FROM Casino to competing in the world's largest marathon, the past six months have been a whirlwind journey for Bundjalung woman Eileen Byers.
On Tuesday, the former Tabulam resident and nine other young Australians from the Indigenous Marathon Foundation were among 50,000 competitors who ran in the 2015 New York Marathon.
Training for the marathon, and now completing it, is an experience that has changed her life.
Byers' adventure started when she answered an ad in the paper, offering a once-in-a-lifetime chance to go to New York.
After a trial run in Coffs Harbour and a one-on-one talk with the coach, the 30-year-old was one of just 10 young Indigenous men and women selected to be a part of the The Marathon Project's 2015 squad.
Six months of intensive training led her to complete marathons in the Gold Coast and Alice Springs, and now the Big Apple, an experience she described as "unbelievable".
"I got a bit emotional at times because I couldn't believe I was in New York running in a marathon," she said.
"It was a great atmosphere and the people were great. Because we had our names on our singlets, I had people saying come on Eileen, you can do this. It was the best."
While she paced herself as much as she could, Byers said she was really in pain at the 13km point.
"My legs were about to give up and then I came across a sign that said, 'When your legs are hurting run with your heart'.
"I thought about that all the way."
She finished the 42.2km race in six hours and 11 minutes.
Byers returned home on Thursday and now that the marathon is over, she will become a mentor and role model for the marathon project, which aims to promote healthy and active lifestyles in the Aboriginal community.
"It has completely changed my life, and it's really built my confidence just being in the foundation," she said.
"It's been the best experience ever."
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