News & Updates

8 November 2023 • High Performance

Georgie’s advance sets up World Cross ambitions

London-based Kiwi Georgie Grgec has quietly been producing a number of very impressive performances.

It might seem counter-intuitive but since getting on her bike it has allowed Georgie Grgec (pronounced Greg-itch) to realise her running ambitions.

The London-based Kiwi has struggled with a host of injuries and Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport (RED-S) during her career which had significantly disrupted her development. However, after reassessing her approach to her sport she says combining four runs a week with cross training on the bike has proved the perfect recipe for better managing the load on her body.

In 2022, Georgie set a raft of track PB’s from 3000m to 10,000m as she took a giant step forward while this year the 29-year-old has impressed on the road – posting two sub-32:30 10km times as well as a very slick 1:12:58 on her half marathon debut in Copenhagen.

“I think I’ve started to learn how to piece it all together and this has allowed me to put in more consistent training,” says Georgie who celebrates her 30th birthday later this month. “I’ve become a big advocate of cross training and having the confidence that you don’t have to put in a lot of mileage, you can supplement it with cross training.”

Born and raised in the central Auckland suburb of Mt Eden her first taste of athletics came in primary school cross country races. However, it was not until around the age of 15 and having competed in a number of team triathlons did she opt to specialise as a runner. Realising her passion and ability was running she joined Auckland City Athletics at the age of 15 and during her early years in the sport she was coached by 1960 Rome Olympic marathon bronze medallist Barry Magee.

Quickly discovering her a gift for running, Georgie impressed as an age group performer. In 2010 and 2011 she won back-to-back U20 New Zealand 5km road titles and in 2012 she added the national U20 5000m crown on the track but her personal highlight during her early years came when taking out the senior girls 3000m crown at the 2010 New Zealand Secondary Schools Track, Field and Road Championships in Hastings. There the Diocesan Schools for Girls student caused a huge surprise to strike gold by 13 hundredths of a second from Rebekah Greene, the senior women’s New Zealand resident record-holder for the mile.

“That was a bit of a shock because I was not expected to win it,” she recalls.

Later coached by Graeme Holden and for a short period Matt Mildenhall in 2013 she won a senior women’s silver medal over 10km – an early sign of her passion for the roads – before Georgie’s promising athletics career started to drift.

Injuries to her knee – which required surgery – and several other issues badly blunted her development, and it took a move to London in 2017 to kick-start her running career. Keen for a fresh start the senior associate in deals, insights and analytics at PWC joined Herne Hill Harriers shortly after her arrival in the UK – all of which triggered an upward turn in her results.

“I think joining a running club and the depth of the UK running scene has been a massive part of my improvement,” she says. “I started going to group sessions and started to re-engage more seriously with the sport.”

Coached two to three sessions a week by Geoff Jerwood she is never short of training options and even occasionally trains with 2023 World Athletics Championships 1500m finalist Katie Snowden of Great Britain. Citing Tooting Common (where the home track is based), Battersea Park and Richmond Park as three of favourite training venues in 2018 she made a big leap forward. Enjoying a full track season, she lowered her 1500m PB by more than five seconds to 4:26.71 and chopped nearly half a minute from her 5000m best.

Delighted with her progress, unfortunately Georgie suffered another setback in 2019 when a stress fracture wiped out much of her season. She raced a handful of times in a Covid-impacted 2020 campaign while a lengthy battle with RED-S impacted her 2021 season.

After suffering so many challenges, it is tempting to ask what kept the Aucklander going but for her it was simple – passion.

“I just love running,” she insists. “I always want to go for a run. I start back jogging (after a period out), build up my training and then miss the racing side of it. I also think running is important socially, thanks to a lot of my friends I have met through the club.”

Post-2021 she underwent a major reset to give her every chance of avoiding injury and best able to fulfil her potential. Cycling during the summer months out on the Surrey roads or during the winter two or three times a week on the turbo trainer at home has unquestionably provided a better balance for her body but she has also worked on several other aspects of her approach to training which has proved fruitful.

“I can no longer just get up and go out the door for a run, I have to warm up properly,” says Georgie.

“I now do a lot more strength work and I’ve focused more on recovery. I’ve changed the nutrition side of things and now realise how important fuelling is to performance.”

Last year she enjoyed her best track season to date setting PB’s on the track for the mile (4:41.52), 3000m (9.09.15), 5000m (15:51.54) and 10,000m (33.59.40) – when winning the B race at the Night of 10,000m on her debut for the distance.

The latter event – which includes running through a marquee and played out to a pumping atmosphere – was a personal 2022 highlight for Georgie who adds: “It was such a cool event. I didn’t make the A race but to win the B race in my first 10,000m on the track was so fun.”

This year she has focused more on her number one love of the roads and has continued to impress. At the Trafford 10km in March she recorded a big new PB of 32.29 (that was her gun time her chip time was 32:15) to comfortably eclipse her previous best of 33:07.

“It was a big PB, the highlight of my running career. I was so shocked,” she says. “It was a big confidence boost because I didn’t think I would ever run that fast.”

A niggly Achilles issue badly hampered her track campaign but she returned in September to run her debut half marathon in Copenhagen, where she caught the eye by running a rapid 1:12:58 to place 27th up against a world-class field.

“I was buzzing and because the training was not that smooth going into this race, it has given me a confidence to show that my base line is improving,” she says. “It also motivates me to want to do more.”

Last month she received more confirmation she was on the right track by registering 32:25 to place second over 10km at the Leeds Abbey Dash and she can look forward with optimism to the future.

In the coming months she will look to target the domestic cross country series in the UK and she hopes to win selection for the New Zealand team to compete at the World Cross Country Championships in Belgrade, Serbia on 30 March.

Georgie will also pursue more 5km and 10km PB’s on the road and next season hopes to compete in more track races while in the longer term the marathon will be a target – an event she believes he well equipped to perform well in.

“It definitely seems like the longer the better for me,” says Georgie. “Endurance is one of my strengths because I don’t have much speed at all! I just hope to get my body strong enough to be able to handle that level of training and then a marathon will be on the cards.”

Ultimately representing New Zealand on the track would also be a goal, yet whatever the future holds she hopes running will continue to be a central part of her life.

“I love running because there are always ways of challenging yourself,” she says. “It gives you something to work towards and I love it as a good mental outlet. And as many people will have found, the people you meet along the way are a huge part of it.”