Inspirational Athlete Spotlight: Xpatrunner
Have you ever wanted to travel the world? Wouldn’t you love to have a stress-free moment to get away from it all by running the streets of Greece, the mountains of Switzerland, or the beaches of the Maldives? Whether you personally have the means or time to master the art of life and travel, at least on a daily perspective you can live vicariously through the eyes of a runner making her way, bit by bit, around the world with Erin and her Instagram page @xpatrunner. Erin takes you to many wonderful places while at the same time genuinely tells you how it is to juggle fitness, work, and personal lifestyle. Her photos are beautiful, capturing both her and the nature that surrounds her on her newest adventures while her words of inspiration, from a daily quote to motivating key phrases, help us all to stay in the game. So let’s give a warm welcome to the XPATRUNNER.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself: who you are, where you’re from, what you do?
Sure, thanks so much for the opportunity Kristy & @runnerclick!
Hi everyone, I’m Erin from @xpatrunner. I am an expat from the USA (hence my IG handle), currently living in Switzerland. I am a bit of a mutt…born in Texas, lived in Australia growing up and went to high school in Singapore. I also spent a few years in France teaching English after university before getting my first master’s degree in Boston. Home feels like Boston to me.
I am an oncology nurse practitioner by training, having most recently worked at Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston before moving to Switzerland. I now work in consulting while I am obtaining an Executive MBA at the University of St. Gallen. Next year I am looking to transition into the digital health space, likely with an oncology startup, in hopes of once again tackling cancer but from a different angle.
Running and travel are some of my greatest passions in life and I hope to be doing both for a very long time!
Why is running a passion for you?
I love the way it makes me feel. It is the one thing I do for myself – it is my “me” time every day. While I love to set goals and train, I also love to run just for the pure enjoyment of it. It is something I can do anywhere and everywhere and is a great way to stay healthy, explore new places and meet new people. Running is something I have been doing for over 20 years and I honestly cannot imagine life without it!
You worked in the healthcare field before leaving the states to become an ex-patriot. How did you choose to work in that field? Would you say working healthcare has had an impact on your own lifestyle choices?
I have worked in the field of clinical oncology for over 10 years now. I am a nurse practitioner (NP) by training, which most people in the USA are familiar with. For those outside of the USA, NPs have a scope of practice that is very similar to that of physicians. I had a lot of interests growing up but was always drawn to healthcare, and more specifically to oncology, when my grandmother passed away from breast cancer while I was in junior high.
My upbringing had the biggest impact on my lifestyle choices, not so much my career choice. My parents were both athletic and led a healthy lifestyle, so it was something ingrained in me from a young age. I also started sports when I was 5 years old, so I grew up being a pretty sporty kid and loved being active.
What my career has had an impact on, however, is practicing gratitude – especially when it comes to having time. Time is the most valuable asset we have. I make a point of being conscious of time every day and of not taking anything or anyone for granted. I learned this over and over again from my patients. No one plans on getting cancer, but once this diagnosis is given, I have heard time and time again the laments of regret. People always think they have more time. They put off doing the things they want to do, making the changes they hope to make or seeing the people they think they will get around to seeing one day. I try to honor the patients I lost to cancer by keeping their memories close and practicing gratitude daily. I also try to make sure I am consciously making decisions and not putting off anything important that I will get around to “later.”
As an expat, you have found it challenging to transition your career over internationally. A silver lining has been that you have been able to pursue a master’s degree. How do you incorporate a change in career and workload alongside with running?
It has definitely been challenging! However, our decision to move to Switzerland did factor into my career change. Moving outside of the USA meant that I would step away from being an NP for the time being. This is because the NP role does not yet exist in Switzerland (or most of Europe for that matter).
Our plan was for me to pursue an MBA and work as a consultant upon leaving Boston. I applied to my MBA program before we left the USA and was accepted shortly after moving to Basel.
I am currently transitioning away from clinical care into the world of digital health. It is a bit scary to be leaving something I did for so long, but I am excited to be involved in the fight against cancer from a different angle.
Regarding running, I am not sure how well I balanced my fitness goals on top of school and work. I set several goals and signed up for multiple races this year, but I pulled out of every single one of them. Training and racing was no longer my priority – and rightfully so. Instead, I focused on running as a way of maintaining fitness and balance in my life. Once I took away the (self-induced) pressure to train and compete, running became a way to release stress, which is exactly what I needed this year. A good friend reminded me that competing will always be there, and I look forward to getting back to it once I finish my MBA in 2019!
You run the world making a lot of us live vicariously through you! Where have been some of your favorite and least favorite places to run?
Ahh, so cool to hear! One of my life goals is to see as much of the world as possible and to run everywhere I go. In fact, I originally started my Instagram account to document where I went running!
To date, some of my favorite places I’ve run include the Dingle Peninsula, Ireland; Santorini, Greece; and Zermatt, Switzerland. My least favorite place to run has been Dubai…too hot, too dusty and too much traffic!
Your Instagram page is popular as an amateur runner. Could you put perspective on how that came to be?
That’s a great question! I’m honored that so many people find my page interesting. I initially started my Instagram account when I knew we were moving to Switzerland. It was a way to document where we traveled, the places I ran and the training I was doing. Mostly, I did not want to bombard my personal account with running shots.
I really had no idea such a huge running community existed when I started my page. I am glad I did because I have met so many wonderful people and have made some really great friends because of @xpatrunner. I am truly grateful to be part of this running community!
You have landed yourself a pretty good gig as an ambassador for big brand names like Asics and Garmin. Congratulations! Can you give us a little insight into what being an ambassador means and entails?
Thanks so much!! I feel really lucky to be a part of the ASICS FrontRunner and Garmin Ambassador teams. Being a part of these teams, especially as an expat, has provided me with a “home” away from home so to speak.
Garmin and ASICS are my two absolute favorite running brands and I have such fond memories of both throughout my years as a runner. My dad gave me my first Garmin Forerunner 101 when I was in university and it was a game changer in the way that I trained and tracked my running. I have owned nearly every Garmin running watch that was released since then and feels that I have grown in running along with my watches. Same with my shoes. One of my favorite pairs to date was a bright blue pair of Asics Nimbus 14 I picked up in San Francisco in 2012. I forgot to pack running shoes with me so bought them up on the road. I had some memorable runs along Highway 1 in those shoes. Most of my running memories – especially fond ones – involve both Garmin and ASICS.
To me, being an ambassador for these brands means that I represent companies that I know and love. They are so much a part of my running life that I cannot imagine going for a run without them. To me, they epitomize running and a healthy lifestyle, which I try my best to embody.
What are some of your upcoming goals?
Great question! I plan on refocusing on my running goals once I finish my MBA early next year. My goal is to break 40 minutes the 10km again (which I have not done since I was much younger) and to qualify for the Boston marathon. My aim for 2019 is to get some training consistency under my belt to see what I am capable of achieving.
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about going back to school and juggling a healthy lifestyle plus personal and family life?
Go for it! I am all for education and continuing to learn throughout our lifetimes. That being said, the older we get, the more things in life we have to juggle, so flexibility is key. It is important to prioritize as well because it is nearly impossible to do all things well…at least for me! This year I had high hopes of running races and achieving PRs, but I found out quickly that I would not be able to train the way I needed to in order to achieve the goals I had set for myself. Instead, I focused on running to maintain my fitness and adjusted the timeline of my goals.
Ultimately, a little goes a long way when it comes to fitness. I believe that getting in a little physical activity every day does wonders – even if it is going for a walk with colleagues. Telling your close friends and loved ones your goals also helps keep you accountable when you are juggling a full plate of activities.