Thursday, August 4, 2011

Catching up on an inspirational HRG Runner Profile: Erin Poirier & Team Love 4 Gambia

I first profiled Erin Poirier as she was still several months of training away from her run across The Gambia to raise money for the Nova Scotia Gambia Association.

As I started following her blog and chatted with her off and on over the weeks before her departure, Erin seemed more than ready to face this challenge -- she'd trained for months, she'd had a great Boston Marathon experience. She had a team that included a nurse, driver and fellow runners. She had a shoe sponsor (ooh, how I'd love some bright pink runners myself :) ).

Two weeks before her flight out to The Gambia, Erin's coach, Cliff Matthews, suggested that she take the time off to rest before her 17-day run. She would be running at least 23 kilometres a day for two and a half weeks, and she'd already injured herself. This was time for rest.

The eve of her departure, I messaged Erin on Twitter to say that I imagined that she must be really excited. She soon tweeted back:

"@Love4GambiaErin I'm so excited that it's turned into ecstatic! RT @HFXRunnerGirl: You must be so excited, Erin!"

But no matter how much training Erin put in over the course of 7 months, no matter the planning and thinking ahead, I'm sure no one on the Love 4 Gambia team could have predicted what a life-changing and inspirational journey that run across The Gambia would be.

Once Erin and her team arrived in The Gambia, they began blogging about her run on a daily basis. Soon, all of us who were reading her posts were pulled into the experience. We soon became familiar with her team -- Ashley, Pa Modu, Kebba and Spider -- and learned how much a part of the experience Team Love 4 Gambia was. Of course it helped that Erin is a great writer, and soon we were sucked into the experience.

In fact, one Saturday, partway through Erin's run, I was meeting a bunch of running friends, including Wendy Bungay, for brunch. But instead of perusing the menu at Chez Tess to decide which of the yummy brunch options they would choose, Wendy was busily scrolling throug her iPhone, a frown on her face.


"Oh good. There's a post from her," she said.

It turns out that Erin hadn't posted for a couple of days, so some of her friends had started to worry -- Erin had posted so regularly that to not hear from her (although we all knew she was in a location where Internet connections were scarce) was worrying.

In the end, after two taped groins, difficult discussions with her gut over food (you really should read her blog posts to see what I mean), heat, exhaustion, running with mamas and children in flip flops, yoga on the side of the road, a missing Akon tape and 423 kilometres, Erin, Ashley, Pa Modu, Kebba and Spider made it to Banjul and jumped into the Atlantic ocean on July 26, 2011.

But instead of telling you about it, I suggest you read one of Erin and Ashley's more recent posts, where they reflect on the journey (which brought tears to several readers' eyes, including mine).

And then I suggest you start at the beginning of the team's run through The Gambia, and read forward. You'll be sucked into her inspiring journey just as I was. And perhaps, you'll be inspired to make a donation, however small or big, to Love 4 Gambia so that children in The Gambia can grow up big and strong.

Congratulations, Team Love 4 Gambia. You are true inspirations.


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