes fixed on the next challenge: a full Iron Man – a four-kilometre swim, 180-kilometre bike ride and 42-kilometre run – to raise money for Indigenous students.
It’s that marathon mindset that helps Zibeon get these astonishing results, just by knowing how to put one foot in front of the other and keep on going. Ultimately his message of health, sport and fitness is about giving people the tools they need to close the Indigenous health gap, especially in the remote APY Lands.
“I feel that we’re heading in a direction of positivity and health,” he says with enthusiasm. “I don’t want to see people in the clinic! I want to see them live healthy lives and have the best health knowledge there is. It’s about changing lives and changing our future for the better.”