Leslie Saunders crosses the finish line in a past King of the Mountain race.
Leslie Saunders crosses the finish line in a past King of the Mountain race. Jamin Philp

No challenge in too steep for queen of the mountain

LESLIE Saunders decribes herself as not the sort of person to sit around, which is just as well.

On top of her work as a year one teacher at Pomona State School, Ms Saunders is an endurance rider and trail and mountain runner,

She rode in the 120km Equestrian Australia Endurance Championships at Imbil last weekend before her horse was vetted out at the 80m mark and will back up this Sunday by running for the ninth time in the annual King of the Mountain race at the Pomona.

Leslie Saunders tackles Mount Cooroora.
Leslie Saunders tackles Mount Cooroora. Jamin Philp

MS Saunders said she had been “on the go” since she was a kid.

“It’s in my personality. I find it really hard to sit still. I thrive on having a go and I just love it,” she said.

“I just love training and I love running. I’m not the kind of person who hates training. I really love it.”

Ms Saunders began running the mountain when her children were little and does it every second day, training closer to home near Cooroy on the others, rides on the weekends and does lesson and marking preparation at night.

“I sleep really well and I eat well. I go out occasionally but most of the time, especially weekends, my head is down training,” she said.

She enjoys pushing her limits, even when it hurts, telling herself the pain is only temporary.

Leslie Saunders  training some future King of the Mountain runners?
Leslie Saunders training some future King of the Mountain runners? Jamin Philp

Ms Saunders has been trying to instil that same mindset in the kids she coaches in running after school every week.

“There’s an element of ‘this is hurting’ and discomfort and I talk to them about when I’m feeling that. It’s that building of resilience,” she said.

Between 20 and 30 kids, initially from Pomona but now from surrounding schools at Amamoor, Eumundi, Cooran and Cooroy train with her.

Ms Saunders helped instigate a Prince and Princess of the Mountain race for kids which will be held for this first time this year on Saturday, even stumping up the prize money for them “like the big race.”

Although she was the Queen of the Mountain in 2014, she is not sure of her own chances this Sunday but the run, the step by step homage to the mountain, is as important, if not more important than the win.

Although she no longer runs morning and night, with her children waiting at the foot of the trail for her to come home and cook dinner, the mountain is not just her challenge, but her friend.

“It’s kind of my thing, and that’s why I just say to kids, even when it’s really hard, it can be a really positive place,” she said

“I’m not a real social sort of person but when I go there, I always see someone to say hello to or someone who someone who is making their little journey up there,” she said.

“I’ve seen people throwing ashes off. I’ve seen people putting balloons up because someone died and the mountain was the highest place they could get to heaven.

“For me, that place is just a part of me. I’m so terribly, terribly grateful that I got it into my life.”