News & Updates

17 March 2023 • Mountain Running

Sabrina hopes local knowledge will pay dividends in mountain running test

Sabrina Edwards is very familiar with Mt Maunganui - venue for the 2023 NZ Mountain Running Championships.

Sabrina Edwards (nee Grogan) hopes her extensive experience of running Mt Maunganui will pay dividends at the New Zealand Mountain Running Championships, which takes place at the iconic venue on Saturday (18 March).

With her mum living in Tauranga, Edwards is a regular visitor to the region and by her estimation has run up and down the Mount on more than 100 occasions.

Now the 29-year-old Lake City AC athlete will tackle the uphill and downhill race with the prestige of national honours on the line, and she can’t wait for the opportunity.

“It is cool to have the New Zealand Mountain Running Championships in the North Island again,” says Sabrina. “Any opportunity to improve the profile of mountain running on the North Island in a closer location to Auckland is a good, because it gives more athletes the chance to try it out and maybe become hooked on mountain running.

“I’ve done plenty of training on the Mount and I’m used to its special features. It is not easy, it has some very steep sections and it will be a challenge for everyone.

Sabrina says she prefers the purely uphill mountain running rather than uphill/downhill format for this year’s race, believing her technical ability uphill is superior to her technical work down the mountain.

That said, competing in the Mount – the home of her mum, Glenys Kroon, a former New Zealand World Cross Country Championships – is one she is relishing.

“There is always something special about competing for a New Zealand title,” she adds. “I just love hanging out with others likeminded people who share the same passion. Mountain runners are such an awesome community of people. Everyone is competitive and we are all there to support one another. One of my best friends is Sarah Douglas (the defending New Zealand mountain running champion) and she is coming to stay with me the night before the race.”

Sabrina is the older sister by three years of Anneke Grogan, the latter of whom recently impressed at the Jennian Homes New Zealand Track & Field Championships in Wellington by winning senior women’s steeplechase gold, 5000m silver and 1500m bronze.

There is little doubt Sabrina has a huge amount of respect for her sibling who acts as a huge inspiration.

“Anneke was the one who started running before me and is the old hand,” says Sabrina. “I have always aspired to have her speed and talent. She is very impressive.”

While Anneke has principally impressed on the track and cross country, Sabrina has opted to take a slightly different route focusing more on the trails and mountains. In her own right she has proved a quality athlete, winning a hat-trick of national mountain running titles from 2017-19 and the 2019 New Zealand half marathon title. In 2021 she banked bronze at the New Zealand Mountain Running Championships but later that year after rolling her ankle running down Mt Taranaki it triggered an injury nightmare for the Rotorua-based doctor.

Sustaining an osteochondral lesion on her talus – effectively a hole in the bone of her ankle – the injury became very painful and for eight months she could not run.

“It was pretty awful,” she says. “I’ve had a couple off other injuries but nothing quite that bad. Nothing seemed to make it better and the worst moment came when one doctor said to me, ‘find something else other than running that that you like to do’.”

Stubbornly refusing to accept that she could no longer run she underwent a steroid injection which thankfully settled down the injury. Last June she started tentatively running once again and by September she was back in full training.

The road has been gradual but training around the glorious trails in Rotorua has acted as an inspiration and now running 60 per cent of her training of 80-85km a week before work where she training as an anaesthetist registrar– she is humming along nicely.

In recent weeks she has started working with a new coach, Colorado-based Kiwi Michael Aish, and the move has gone well.

“He’s changed things up quite a bit,” says Sabrina. “It is the first time I’ve had a coach in a while, and I’ve really enjoyed working with him. He comes from a marathon and ultra-running background and is experienced working with trail runners. He’s really given me some specific targeted workouts for the goals I have.”

After running a couple of local trail races, she received a big confidence boost last month when finishing second women in the 21km race at the Tarawera Ultramarathon event.

“It was a really good day for me. I wondered about whether I should enter or not because I was worried about whether I was ready. I knew I’d be competing against a massive field, but I had one of those days where I performed to my absolute max I could, and I only finished 50 seconds behind the winner.”

Now she will set her next goal of competing at the Mount, so what are her expectations on Saturday?

“That it is a difficult one. I’m a super competitive person, so I’d love a placing and if I had an awesome day, I could do that. I’m getting better with every training session but at the end of the day I’m still really pleased to be competing again after the injury, so I hope to put in a good, solid effort.”