An Indigenous runner from Wiikwemikoong gets ready to run the Boston Marathon

Running has been a part of Shayla Manitowabi-Huebner's life since sixth grade. She's a member of the Wiikwemikoong Unceded Territory on Manitoulin Island. She's now based in Utah and is getting ready to run the race of her life.

Shayla Manitowabi-Huebner will run the 42-kilometre race on Monday

Shayla Manitowabi-Huebner has been running since sixth grade. (Supplied/Shayla Manitowabi-Huebner)

Running has been a part of Shayla Manitowabi-Huebner's life since sixth grade.

She's a member of the Wiikwemikoong Unceded Territory on Manitoulin Island. Now based in Utah, she is getting ready to run the race of her life, the Boston Marathon on Monday. 

She said she only found out about the opportunity eight weeks ago. She was running prior to that but no hard workouts.

Manitowabi-Huebner is running as a member of the Native Women Running group. She said she found inspiration through that group and other Indigenous runners posting their stories online.

"Wow, there's more of us. Maybe we're not all together but it's cool to see," said Manitowabi-Huebner.

"I've seen people from my community share posts or send me a kind message. I'm just amazed that they're so open, welcoming me with open arms even though I'm so far away right now."

Manitowabi-Huebner's relationship with running has changed over the years. When she was younger it was a way to be fit and healthy and competitive. She ran competitively in college and eventually transitioned into a graduate assistant coach.

Since graduating she's taken a step back to take time to reflect on what kind of running she wants to do.

"I just am kind of growing as an individual and trying to connect back to my indigenous community and run for those who can or those who might be uncomfortable to try new things," she said

In the past, Manitowabi-Huebner said she was the only Indigenous runner competing. It has only been in the past couple of years that she's starting to see others.

"I'm seeing it more online and that's okay because I still feel like there's a sense of community," she said. "It's like, oh, we all went on our run today, or this is what this person did on their own, or this is their reflections."

Shayla Manitowabi-Huebner joined the Native Women's Running group and is hoping to inspire other Indigenous women to take up the sport. (Supplies/Shayla Manitowabi-Huebner)

Now, as member of the Native Women Running team, she has other runners looking up to her.

"It's a little scary because I question myself, but I think that's also a big part of why I'm doing this and why I'm trying to be more open to sharing my story, whether that's a running story or my life story or a combination of the two," she said.

Verna Voker, the founder of Native Women Running, said she started the group to encourage more women in her community to start running.

"When I realized many runners don't look like me, I decided to start NWR," she said.

"My desire is for representation of native women runners in the running world. My hope is for native women to find belonging here."

A runner with ties to northeastern Ontario will be running the Boston Marathon this weekend. The CBC’s Martha Dillman speaks with Shayla Manitowabi-Huebner, who lives in Utah but is a member of Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territories.

With files from Martha Dillman