Unlike many world-class runners, who got their start in high school or college, Emma Kraft didn’t begin running seriously until after school.
“I went to uni in Melbourne City and did a lot of partying,” admits Kraft.
It wasn’t until she graduated and moved back to the small town of Alice Springs that she began to train and got fit enough to consider racing.
Her breakthrough came in 2011 when Kraft obtained an official Australian ranking in the 5K and 10K , won two gold medals at the Arafura Games, and won the NT News City2Surf road race.
The following year, Kraft competed in the Zatopek:10, which is one of Australia’s biggest distance events, and features both the Australian 10K Championship as well as the Victorian State Championship.
After this string of successful races, a friend suggested Kraft try out for the 2013 Australian Mountain Running Champs, with the opportunity to be selected for the Australian Team, which would travel to the World Mountain Running Championship in Poland.
“The next day I booked flights, changed my training around and got some hills in,” remembers Kraft. Alice Springs is about three kilometers from the Outback, meaning that Kraft could jump on red dirt trails whenever the hot sun allowed. At the qualifying race, she was third, which secured her spot on the Australian Mountain Running Team.
“This planted the seed,” said Kraft. “Poland was amazing, and I loved competing internationally. I wanted more.”
In 2014, Kraft made the team again and competed in Italy at the world championship race, but her luck ended the following year. She sustained a lower back injury, which prevented her from running. Despite her disappointment, Kraft stepped up and became team manager.
She didn’t make the Australian Mountain Running Team again until this year, but her experience was even sweeter after being sidelined for so long.
“Now that I’m injury free and running well again, I take advantage of every opportunity in terms of racing as you never know when your last race will be,” says Kraft. “I also know I wont be running at the level forever so really have to carpe diem it when I have the chance – or when I make my own chances.”
Kraft says that the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship has been on her mind since she made her first mountain running team. After winning the inaugural Oceania Trail Run – also a 21K – in May of 2017, she decided to take it to the next level and compete at the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship.
“I met a fellow runner from New Zealand who did XTERRA Worlds, and she spoke so highly of the experience, that it seemed a perfect way to cap off the year,” said Kraft. “I also want to raise the profile of trail running in Australia and get more Australians to come to XTERRA New Caledonia this May.”
Despite Kraft’s success and the new pressures on her, she hasn’t lost her love of the sport.
“For me, running is freedom. It’s where I go to get away, to think, to make plans, to dream, and to challenge myself. I love the fact that it gives me more clarity and happiness. Running has also allowed me to meet my fiancé, Brad, travel the world, and meet some of the most amazing people.