From a Town Like Alice comes a Runner Like Emma

Alice Springs, Australia seems an unlikely place to produce a representative to the Aussie World Mountain Running Championship squad, but Emma Kraft earned her way onto the team again this year, despite the lack of a major mountain nearby.

The first female Australian finisher at last year’s World Mountain Running Championship, Emma doesn’t apparently believe in limits.

As you know running can take you to the most amazing places in the world!! There are no limits and it's up to your imagination of where you want to go and race and/or train!!!!” Emma wrote in a blog post for The Runners Tribe. Emma Kraft proceeded to prove that this year, making a trip to Colorado to meet up with other mountain runners such as Joseph Gray, some fellow Australians training in the region, and test her legs against Pike Peak.

First though, she stopped by the Mt. Sac Relays to record a PR in the 10,000m on the track there. Obviously thrilled with a 27 second improvement in her time, the race also qualified her for the Zatopek  10,000m, the Australian Nationals race in December.

The track was easier than Pikes Peak. As Emma described it, “I ended up climbing/running/walking/crawling up Pikes Peak Ascent (Manitou Springs) which is about a 40% gradient, so basically I was moving for 1.4km but gained about 610m up which took me about 35mins, and there were over 3000 steps!”

Emma Kraft Rock Hopping in the Garden of the Gods

I was in the area about the same time. My friend Adric talked about climbing that trail but we were heading to Pagosa Springs in a couple of days for a marathon, so we skipped it. Given that Emma is a much better runner than I am and how the trail treated her, probably a wise decision on my part.

She also had a chance to tour Manitou Springs, a neat little village that is both eclectic and picturesque. "I had a lovely little time in all the little cool shops! Was def one of my favourite places!" Emma also visited the Garden of the Gods to do some rock-hopping.

Unlike some athletes that specialize in a single type of event, she has been actively trying new races. In July, she added her first marathon to her list of accomplishments, racing at the Gold Coast Marathon.

Emma was less than 100 percent for the 2014 Mountain Running race on Mt. Tennent in Canberra, so had to pull out. A disappointing time to take ill but she applied for the World team on the strength of her win in February at the La Sportiva Vertical K race. I’m sure that the strong race at Mt. Sac helped as it provided additional evidence of her rapid improvement.

This year, she heads to Cassette Di Massa, Italy, along with teammates Kate Seibold, Harriet Smith, Gemma Kenessy. Emma is the only representative of the Northern Territory on the men’s or women’s team.

Like most runners, the Australians have to self-fund their trip. Sponsors have stepped forward to help Emma. One was her running club which is how I found out about Emma and began learning her story.

I posted a while ago about making contact with someone, a man named Jim, who had known my father when we lived in Australia in the 70’s. In a roundabout way, Jim introduced me to the Alice Springs Running and Walking Club. I found their site and asked to get on their mailing list – which lead to a query from the current president, John Bermingham, the gist of which was ’you’re not from around here, are you? A longish explanation on how I found them followed as we conversed by email and I asked to be on the newsletter list for the club.

Several weeks ago, the ASRWC put out a note that the entry fees for the upcoming half-marathon would be donated to Emma to help defray the expense of the trip. I thought it a neat idea and emailed him to offer to enter – but that I’d be unlikely to show up to race, given only a few days to trek 13,500km. We got all the details straightened out except one – I forgot to check the actual fee and it seems I have an entry to the ABC Half-marathon good for the next decade or so.

Motivation to train, right? Easier in some respects for me than Emma . . .

Photography by Scotte Woods

Photography by Scotte Woods

Unlike paid professionals, amateurs have to balance life responsibilities with training. Squeezing in all the activities makes for a very busy life.  A full-time employee of the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress, Level 2 Intermediate Club Coach, and a Level 1 Sports Trainer, Emma’s days are full – before she heads out to train. Still, she finds time to volunteer, not just with the running club, but in outreach events for indigenous people and health programs.

After exchanging emails, I asked Emma if I could write a bit on her story and she graciously agreed. I still had a few questions for her, so sent them along and asked her for her replies. That conversation is below.

Paul: You’ve tackled nearly all types of running, from trails, to mountains, the track, and roads. Do you have a favorite? And, if you could be the greatest in one event, what would it be?

Emma: That is a very tricky question! I love the freedom and the vastness of the Mountains and the trails, but I think after watching the Aussies in the Commonwealth Games Marathon and completing my debut Marathon at the Gold Coast, I would perhaps pick the Marathon! But then take me back to Poland 2013 and I would choose Mountain Running!

Paul: You are an Alice native but went to Melbourne, the big city, for university, and then came back to the Northern Territory. Do you have any desire to move back to a large city?

Emma: I would never say never, but definitely not at the moment. I sometimes question myself about moving to a bigger city and would this give me better chance of ‘making it’ as a runner. There would definitely be some massive benefits such as training with a group and racing a lot more but there are definitely some major disadvantages. In Alice, everything is only a 5 minute drive away, there are no trams, trains or peak hour traffic. I can fit a lot in to my day, especially training (twice a day), Pilates, my day job and perhaps a Physio or massage appointment in my Lunch break.  Training out here is beautiful and the weather is perfect pretty much 10months out of the year. (In Summer it gets to about 40 degrees Celsius or 104 degrees Fahrenheit, which is just too hot to enjoy running!).  Also the support from Local Business in Alice Springs has been overwhelming! I am very fortunate to be the only fish in a small pond here in Alice Springs and the Northern Territory, but hopefully this is also inspiring others to pursue their Dreams!

Paul: The Gold Coast Marathon was your first at that distance. Are you interested in pursuing that event?  The qualifying standard for the Commonwealth Games isn’t that far away . . .

Photography by Scotte Woods

Photography by Scotte Woods

Emma: Yes definitely! Especially after watching the Aussies in the Commonwealth Games Marathon bring home a Gold in the Men’s (Michael Shelley) and a Bronze in the Women’s (Jessica Trengove)! I have a lot of respect for Marathons and Marathoners and really want to give it another crack. The Australian women’s Qualifier is around 2:38 and I ran 3:04 on debut, so only another 26mins I need to shave off, lol. I believe ‘anything is possible’ and I have definitely learnt a lot from my race (marathon), the lead up and my training. I can’t wait to give the Marathon another crack now that I’m wiser and older. This would definitely be a dream come true and, over the next 4 years, I really want to pursue this!

Paul: You’ve been to Poland to race. You’ve run and raced in the States. You’re headed to Italy next. Where is Emma’s dream destination, not just for running?

Emma: Last year on my Poland trip, I also went to Switzerland and fell in love with the place and, of course, the Mountains. A 30 minute jog turned into 2 hours of exploring, I definitely want to go back there. I also really want to go to Africa, not sure where particularly, but definitely South Africa and Kenya. I think the culture and the running over there would be amazing.

So that’s a bit of story on Emma Kraft. On September 14th, she’ll be racing the best mountain runners from around the globe, representing Alice Springs and Australia. If you want to follow her progress on Facebook, you can like her Athlete page.

To Emma, my great thanks for working with me on this writing project – it’s been a joy.

Paul Duffau is a writer of running fiction with two books currently published and a third in the early stages of being written. He also journals the local high school runners and local races. His ebooks Finishing Kick and Trail of Second Chances are available at Amazon. Paul has discounted the ebooks for the Australian audience.

He's scratching his head to figure out how to get print copies done up for Australia. Anyone with advice should feel free to contact him - just use the contact page to send him an email. He answers all his emails personally.