He used to tell his eldest brother who participated in 23 Comrades, that the only people who run that kind of distance must be running away from something. That was until the 1985 Comrades when he watched Bruce Fordyce win again.
I thought, well, if this skinny Englishman can do it, I can also do it.
He recruited a friend, started running, and the next year was ready to line up for his first Comrades. He would go on to run two more Comrades before he swapped his running shoes for a mountain bike and braai tongs and became a Comrades couch spectator.
Every year on Comrades Day, Emil and a group of old running friends go for a run around the estate before settling in for a day of braaiing and watching thousands of runners finishing the +- 90km. First the winner, then the gold medals, the first lady runner, then the 7.5 hours Silver Medal cut off and eventually the last stragglers coming in before the 11-hour cut off time – the real Comrades runners.
He has fond memories of Comrades and running in big groups of runners known as “buses”. “When you run in the bus – 20 or 30 people together – they’re fun. It’s fantastic. Nothing else compares with that. It’s a lot of jokes and laughs amidst the pain”.
His best memory was one of running with his brother. They were running together when they got separated, his brother running ahead. When he reached the Harrison Flats, he saw his brother sitting there with a boerie and a beer at a supporter’s group, waiting for him.
We continued and finished together.
He’s made lifelong friends from running, bonded by kilometres of roads and stories shared. “You tell people stuff en-route, you would never tell people undernormal circumstances”.
His motto is “if you don’t use it, you lose it”, and so while he may no longer be running ultramarathons, Emil still keeps active. These days he prefers being out in nature mountaineering, cycling, and power walking.
He also no longer believes people who run crazy distances are running from something. Instead, he says it teaches you things about yourself and shows you that you can exceed barriers you never would have thought you could.