Countdown to Marathon By The Sea

********* 2017 The Running Whys – Erin Whitman

Erin Whitman print


by Kevin Barrett

Erin Whitman, who graduated from NBCC in Saint John, started running at 34 years old and now had three marathons to her credit, including the Ottawa Marathon earlier his year. Here is her running story.

“My mom is confined to a wheelchair and cannot walk or even stand up, so I was running for both of us. And when the going got tough, I would remember why and who I was running for.”

Tell us a bit of your background, your family. Where are you from, what do you do for a living?

I’m an only child and grew up in Minto with my parents, Ralph and Nancy Barton. After graduation, I went to NBCC in Saint John for the Medical Laboratory Technology program. I got married to James, who I met at NBCC, and we live in Maugerville with our two young children. I’ve been working at the Dr. Everett Chalmers Hospital in Fredericton for 16 years as a Lab technologist.

When did you start to run?

I was always in to sports growing up, but never in to running. I actually didn’t start until 2012 when I was 34.

Most importantly, why did you start to run?

My husband was my initial inspiration to give running a try. He was a runner before I was. He convinced me to try a 5k race at the Fall Classic in Fredericton in 2012. After the Fredericton run, I swore I would never do it again – I loathed every second of it haha.  In 2014, a few months after my second child was born, I decided to give running another try. I really don’t know why or what made me get out there that first time  – maybe it was so I could have an hour to myself.  I instantly fell in love with the sport. I ran my first half marathon that fall and my first marathon the following spring.

Many people have goal for a particular year – what were/are your big goals for 2017 and beyond.

My big goal for 2017 was to run my 3rd marathon. I ran the Ottawa Marathon on May 28th. I had a time goal in mind but I really just wanted to do better than the last time, and I did so I was happy. I guess that’s what I work towards with every race I participate in, just to do a wee bit better than the last time, even if it’s just by mere seconds! I’d like to work on my half marathon training next. And beyond??? I *might* be participating in my first triathlon soon…the heart is ready but I’m not sure the training is. I haven’t officially signed up yet, but I’m at 95%. And I also have hallucinations of doing an ultra haha…maybe someday!!

What is your most memorable run? Maybe there are two or three? Is there a dramatic finish, result or cause you have run for?

I’ve had a few memorable runs, but two really stand out. The first is a 5k fun run I did with my dad two years ago. He was 64 and ran his first 5k run. It was awesome being able to run next to him and cheer him on. The second has to be the Ottawa race. Through their affiliate, Scotiabank, you can raise money for various charities, so I chose the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada. My mom was diagnosed with MS in her 20’s and over the years I’ve participated in many fundraising events, but this one by far was the most meaningful. My mom is confined to a wheelchair and cannot walk or even stand up, so I was running for both of us.

And when the going got tough, I would remember why and who I was running for. I had been having some knee issues so I had taped up my knee with KT tape, and I wrote all of my sponsors on it.  I would look down and see the names and it gave me strength to keep going. The last 2.2km took FOREVER lol. At the 400m sign, I got really emotional, thinking about my mom and how, if she could, she would definitely be out there cheering me on.

Do you have regular training partners, a regular training route?

I used to always run alone. I didn’t really know anyone in the local running community and was kind of shy about meeting new people…because…you know…I’m not a “real runner” lol. At least that’s what I used to think. A couple of years ago, I came across a Facebook group for New Brunswick female runners. I joined and sat back and read all the posts and didn’t really say to much.

Then one day, I finally got over my shyness and spoke to a few girls that I ” knew” from the Facebook group. I started running a bit with them and my love for the sport grew. I got to know one girl quite well and became good friends, but she moved back to SJ.

I really missed our chats and laughs together. She pulled me through my first half marathon and had this uncanny ability to talk me into doing races haha.  I decided I should take a chance and sign up for a Running Room clinic and meet even more people. Through the clinic, I have made many new friends, but there’s always that one person that is just the right “fit” for you.

Its hard to believe in just a short time that we have shared so many miles, stories, laughs, crappy runs and even a few tears in just a short time. We’ve trained together and ran marathons together. Cheers to Flat Nat (Natalie Neville)…she definitely got me through the winter marathon training….couldn’t have done it without her!

What do you like most about running?

It’s funny because there are still times that I absolutely hate running…usually this is when I’m having a bad run (like everyone does at some point!), but these thoughts quickly pass. I like how it makes me feel strong, how it clears my head after a long day. I’m a much better parent after I run haha. I like how it shows my kids that it’s good to be active. I love the running community…it doesn’t matter how fast or slow you are…everyone is welcomed with open arms. Annnnd….I also like to eat…I run so I can eat all of the foods. 😉

Do you have any other thoughts about running you would like to share?

I never dreamed I would run a marathon…now I have three medals hanging on my bedroom wall. Running isn’t just a physical activity, a big part of it is mental as well. Convince yourself that it can be done and be prepared to be amazed at what your body can do…whether it’s 1km or 42km, everything is a personal victory.