Leslie has had the honour of winning the Queen of the Mountain twice in the Bendigo Bank Int. Mountain Challenge. She represented Pomona in New Zealand’s twin race in Kawerau. Leslie is a Pomona local and knows the mountain race like the back of her hand. Now she’s tackling a new challenge, passing on her knowledge to train future champions of the mountain.

You’ve been an exceptional runner, having won the Bendigo Bank Int. Mountain Challenge twice here in Pomona and also competed in the New Zealand race in Kawerau. What is it about these races that makes you get out of bed in the morning to tackle the challenge?

King of the Mountain has given me so much more than just that urge to get out there and train to run the best I can, it has given me some of the best friends who I see outside of race day, train with and compete in other events with. Being a teacher in Pomona, it really is such a special event to our community and I really appreciate all the work that goes on in the back ground organising the event. But most of all, when I started running KOM, I really wanted my own kids to be proud of me, run with me and now they are adults and living their own lives, the biggest gift KOM has given to me, is the opportunity to inspire my students and local kids to come and give this trail/mountain running a crack. The Prince and Princess race is my passion for young runners.

When you ventured to Kawerau, you saw junior runners come through the ranks in their prince and princess race. Guys like Daniel Jones and Shay Williamson. Did that inspire you do something more here, being a local resident of Pomona, for the prince and princess race here?

The first year I won the trip to New Zealand, Kawerau King of the Mountain, I had no idea there was a Prince and Princess race. We get taken to the local school each visit on the Friday before Saturday race day, and it just blows your mind how the kids treat you. It is so special. But the way those kids all were so connected to their mountain, the cultural ties just moved me. I watched them race before my race and I just had to bring that vision to have our own Prince and Princess race back with me. To hear the stories of past Prince’s such as Shay, Daniel who go on to win and become legends in the adult race just made me want our young runners to have a culture of youth to adult competing in KOM.

I’ve navigated the course for the Prince and Princess race, and it’s by means no easy task. The kids are actually heading up the climb towards Pomona and face quite a tricky decent coming down. How do you prepare the kids both physically and mentally being the organiser and trainer for this race? Has being a successful runner yourself made you think more about how you pass on your wisdom to the kids?

So being a teacher, I work with young people so it is really familiar being with them. When I run with them it really does change in that we share what’s going on either in the actual landscape but also what they are experiencing physically. Like I always say to them, I am constantly learning, watching other elite runners, my training partners sharing how we approach the run or training tips to improve our strength. Yes I have had some success and I pass on as much as I think will help them, but honestly mountain running is a real special event. It’s so challenging, and the kids really find the climb a challenge. Teaching them to focus on their strengths such as downhill, and the flat parts and work out where they can make ground is always a focus. Runners club has been so successful this year. Every Thursday we train, and I really talk about the mental approach to being on that mountain, how to connect with what you are doing in that moment.

What’s your hope for the future of the Prince and Princess race? Do you see it being a starting point for future great Australian trail runners. Have you seen any juniors come through the race and go on to be successful in the official race? Are you able to predict or ‘talent scout’ these juniors from an early age?

My hope, my vision for the Prince and Princess race, is that kids from all over the coast come to give our mountain a go. That our Prince’s and Princess’ come up into the main race. That we speak of the legends that they are coming from junior into senior and becoming King like Shay and Daniel in New Zealand. And most of all that one day the race is held on the main event day. That these kids get to run through an epic crowd hearing the cheers for them.

As we get older and run in differing categories. Do you still have that competitive streak as a runner? Are there any ‘battles’ against certain runners that you are looking forward to or are you more focused on training the juniors

Do I still have a competitive streak? Yes every day I work hard, not to win, that time has passed for me, but to achieve that time I set myself, and to know I had the courage to line up with amazing people who run that mountain race for charity, for physical goals, to make their kids or partner proud or just to be involved in such a brilliant community event.

Leslie’s best time at Pomona is 31:05 in 2019