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Jul 17 2017 - JDLF Athlete Profile: Barry Britt On Making The Transition

Words by Grace Annear


Barry Britt has been on more national teams than just about any other Athletics New Brunswick athlete. He’s represented Canada nine times, including seven Senior National Cross-Country teams. He’s spent the better part of a decade running through the streets of Hampton, NB, the dirt roads of Moscow, Idaho, and the trails of Guelph, Ontario. His long stride floats like a nimble-legged ghost, and elite athletes across Canada know him as an offbeat, lanky east coaster, as a crazy mileage guy who lives on steak and potatoes.


In 2016 he qualified to represent Team Canada—Nouveau-Brunswick at the World Francophone Games. He’s spent 2017 moving in a new direction, while simultaneously gearing up to compete again on the world’s stage.


Inspired by his road running dad and cousin, Barry first started racing in his early teens. In 2005 he medaled in his age category at Legions and qualified for Canada Games. Though the travel opportunities initially hooked him into the sport, he stayed for what he calls “the typical clichés”.


“From the beginning, I loved thrill of racing, of competing and challenging myself, and of seeing personal growth day after day.”


After high school he travelled south of the border. First to Georgia State and then to Idaho, he lived his dream of the near-professional NCAA lifestyle.


“School was paid for. I got free gear, travelled to top meets, and trained in beautiful facilities. I had coaches who treated athletes with the respect of professionals and who put so much work into the program. I had a ton of fun and loved every second of it.”


After coaching and training for a year in Idaho, he joined the Speed River program in Guelph. For two years he lived the professional athlete life, running 160-180km a week and working part-time. For a decade, Barry has excelled in the muddy, tough conditions of the cross-country course, out-gritting fairweather athletes to medal positions at national championships.


Now, he’s entering a new stage of life. Last fall he enrolled in Firefighting at Holland College, and with that came big changes.


“[Being a firefighter] was actually my dream as a little kid – my dad’s a firefighter. In university, I took a class where we had to interview a working professional, so I asked my dad about his work. He gave me a paragraph answer, and it gave me chills. Instantly, I was like ‘I want that for my life’.”


“I’ve always liked that, when you’re a firefighter, you are able to help people on a daily basis.  Whether it’s something big like saving someone from burning building, or saving someone with CPR, or even just lending a shoulder to cry on, I find this profession to be special and meaningful.”


This past year, life as a firefighter-in-training kept him busy. The military-style training began with 5:30 am gym sessions and often ended with classes into the night. This busy schedule forced him to cut down his athletics program – he shifted from fourteen runs per week to four or five.


“I feel like I’m moving into a different stage as an athlete. Last fall was the first time that school came first and running came second. It was a change, but I wasn’t upset. It feels like the right time to make this change, and it’s so cool to pursue something so meaningful to me.”


Throughout the process, he found a ton of connections between running and firefighting. “I noticed, once I started the program, how much things cross over. They’re both oriented around hard work, commitment, attention to detail. But more than that, to be good at it, you need to always want to evolve and get better. Once you graduate, you can’t just sit on your butt. You need to keep learning, keep staying up to date, otherwise you’re limiting yourself and the people you serve.”


“You can’t be a complacent firefighter. To be a good runner it’s the same.”


In May, he passed a final interview for the Saint John Fire Department. After four weeks of additional training, the city of Saint John will hire him as a full-fledged firefighter. In terms of track, Barry’s summer racing plans revolve around competing in the 5k at JDLF in July. He was able to maintain a baseline fitness in the fall, and when classes ended in January, he started ramping back up into training.


To complete as he hopes, he will rely on the deeply ingrained history of miles and miles. Despite having to back off the past year, he knows the time spent hardening his stride will serve him at JDLF this year. More importantly, though, his years and years will of running have prepared him for the next stage of life, one he’s thrilled to begin.



To follow Barry’s journey, hop over to, or check out his social media @brit8180


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