Meet Emma MacIntosh. A down-to-earth lover of life and all things trail running and adventure. We're excited to welcome Emma to the FRACTEL Team as an empowering and inspiring Ambassador of our brand & community. She's faced her fair share of highs and lows, but she's managed to come out the other side wiser and keener than ever to get out and explore! Enjoy her story below...
"At the time I never considered myself lost or floating through life. I was 18 years old and fresh out of high school into my first job. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, where I wanted to go or who I wanted to spend my time with. I was young and learning. I was a little chubby and a little introverted, but I never felt self-conscious or disappointed in my life. Looking back now, I would consider myself in no-man’s land. Thank goodness I was in no-man’s land. That period of time lead me to the woman I am now.
In my final year of High School I was diagnosed with Juvenile Glaucoma – a hereditary blinding disease. For a year I managed the disease with eye drops, constant doctor’s appointments and a pair of glasses. But eye surgery was inevitable, and in that period of floating I became a blind 18 year old who lost her independence. The surgeries involved temporary blindness, and were to be done individually. 4 weeks after my right eye was operated on, my left eye started to deteriorate and immediate surgery was necessary. Thus, I was deemed legally blind. So there I was, already questioning how I wanted to live my life when I began questioning why these things kept happening in my life. I had already dealt with the medical illness Bells-Palsy – paralysis of a facial nerve affecting one side of the face. I was a semi-paralysed 10 year old for 18 months. One adversity had been enough, and then I was given a hard second. During paralysis my mum would repeat to me every day: “these adversities are given to those strong enough to handle it.” And then during blindness, my mum would say it again and again, reinforcing my strength in my own mind and diminishing any self-doubt I had.
So as a lost, kind of chubby, introverted blind 18 year old, I started my running journey. I had gone for about 5 runs before this. I used to watch my bosses go for their daily run and come back perspiring in sweat with a look of accomplishment. I always thought they were crazy. Then one day, I realised maybe I could do it too. I had a pair of lenses made post-surgery that were so thick the glass popped out of the frame. But I still relied on them for every aspect of my life. Without them I couldn’t watch tv, or read, or drive, or text my friends; but maybe I could run. I had 10% vision in both eyes which left shapes and colours blurring into each other. But I still knew what things were and where they stood from seeing them previously all my life. My first run was not far, it wasn’t fast and I was nervous the entire time. Yet, I did it. And then I did it again, and again, and eventually, I began to trust myself and feel the empowerment of running. 7 months after losing my vision, I underwent more surgery to help bring the sight back quickly and safely. I still have poor vision, but chances of me losing it completely are slim. I still wear glasses and I still don’t have great vision, but I can run.
Why do I run?
That’s always been an easy answer for me. Running is the one thing I have control over. I choose to run. I choose my own adversities instead of having them forced on me. I get to pick my own pain and suffering. I love everything about it.
My running started as casual, an opportunity to do something for myself. I lost some weight and started to find a place I was happy, in the world and in myself. I took that casual jogging and ran the Melbourne Marathon a year later. 6 weeks after that I lined up at the start of the Honolulu Marathon. That is when I discovered travelling for events. My first road ultra was after that, 50km on the Gold Coast. It hurt, and I didn’t particularly enjoy that one. A friend then suggested I give trail running a go. To start with I was terrified. Not only was it hard and tiring, but I was by myself in remote places on big hills with not much experience. But like everything in my life, I grabbed it with my bare hands and made it mine. I ran a 56km trail ultra-marathon 2 months after stepping foot on a trail. The pain was like nothing I had experienced, but I reminded myself “you’ve been through worse than this. You’re tough!” I got it done and stepped up to 60km in New Zealand 6 weeks after it. I was hooked.
It didn’t take long for my confidence to grow. I could think of nothing more exciting than hours on the trail alone with my own thoughts. Much to my mother’s dismay, I would disappear for hours at a time, arriving home sweaty, dirty and bloody. I was happy. I had found myself and my passion in running. Fast forward a few years; I’m now a 24 year old and I’ve run a few desert stage races, have a 100km event under my belt and spend a lot of my time volunteering at events. I purchased a 1983 Nissan Campervan to take to remote trail heads and spend hours traversing over sandy fire track or mountainous single trail. I recently packed my life up in Adelaide and moved to the Victorian Alpine town of Bright. Running, as well as the communities involved with running, have greatly impacted my life.
I love the empowering aspect of running. I feel like I can accomplish and achieve anything I set my mind to during and after a good run. I will never take it for granted, because one day I might wake up and not be able to do it anymore. I hope that day doesn’t come, but in such a short time running has taught me a lot and has gently prompted me into the person I am now. A person who chooses happiness, experiences and opportunities, adventure and life. I’m not lost any more. Despite all the adversities, no matter what they may be, our running and our mindset is the one thing a person can always control. I’ll always choose running."