Ian and Pat Birnie

This fall, Pat and Ian Birnie made a pilgrimage. Their journey on the Camino de Santiago — also known as The Way of St. James — took them on the voyage of a lifetime across the country of Spain.

The 510-mile (820 kilometers) trek took the couple a little more than 23 days, though most people do it in 33. The Birnies averaged 22 miles (35 kilometers) a day, waking at 5:30 or 6 a.m. and hitting their destination early in the afternoon so they could relax and recharge.

Even though the couple often talked, sang, or visited with new-found friends, they also spent many hours walking in contemplative silence.


The Birnies started early each day, so they often entered the first town as the sun came up. This is entering Astorga.

“This is something I am not very good at so I really loved the opportunity to think and meditate,” Pat says. “I dedicated a day to each of my four children (who range from 21-32 years old) and spent time remembering details of each of their lives, committing special moments to memory. …  I thought about things I would like to improve and change about myself and how I will go about this. This adventure truly made me aware of how fortunate we are for so many things.”

“We started our adventure as something to do but it soon became spiritual,” Ian explains. “Pat spent long stretches of each day reflecting on her past and her children. I spent time thinking of all the people I lost in my life. … Walking long hours allowed us this opportunity to reflect.”

Running Translates into Soul Mate

The Birnies make their journey appear almost easy, but then Pat and Ian are no strangers to physical activity. In fact, the marathoners first became acquainted with each other while running.


Pat and Ian run in the 2010 Park City Marathon.

Pat and Ian met while working at the same corporation. Pat began running during her lunch break and soon found herself in the company of Ian and some other co-workers. Pat and Ian were both in unhappy marriages and found release in running.

Pat initially found Ian annoying, and Ian admits neither really cared for each other at first. But a funny thing happened: “When you run, you talk and you get to know people better,” Ian says. “As my marriage worsened and ended, Pat and I started to enjoy each other’s company outside of running.”

One thing led to another, and the two fell in love.

“It’s pretty amazing to meet your soul mate at 48 years old,” Pat says. “(Ian) is wonderful with our grandchildren, playful, teasing and very patient. He believes that I can do anything, especially when I doubt myself so he nudges me along and doesn’t allow me to quit.”

“The thing I love about (Pat) is how a caring person she is,” Ian says. “She is a great mom and her children know it and frequently express it. Pat puts out my vitamins every morning and evening, so she still cares about me. We have a lot of shared interests such as our activities and we both love to travel.”

Differences Equal Success

The Gold Directors’ shared interests have helped them build a USANA business, but it’s their differences, Pat says, that balance things out.

“It’s a business for a couple to believe in and work together,” Ian says.

Pat poses by a sign on the Camino de Santiago trail.

Pat poses by a sign on the Camino de Santiago trail.

“Ian speaks to strangers much more easily than I do — something I constantly work at improving! So he is able to start conversations that could lead to a new business partner,” Pat explains. “Once he gets the conversation going, I join the conversation and help to identify if there is a need.”

That said, the Birnies don’t have all their eggs in one basket. While Pat spends her time focusing on their USANA business, Ian focuses on their real estate investments. Both generate residual income and have opened doors to new opportunities.

“We have a few goals,” Ian says, “We are working toward Ruby Director, and we will work at it till it becomes as solid as where we are with our current Gold status. Our constant goal is to have Associates be successful. If they’re successful then we are all successful. We want to work with anyone that is willing to put the time into the business.”

USANA, Pat says, has changed their lives for the better.

“I have always been healthy and had lots of energy, but could never imagined feeling the way I do now,” she says. “A big part of that is doing what I love, and knowing that I am making a difference in the world by helping people get healthier and helping them create financial freedom. One of my biggest motivators in starting a business was that I wanted to feel like I was making a difference in the world. I love that now, everything I do helps people.”

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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2 replies
  1. Anita and Courtney
    Anita and Courtney says:

    Thanks Pat and Ian for your inspiring blogs from the Camino hike, we are in awe of your 23 day completion time.

  2. Skip Kanester
    Skip Kanester says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your inspiring story! Walking the Camino is something my wife and I want to do so reading your account makes us even more excited. If I might ask- what was your starting point?


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