A torturous sounding vertical kilometre was a highlight for Tauranga mountain runner Sabrina Grogan on her global adventure.
The 25-year-old medical student, who has only recently returned to New Zealand, has spent more than a quarter of 2019 in northern Italy on placement in her final year of study, challenging herself with some gruelling running events along the way. On the way to Europe, Grogan stopped in Mexico where she won a 5km race and then placed ninth in the 13.5km Grossglockner Berglauf mountain race in Austria.
But one of her toughest tests came last month when Grogan raced on consecutive days at the Fletta Trail Malonno event. She placed ninth in the Priz Tri Vertical Kilometre race and ninth in the Fletta trail race the following day.
"The best races of my trip was the Priz Tri vertical and the Fletta Trail in Malonno. It is an absolute classic mountain run and in its 56th year. The first [race] was a vertical kilometre and I really enjoyed it. We had a mass start and 3.5km with 1000m elevation to the top. The last 100m I was crawling on hands and knees while locals rang giant cowbells and yelled encouragement.
"I managed to be ninth woman, which was great considering the field of runners. While admiring the view I remembered I still had the 21km trail race to do the next day as well. That night they announced the top runners for this race to a packed town square. I have never and doubt I will ever again feel like such a celebrity."
Grogan had little time to recover for the Fletta trail race but says it is an amazing course.
"We raced the next day through mountains and about five or six tiny towns where all the locals dress up to a theme to support you. I was ninth again and I was really happy with that, especially as I don't love downhill running which this had quite a bit.
"I've learned a lot about the dedication and commitment of the runners here, and how to deal with things not going to plan - like not being able to run due to weather or pollution, but also my bag being missing for seven days.
"How lucky we are in New Zealand to be safe, and relatively unpolluted with beautiful places to explore."
Malonno event organiser Alessandro Scolari says taking on the track is a way of life.
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"Racing and running from Malonno to the top of the mountains and to reach or villages was more than a tradition, it was part of our life and our culture. Organising a running race on these tracks was more than natural."
Grogan says there is some unfinished business should she return to run in Europe but had goals in New Zealand to work towards when she returned late last month.
"I was so happy with three ninth places in Europe, but I feel like I can make the podium in the future. Definitely loved the racing and want to do more vertical kilometres so there is a lot unfinished there.
Her first event in New Zealand was the 2019 Athletics New Zealand Half Marathon Championships in Dunedin this month and was the first woman to finish, and 15th overall, with a time of 1hr, 24.32secs.
"My goal had been to come back from Europe on a level of fitness, which hasn't gone totally to plan but I still plan to give it everything."
In her true committed style, Grogan will graduate in December, but is hoping to do the Luxmore Grunt in Fiordland National Park the morning of her graduation.
Sabrina Grogan's European results:
Grossglockner Berglauf mountain race: 9th.
Priz Tri vertical kilometre race: 9th.
Fletta trail race: 9th.