Emotion and peak performance often go hand in hand, so Lisa Robertson prepared a special racing top for her debut marathon.
On that sweaty Auckland day in late October, the promising apprentice jockey, who weighs 49kg wringing wet, showed in two hours and 41 minutes that she is also a runner who punches above her weight.
Robertson ran in a shirt that featured a picture of her favourite horse, Running Down a Dream. It arrived from the screenprinters two days before the race but she kept it secret from the horse's owner, thoroughbred trainer and Robertson's boss Caroline Pomare.
Pomare would see it during the race, Robertson figured, and that would be perfect.
The jockey was already far in front when she ran by where Pomare stood on the first of two legs out and back from the city to St Heliers. As she passed, Robertson pointed to the picture on her shirt.
A musician, Pomare named the horse after the Tom Petty song of the same name because it seemed to sum up horse racing. Everyone hopes to find a horse that wins them a famous race. And Robertson, of course, is chasing her own dream.
Despite drinking too little and slowing due to dehydration, Robertson broke the race record by nearly four minutes. That made running folk take notice and she has consequently been added to "the long list" of those vying for selection to the London Olympics later this year.
Two days later, a time when most who did the marathon were nursing sore legs - Robertson rode Running Down a Dream to win a race at the Melbourne Cup Day meeting at Ellerslie. The 5-year-old mare led all the way, just as the jockey had done.
"When Lisa won on it," recalls Pomare's husband, Jim, "I said to Caroline, 'It's like a script that has been written'."
In fact, Robertson's marathon win caused a change to the script she had mapped out a year earlier with her coach John Bowden.
"Here's a six-year plan," Bowden had told her. The plan aimed (and still does) at the marathon in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janiero.
No one knows better than Bowden, a former international distance runner, how long the apprenticeship can be in an event like the marathon. He coached Nina Rillstone for a decade before she became an Olympic (Beijing) marathon runner. Rillstone had been in athletics most of her life whereas, at 28 and with just three seasons under her belt, Robertson is a novice.
"But I'm not going to stop her dreaming and if she wants to go for London then we will," says Bowden. "Where's the harm?"
He figures she has earned a shot and is tough enough. He talks of her work ethic, enthusiasm and a mental strength he attributes to her career with horses. "It's a combination that has made her strong," he says. "She's a joy to coach. Because she is new to it, she doesn't have preconceptions and it's nice to have someone who dreams big."
It's soon after dawn on a typical midweek day and Robertson is at leafy Ardmore Lodge riding trackwork on Pomare's small team. The air smells of fresh manure, dew and straw. There is the sound of laughter and the clip-clop of hooves People are busy readying horses for their workout and hosing down those whose work is done.
Robertson is wearing a yellow reflective vest, black waterproof pants and solid-looking riding boots. She calls a cheery hello, nods towards Pomare and says "Here's my boss, Caroline."
Caroline and Jim are proud of their rising stable star. They try to be as flexible as is possible when you have a stable to run to fit in with her running and they talk over fundraising ideas to fund her trips away to events.
Over in the back straight, Robertson dismounts from a horse and walks it quietly back to the stables. That, apparently, helps the horse relax and aids recovery. The mare is at her peak and needs little work to keep her there. Her name is Running Down a Dream.
Robertson's job as the stable's rider is fulltime. Into her week she must also fit 11 training runs which together total about 160km, plus a pilates session. That means she sometimes gets up to run at what she calls "stupid o'clock" (3.30am) or she will get to a race meeting early and do a run from the track. That prompts quips from fellow jockeys. "Are you running home to Auckland?" she was once asked at the Ruakaka races, 150 kms north of the City of Sails. No, she wasn't, but she sometimes runs home from the Pukekohe races.
Rather than a burden, she makes it sound like a voyage of discovery. "I'm still finding, every race I do I keep improving." After the marathon, television sports reporter Toni Street asked Robertson how fast she could go. The jockey had no good answer because she hasn't got a clue.
"I've never run to the point of collapse or pushed myself so hard I couldn't breathe. I think I'm a bit of a lazy runner really. I'll feel the pressure go on and I'll ease for a bit and then pick up again."
Robertson grew up in Papatoetoe before moving in her teens to a 2ha block in Ararimu. She and her mother, Grace, bought it at auction when her dad, Ross, was overseas. It's a bit of a family joke, she explains, adding that Dad didn't mind. "We'd hounded for 15 years for land for the horses. Me and Mum have a thing of doing that we ask for forgiveness, not permission!"
Robertson suspects she got her love of horses from her mother who as a girl in England shared in the ownership of a pony. As for running, both parents ran as part of their training for rugby and soccer. "Dad is what you call a stayer, to use horse racing terms, and Mum is a sprinter," she says, "I think I have a mix of both."
She regularly ran a six and a 10km block near home but didn't think to compete. Hence the sportsmaster's comment when the diminutive Robertson almost beat the Kings College star in the Year 13 cross country. "He came up to me and said 'where the hell have you been?"'
Next indication she might be uncommonly good came when she signed up for the police. The toughest part of the fitness test is the 2.4km run. Robertson knocked it out in a time she was told was the fastest in 20-odd years.
Policing contributed to her resolute character. "I started in Manurewa, crime capital of the country. Nothing really phases me now."
She recalls the police college tutor describing the various areas to the new graduates. "Pukekohe was driving problems, Otahuhu was something like drugs, Papakura was burglaries and Manurewa was like 'you've got a problem with everything. Good luck'." Yet it's a job she wants to return to. She is on two years extended leave from the police and hopes it can be further extended now she has made the long list for London. "I want to stay in the police ... but at 28, now is the time for my running."
Robertson has the police to thank for her blossoming running career. "Being pestered" by Counties Manakau district physical education officer Rhonda Lee to take running seriously led her to Bowden.
The rest is not so much history as history in the making.
She needs to knock nine minutes off her Auckland time to make the Olympic qualifying standard of 2h 32m. She understands the work that represents and can quote the required pace to the second. "Three minutes 36 seconds per/km the whole way!"
She will have one shot at it, in the Nagano Marathon in April, and is typically grounded about the challenge. "You can only try," she says. "I could get to Japan and stuff it up." In which case it will be back to Plan A and Rio.
Either way, the jockey who came from nowhere is going places fast.