“I NEED TO FINISH THIS ALIVE”: Emma’s incredible 50k journey
WITH scorching heat beating and other competitors dropping to the ground around her, Emma Joseph could quite easily have given up on her own gruelling quest on Sunday.
The Grafton mental health campaigner contended with 31 degree heat to successfully complete the 50km GC50 run on the Gold Coast in 6 hours, 12 minutes and 2 seconds.
But in the darkest moments of the race she drew inspiration from others, and her own inner strength, to finish an emotional journey.
"I saw a man who had no arms with a watch on his shoulder … and another with a breathing apparatus and an oxygen tank," Ms Joseph said. "And I thought, if he can do it, I can do it too."
The run had been preceded by six months of intense training, compounded with operations, crippling injuries and rehabilitation.
Waking at 3am, she began her morning listening to motivational podcasts and doing stretches, and as she looked out from her veranda caught sight of a group of people staggering home drunk
"I remember thinking, Jesus, have I got this all wrong?" she laughed.
On the start line at 6am, surrounded by some of the best athletes in the world, Ms Joseph steadied herself, and the gun went off.
"I felt pretty good early. But it got hot, really hot," she said.
"I was running into a headwind, and I just couldn't slow my heart rate down. Normally I like to run at 160-170 but I couldn't get it below 195, and the higher your heart rate the more it takes out of you.
"I was getting exhausted, I constantly had the wind in my face, and with the heat and excitement I couldn't calm down."
Still, she pushed on, with the looped course taking her past the elusive finish line as a cruel temptress.
"By about 30km I got a bit sick, and the heat really got to me. I had to have regular showers of water over my head. I felt like I could spew and I was really sick," she said.
Ms Joseph had planned to run the race at a prescribed pace, putting her on track for a five-hour finish time, but the conditions meant she had to make an urgent change of plan.
"I just thought I need to finish this thing alive," she said. "There were people dropping like flies. I was running past people spewing and I just thought I've got to enjoy this and do it.
"I saw one of my girlfriends who I wasn't expecting to be there, and she yelled out "run Emma you weapon!" "I just felt this overwhelming sense of emotion, and I was at 34km, and I thought I've still got 15km and to dig deep.
"But I had to slow down, I just had to. I had my support crew and they were absolute legends, and I told them to meet me more often and give me gels."
In the midst of her pain, Ms Joseph found time to help others who were less prepared for the journey.
"There were a couple of guys behind me early, and they were chatting to me and we ran together until I got a bit sick and had to slow my pace," she said.
"I caught up to them at about 40km and one was buckled over a rock, and he said to me he didn't think he could finish.
"I asked him if he'd had anything, and he said he'd had one gel, and not a lot of drinks - I'd had 15 gels by that stage, and found out the longest run he'd done was 20km a couple of weeks ago.
"He was so underprepared, so I shoved him full of gels and told him to stick with me, and he ran with me and found himself again and started to believe he could do it, which was awesome."
Still, Ms Joseph had to finish as well, and by the 48km mark she was in serious pain, but kept going.
"I think it gets to the point that I was so close, and when you run that far, it's not a race between you and anything else, it's just you and yourself, and it's just about you getting over your own s**t to pull your own body through," she said.
"By that point I realised there's peaks and troughs, just like in life. But your mind's yourself in the valleys and you go 'I can do this'."
The journey had almost ended, as she came up towards the finishing line, when she spotted her girlfriends and burst into tears.
"I was just crying. It was an experience no one can ever take, but I had to work for, and I had to dig so deep to fight to achieve it," she said.
The following day, Ms Joseph admitted to feeling a little numb from the overwhelming experience, and obviously sore.
"I'm shocked. I can't believe I did it," she said.
"I just feel so proud, and so in awe of my body and mind that I was able to push through such a thing. I don't think I realised how big it was, and it was monumental.
"It's something that's changed me forever, and it's changed my life and changed the way I feel about things."
And despite the trip to hell and back to reach her goal, would she do it again?
"Definitely. I look back, and I really loved it," she said.
"I don't love being in pain, but I love the feeling and love the challenge and looking after your life and that's amazing.
"If I can do that then I can definitely get through a tough day at work or anything else, and I think that's the real journey."