Real Life

Jockey Lisa Cross find her legs

There’s no catching this Auckland mum, who’s a winner on the racetrack as well as the road!

Lisa Cross will never forget November 2011 when she won the women’s section of the Auckland Marathon on a Sunday and just two days later, secured a Melbourne Cup Race Day Meeting victory as a jockey.

“With the marathon, I didn’t know what I had done,” recalls Lisa. “It was the first time I had ever run that distance, let alone raced it. I broke the course record, and ran the marathon in two hours, 41 minutes and 56 seconds.

“Then I won riding the horse Running Down a Dream at Ellerslie Racecourse. It was my dream weekend.”

Winning at Ellerslie on Running Down a Dream.

While both are impressive physical feats, it’s almost to be expected from the 40-year-old go-getter, who has been a jockey, a police officer and an elite cross-country athlete. She’s also a busy mum-of-two, who juggles the role with her love for marathon running.

In February, Lisa competed in the World Cross Country Championships in Australia, where – despite battling a virus – she helped the New Zealand women’s team place 10th in the world.

“The day before the race, I was throwing up in the bushes,” tells Lisa. “But as soon as I arrived after the flight and the four-hour bus trip to Bathurst, I just started the process of mentally telling myself I wasn’t sick.

“I’m determined to never stop, no matter what the pain is. I have never had a DNF [did not finish] in a race. I’d rather crawl across the line. If I’ve done the work and the training, then I know I can do it.”

Asked how she keeps her motivation up for daily training, Lisa says, “Fitness is almost an addiction. I love the endorphins I get from running. It’s my outlet.”

Clocking up a personal best at the Reboot marathon in Christchurch last year.

Back home in Ramarama, South Auckland, she knows it’s where the real hard work begins as mum to Fletcher, five, and Scarlett, seven.

“It’s a constant marathon every day chasing kids around. I think running a marathon is easy compared to looking after my children for a day!” laughs Lisa, who ran through both her pregnancies, including the days she gave birth.

“With Scarlett, I did Camp Sladin in Clevedon on my due date, which is about 700 stairs to the top of the hill. I remember a lady passed me in the opposite direction, saying, ‘Gosh, when are you due?’ and my response was, ‘Today!’

“When I started getting contractions with Fletcher, I figured I’d just go to work because at least if I was at the police station, there was a fair chance of getting a ride to the hospital.”

Lisa with kids Fletcher and Scarlett, plus ponies Skye (left) and Cazzie.

Her unborn son was breech, so after a police escort to hospital, it was decided Lisa would stay there until he was born, which wasn’t for several more days.

“I asked my mum to bring my trainers and over the next few days, I did stair repeats and walks/jogs around the hospital to keep me sane,” she shares. “On the day he was born, I did a pretty quick 6km loop, with my phone handy just in case.”

Growing up in South Auckland, she initially planned to become a teacher before changing tack to pursue her passion as a jockey. Lisa explains, “I had ridden in my childhood, and then my mum and aunty got a share in a racehorse, and I thought that looked pretty easy. Turns out it wasn’t, but I loved riding and I couldn’t sleep at night because I was so excited to go to work in the morning.”

Despite success as a jockey, eventually the toll of meeting the very low weight targets became too much.

“After a while, I struggled with the need to be wrapped in plastic and thermals to sweat the weight out whilst riding a 500 kilo powerful beast,” she admits.

The next challenge to catch her eye was joining the police force.

“When I did the police running test, I found it easy and the police physical education officer talked me into getting a coach. I ran in my first cross-country championship in 2009 and placed 12th, which I thought was just awesome. The following year, I came second.”

Since becoming a mother, Lisa moved into a role that suits her perfectly – a coach at South Auckland club TTT Runners, which provides training, racing and community running opportunities for athletes

of all ages and ability.

“I love giving back to the running community and encouraging all types of runners,” she enthuses.

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