What a privilege to be able to hear her story and her message. Thanks to BUFF® South Africa for bringing out such a top athlete. Emma has been a BUFF® sponsored athlete for 20 years. Says something about the integrity of both parties. Both are the genuine article! The real deal.
Not only is Emma an elite athlete, she is also a wife, mother of three, has a PhD in Biochemistry, is a writer and an entrepreneur. Oh sorry I forgot….Emma is also a firefighter!
Emma the athlete:
Her message throughout her presentation; but illustrated here in this video clip of her at UTMB 2013:
“My goals for this edition: First to enjoy myself to the maximum, do my utmost and try to be up there at the front if at all possible. It’s got to be a race that you have set your heart on. Because if you just think of your time, numbers and distance, maybe you won’t finish.”
Emma the scientist:
Take a look at her interview on here: I Run Far…..with specific reference to her focus for her PhD – the effects of Ultra Running on the body.
Some standout points for me taken from the above interview:
“Even today I’m amazed at the amount of people running and ultrarunning. The trend is brutal and every weekend there are thousands of races everywhere. I love that there are many people passionate about the sport and that organisers are working so hard to make their races bigger and bigger, but I worry that people do things without common sense, preparation and, sometimes, to just look good or say what they’ve done on social media. Sometimes it seems like we lose a little of the essence of why we do sport, why we run trails. Then it stops making sense. We have to remember that we move, run, and cycle because we feel alive, because it gives it so much, and because it makes us feel good, healthy, brave, and vital! Now with my thesis project, SUMMIT, I hope to open peoples’ eyes to see the dangers out there associated with ultra distances. I’m talking about if you’ve not previously had a medical checkup, a stress test, a biomechanics study. I’m talking nutritionally and making sure you’ve tried smaller distances before going and running half marathons or ultras. With the results I’d like to make sure that we’re getting people to do their homework in order to fulfill their dreams in the most healthy way possible. With the SUMMIT (health in ultramarathons and its limits) project, we are still studying many parameters associated with long distance, but at a highly summarised level we are seeing:
- That we’re still easily dehydrated when drinking much more than 2% of our body weight during ultras—so our performance is compromised along with other biochemical parameters.
- Our right ventricle suffers during long, continuous, and intensive efforts—and that there are hearts that are poorly suited to long distance or many hours of training.
- That the role of our genes can be greatly influenced by the simple facts of having or having not trained, having eaten well, or having slept well. Not everything is written in the genes, but they have the ability to express it.
- Our immune systems struggle after ultras and we’re very vulnerable to viruses, getting colds, and generally becoming ill.
The heart is suffering because of the effort they are putting in over many hours. Then there is also bone decalcification—bones lose calcium and can cause osteoporosis much sooner than someone who hasn’t run as much. The studies also show that there is an increased risk of ventricular fibrillation in men, too; not women, though.
So I would tell young people to wait a while before starting to run ultras—your metabolism will thank you in the future. We’re also seeing that exercise can be more beneficial than prescriptions to prevent premature death from almost all causes like heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, hypertension, colon cancer, breast cancer, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, obesity, osteoporosis, sarcopenia, functional dependency and falls in the elderly, cognitive impairment, anxiety, and depression. This benefit is seen in both sexes and increases with the volume and intensity of exercise. You start seeing all these positive effects with only 30 minutes of exercise a day or 2.5 hours per week.”
Note to self: Do it with heart. Do your homework. Know your body. Have a base.
Emma the writer:
Emma the entrepreneur:
What an awesome initiative. Go on…sign up!
Girl power, without a doubt.