I first heard about Erin Poirier on a long slow run through the streets of Halifax one Sunday morning while chatting with one of my running buddies. "She's running 430 kilometres across The Gambia to raise funds for HIV and malaria education. At least a half marathon for 17 days," said my friend Wendy, who I've profiled in a previous Runner in Profile spot. Wow, I thought! There's another person with dedication!
I checked out Erin's blog, http://www.love4gambia.com/, and I became even more impressed -- not only does she have this amazing goal on the horizon, she's done volunteer work in The Gambia before, she's a nurse and a coach, along with being a great blogger with a good sense of humour and one of the city's top female runners. So much to be inspired by! I'm always amazed by all of the amazing people and athletes who live in our small city.
I contacted Erin, and she was generous enough to agree to answer my HRG Runner Profile questions, even though she's busy training for the Boston Marathon and raising funds for her charity through the Blue Nose Marathon in May.
Without further ado, I give you Erin Poirier, today's HRG Runner Profile. I hope to continue following her progress after Boston, the Blue Nose and as she sets off on her journey across The Gambia.
HRG: How and why did you start running?
EP: I played high school basketball and my coach was serious about us showing up in shape at the beginning of the season. I used to run in the off-season for fitness. Looking back, I enjoyed running and had more talent for it than I did basketball. I’ve been running since.
HRG: Least favorite part of running?EP: I wouldn’t actually call any part of running my “least favorite” part but when you’re training for a marathon or a big event like my Gambian running expedition, some runs are more work than others. When I talk to people about my running, I think that some falsely believe that I love every single run that I do. That definitely isn’t true. This cycle, I’ve been training 6 days per week and I certainly don’t love all 6 days. Some days my body feels poorly. Some days I simply don’t want to. I run alone 1 or 2 days out of 6 and these days are usually the most difficult. But I have race goals and a bigger Gambian goal and running 6 days is what I do. So I get out and do it, even when I don’t want to and even when it feels bad. A difficult run is always better when it is over.
HRG: Favorite distance to run?
EP: Either the half or full marathon, I can’t decide which. This fall, I focused solely on the half-marathon and really enjoyed the shorter race distance, especially the specific speed training that I did with my coach. Least favorite distance is definitely the 10km! I find 10km harder than a full marathon -- it’s a long distance to run fast for.
HRG: How do you keep motivated?
EP: I love to run. It’s what I do. The last turn, that left hand turn onto Boylston Street, in the Boston Marathon feels pretty unbelievable. High fiving kids, soldiers, drunk college students and grandmothers along the Boston route is pretty awesome, too. I love my time alone on the roads during training. I love the
camaraderie of my training partners. I love the thought of the money raised by my 430 km Love4Gambia run and how it will make a real difference for youth and communities in The Gambia; how it will keep kids alive through HIV and malaria education. All of this is wrapped up in my motivation. Especially during early
HRG: Upcoming race goal?
EP: Set a big PB at Boston Marathon. This will be my third consecutive Boston and I’m really happy with this training cycle so am in good shape to do this.
HRG: Tips or words of wisdom for new runners?
EP: My first tip is about training plans. If you have a training plan, even if it was made by the most respected runner you know, remember that it’s just a piece of paper. It doesn’t have to rule your life. Let your body and your enjoyment of running rule your life. My training plan was made by my coach, Cliff Matthews.
In my opinion, no ones knows more about distance running than Cliff. We make adjustments to my training plan all the time based on how I am feeling and how my body is responding to hard work.
My other tip is for race day. When you toe the line at your goal race, make sure you smile and enjoy every (or at least most) kilometer(s) of your run. Remember that, when you show up, you’ve already done all of the hard work to prepare. Getting to run the race- that’s the reward for all of your hard work in training. It’s
the fun part. So go out there, listen to people cheer for you, have fun and enjoy.
HRG: What are you most looking forward to as you run across The Gambia?
I’m really looking forward to the people who will join me along the way. I ran almost every day when I volunteered in The Gambia 3 summers ago. Where white girl from Canada runs, people usually follow! I’m looking forward to being joined by kids and youth. I’ve heard from several Gambian runners who wish to
join me for parts of the 430km road from the Senegalese border to the Atlantic Ocean. This is going to be really inspiring for me.
I’ve also been thinking a lot about how the money that we raise for the Nova Scotia-Gambia Association through my run will make a difference. When I am running those 430 kms, I know that I’ll consider that almost 1,000 kids under age 5 died of malaria in 2010. In a country with the population of Nova Scotia. And
when I look at the child or the big brother running next to me, I’ll know what the NSGA may be able to save that child or that guy’s little brother’s life.
I’ve already got my sights set on the Atlantic Ocean. It’ll take me 17 hot, humid, sweaty and hopefully-not-snake-filled days to reach it. Jumping into the ocean on the shore of Banjul is going to be pretty special.