Recently-crowned New Zealand Cross Country champion Lisa Cross is currently enjoying a purple patch of form, which she hopes will lead to more success. The former jockey from South Auckland speaks to Steve Landells to explain how she manages to juggle her training around the demands of bringing up two young children.

Nobody should question the whole-hearted training commitment shown by Lisa Cross. A mum to two-and-a-half-year-old, Scarlett and 11-month old son, Fletcher, means squeezing in training can be tricky and can lead to some creative solutions.

For long-runs Lisa often brings in a baby-sitter to look after her two young children. For Saturday morning training sessions at the Auckland Domain, her coach, John Bowden, regularly steps in to provide the childcare. However, for her easy runs she is often forced into a novel approach.

"I have a treadmill set up in the conservatory where I can see the kids," she explains. "I often put Fletcher in the Jolly Jumper and turn Thomas the Tank Engine on the TV for Scarlett," she says. "Of course, if he starts to get grisly, I sometimes have to move him on to another activity and jump back on the treadmill."

With this in mind, it is small miracle she is able to rack up on average of 100km a week and perhaps an even bigger one Lisa is currently national cross country champion. Yet her success is testament to the resilience and tenaciousness the police constable and former jockey has shown in spades throughout her life.

Born and raised in South Auckland - her father Ross Robertson was a former Labour MP - she discovered her talent for athletics late.

A representative soccer player in her youth it was only later during her police training when she found - by complete accident - a gift for running.

"I did my first ever 2.4km running test, which all the police have to complete in 11:20, in about nine minutes," she says. "On the back of this, I thought, I guess I can do this."

Encouraged by the display, for several years she ran recreationally before her competitive running career took off in earnest after started to working with former New Zealand Commonwealth Games representative, John Bowden, as her coach.

Experiencing a structured training programme for the first time, Lisa finished 12th at the 2009 New Zealand Cross Country Championships in Christchurch. Then just 12 months later she returned for her second crack at the event and finished second - 14 seconds behind race winner Fiona Crombie - in Waikanae.

"Finishing second was perhaps the moment I first realised I was a good runner," she recalls.

Yet at this point in her life running was far from her sole sporting pursuit. A passionate horse rider since the age of eight she had long held a dream to be jockey. In 2009 she decided to pursue that goal and took two years unpaid leave from the police from 2009-2011 to complete her jockey apprenticeship.

Combining gruelling morning workouts on the horses with intense running was far from easy yet she enjoyed duel success. Her career in the saddle gleaned five winners from around 100 rides and in 2011 she landed her maiden New Zealand running title with victory at the 10km road race championships.

Yet the greatest week of her sporting life was to come in one very special three-day period in 2011 when on her debut over the 42.2km distance she secured the Auckland Marathon title in 2:41:56 and then just two days later she secured a race winner on Melbourne Cup day. It was, as Andy Warhol might say, Lisas 15 minutes of fame.

"I was on the national news two nights in a row and I was on the back page of the NZ Herald," she explains of the brief period of intense media interest she experienced. "I was on a real high for a week after that."

Yet Lisas ambitions in the saddle were to soon come to an end.

Describing herself as "not that good" as a jockey and finding it increasingly hard to find quality rides, she opted not to renew her race day licence and following her Auckland Marathon success she decided to focus on her running ambitions.

Hugely lifted by her marathon debut in Auckland, she chased an Olympic qualification mark in Nagano in Japan but fell well short. In fact, in retrospect, she admits to perhaps underestimating what she achieved in Auckland.

"I posted a fast time but it was perhaps not until a little later after I had children, and I ran a few more marathons, did I appreciate what I achieved," she explains.

In 2012 Lisa secured the New Zealand Half Marathon crown and also posted her PB of 1:14:22 for the distance when taking the Oceania title in Gold Coast.

Yet after her coach John Bowden moved to Australia to take up a position as CEO at Athletics Northern Territory her career drifted for a while as she struggled to adapt to an Arthur Lydiard-style training programme under a new coach.

Falling pregnant with her first child shortly after marrying her husband, Michael, she gave birth to her first child, Scarlett in February 2016, although she has always kept on running.

She recalls finishing third in the Taupo 10km and running 40 minutes while seven months pregnant with Fletcher! On the day of his birth, the Pukekohe-based athlete, remarkably, completed a 6km run.

Reunited with her old coach John Bowden since 2015, in recent months all the signs have pointed towards a revival in the running fortunes of the 35-year-old mum of two. In July, she claimed victory in the Womens Half Marathon in Auckland in a handy time of 1:17:24 before she flew down to Wellington to contest the New Zealand Cross Country Championships determined to produce a good showing.

Relatively inexperienced "Ive only maybe competed around six times in cross country" she was not daunted by the prospect.

"The aim was definitely top three and because of the expense of getting down there, I felt had to try to win," she explains. "Of course, you never quite know who you are up against, but it was nice to be national champion."

In the short-term, Lisa, who returns to work next month as a police constable following maternity leave, plans to target Septembers New Zealand Road Championships in Cambridge, but the long-term target is to peak for a marathon in late-2019.

Yet like so many other female athletes before her, does she feel stronger as an endurance athlete now that she is a mum?

"It is hard to say whether I am strong because I am a mum or because I no longer ride horses", she says. "I hate to admit it, but it is probably because I no longer ride race horses. I used to ride 15 to 20 horses each morning but by just running my muscles do not feel fatigued."

Some might view squeezing in her running commitments around bringing up a young family as complete madness, yet for Lisa it makes perfect sense.

"Running is my escape, my stress release and it is probably what stops me from losing the plot," explains Lisa. "Even during the flight down to Wellington for the New Zealand Cross Country Championships, I had Fletcher screaming while I had muddled up the rental car and needed to hire another. At that moment, I couldnt wait to do the cross country run and be away from the madness for 40 minutes. It is my escape to run."

- This story has been automatically published using a media release from Athletics New Zealand