Erin Burrett of Nanaimo, BC won the 2015 GoodLife Fitness Victoria Marathon in her debut at the distance. She finished in the time of 2:39:17 and finished ahead of the very experienced marathoner and pre-race favourite Lioudmila Kortchaguina of Toronto. Burrett sped past her with just 400-metres remaining in the race.
Burrett grew up running track and has always dabbled in running; however, the Victoria marathon represents a significant breakthrough for her.
Her personal bests are:
Half Marathon: 1:15:01
Christopher Kelsall: You have come a long way in your running. Your trajectory has had several fits and starts including not running seriously for a long time. What provided the renewed and serious focus?
Erin Burrett: I think the fact that I was a successful runner as a kid (up until puberty anyway) it has always been a factor as to why I got back into running. From ages 8 to 18 running was a huge part of my life and although I was burnt out and frustrated when I stopped track after high school, I never really left running. I ran off and on over the years in various road races and then after foot surgery on both of my feet in 2006, I regained the joy in running again and slowly the competitive side in me came back. There is nothing like the feeling of running a personal best, which is what is so addicting about this sport.
CK: What procedure did you have on your feet?
EB: I was blessed to grow up with bunions on both of my feet and unfortunately in early 2005 I had a job that kept me on my feet upwards of 12 hours a day standing on concrete so my feet took quite a beating and became painful. After a year of waiting for appointments with specialists I was finally able to have them operated on in 2006 (right in April and left in September). By the end of November I was back running again. It was 100% the best decision I could have made for my feet as I couldn’t even walk without pain prior to surgery.
CK: Nanaimo seems to have a very competitive High School track and cross-country culture, especially the past few years. Are you involved in coaching or helping out at one of the high schools?
EB: I am not involved with coaching through any of the high schools, but I do try my best to attend and help assist with the Nanaimo Track Club alongside Tyler Heisterman and also Al Johnson who happens to me my former coach from high school. Unfortunately due to my work schedule I am unable to commit to the club full time as one week I miss one of three practices and the next I miss two of three. I am also sometimes unable to attend their races or meets. I would love to help out more but at this current time, I am unable to. You are right though, Nanaimo has quite a few young athletes that are doing extremely well. It has been great to watch some of them evolve as the years go by.
CK: You must have been at many high school meets with Steve Osaduik, who also won the GoodLife Fitness Victoria Marathon and held the course record for a few years at 2:16:49, yes?
EB: Yes, Steve was only two years older than me, so he and I basically grew up in the Nanaimo Track Club while working under the same coach.
CK: Can you tell me about Westcoast Endurance?
EB: Matt (Clout) and I started West Coast Endurance for people who would like to get more out of their running. We’ve noticed a lot of runners plateau or do all the wrong things in training. There are so many different training methods, fads and misinformation, that it’s hard for people to know what exactly to do or where to start. Clinics and running groups are a great place to start for beginners but they are usually a generic one-size-fits-all plan that might not help you improve or address all areas of training. Our goal is to guide runners of all abilities to personal bests in any distance and to design a schedule that fits within their daily life so they can meet their goals.
CK: Just a few years ago you were running 10K in 38-miutes on the roads. How does it feel to win a rolling marathon in the time of 2:39:17 in your debut, no less?
EB: Years ago when I would run 45-minute 10K’s and 1:45:00 half-marathons, I remember dreaming of running a sub-40 minute 10K, or even a 1:35:00 half-marathon. Slowly those turned into dreams of sub-38 and sub-1:30 and progressed from there. Back in 2008, never did I imagine my best half would be 30 minutes faster nor did I imagine I would run a 2:39:17 debut marathon. To be honest it feels amazing as my first marathon was definitely a positive experience and I am not just saying that because I ended up winning. It was positive in the fact that minus a brief blip with my glute, the race felt amazing the entire way through. I felt strong, smooth and in control. It was such a positive feeling that right after the finish there was already talks with my coach (Matt Clout/West Coast Endurance) about the next one.
CK: It appears by looking at your splits you had a plan and stuck to it, although you were a tad fast in the first 10K, but right on pace at half-way. From your perspective how did the race play out in comparison to your plans?
EB: This in an interesting question because I am not really sure how to answer it as essentially I ran the race blind and didn’t really pay attention to my watch. I looked at the odd km split here and there to see what it said based on how I felt at the time, but I never once looked at my overall cumulative time. I had no idea where I was at 10K, half-way, 30K etc. The first time I saw my overall time was once the finish line came into view. Probably not the smartest way to have run, but quite often I ignore my watch in races and just run. Nothing is worse than feeling you are running really fast, to look down at your watch and realize you aren’t, so I tend to avoid it. I did have Matt out on course telling me my pace at various locations, which at the time I thought was my average pace since the last time I had seen him on course (I have since realized it was my average pace for the entire race) but he never mentioned my overall time.
With regard to actual plans, personally I had a goal going into the race of running sub-2:40 and I wanted to finish as top Canadian, but Matt was putting way less pressure on me, telling me anything around 2:40-2:42 or so would be a good goal for my first marathon. I do know that he wanted me to go out slower for the first half and pick it up. I went out with Lioudmila (Kortchaguina) as she has more experience and then she pulled away after 5K in an attempt to get the course record it appears. I on the other hand held back and stayed patient and just clicked off the kilometres. Eleven kms into the race I didn’t actually feel that great and wondered if I had gone out too fast. I believe as the course began rolling towards the Oak Bay area, my splits slowed a bit as Matt said 15-20k was where I fell off pace a bit. Thankfully in the second half I was able to negative split and come home strong. I am pleased with how the race went and more-so how it felt, but I am definitely hungry for another on a faster course.
CK: Athletics Canada’s standard for the 2015 IAAF World Track and Field Championships was 2:35:00, only 4:17 faster than you ran on Sunday in your debut. Will you be focussing on the distance and going after that qualifying standard in the spring?
EB: For the last few years, both Matt and I thought that the marathon would be my event. I seem to have more potential as the race gets longer and I definitely enjoy the longer distances more so. Quite often I have stood on the start of a 5K and thought “why couldn’t this be a half-marathon.” I don’t seem to have that turnover required to excel for the shorter events, but at the same time I wouldn’t say my training has ever really focused on the shorter events.
Knowing that the 2015 World Championship standard was 2:35:00 definitely makes that a goal for my future marathons and based off how Victoria felt, the fact there were zero pacers, at least half the race was pretty much run solo and due to the nature of the course, I feel that it is a realistic goal. While I have technically hit what appears to be the IAAF 2016 Olympic Entry Standard of 2:42:00, it is not Athletics Canada’s (AC) standard of 2:29:50. While hitting the Olympic Standard would be a dream come true, taking just under 10 minutes off my time before qualifying ends is probably a bit unrealistic. Maybe 2020!
CK: What volume of training were you getting up to over the spring and summer of 2015? What did a typical training week look like for you?
EB: I had a few weeks off after the Sun Run dealing with an injury, followed by some cross training and then back into regular training near the end of May, I believe. We didn’t really change too much mileage-wise between training for the half-marathon and the full. The only thing we really changed would have been by putting more emphasis on marathon type workouts and of course the long run eventually became slightly longer. A typical training week is an easy double on Monday, a tempo style workout on Tuesday, easy double on Wednesday, medium length run on Thursday, a speed workout Friday, a shorter run or recovery day Saturday and then a long run and or long run-workout on Sunday. Mileage varied of course depending on the week but probably averaged 130-140K per week.
CK: That is fairly light volume for someone to run a marathon at that level. Do you continue to work on your feet all day?
EB: Some weeks had mileage over 140K, for example when I was in Flagstaff, but that was probably on average while at home and fitting in work as well. I do work part time as a health care aide in a senior’s assisted living facility so I do spend most evenings on my feet. The roughest part I would say are the days where I have to run doubles and also work. That results in running before work and then running my second run on my dinner break. It’s not the best for recovery to go straight from working, into a run and then back to work, but I make do. Mileage has been higher in the past but due to injuries during Spring 2014 and Spring 2015, we played it more cautiously.
CK: Does running on your dinner break provide a de-stressing benefit?
EB: As in de-stressing from work? Oh probably though generally my legs feel terrible on these runs versus a second run on days I do not work. But yes, sometimes it’s nice just to get away and clear my mind for a bit. I generally tell my co-workers that I am running away and will think about coming back, hah!
CK: What are your racing plans and goals for 2016?
EB: Immediately post-Victoria (and I mean right at the finish line) race plans and goals for 2016 were beginning to be discussed. Victoria was a smart choice for my first marathon as the rolling course put less pressure on a super-fast time; however, for my next marathon I do want a much faster course so that I can go after those faster times in order to make future national teams. As of right now, the key races will be a fast half-marathon and a faster marathon. I feel as though my current bests do not reflect what I am actually capable of. There might also be some smaller races thrown in for speed work, but those two main races are the main goals. The exact locations of these races are still being negotiated and have not been confirmed as of yet.
See post-race video interview, here: