Whitaker will participate in the Bike & Hike Sunday and the swim Monday, joining Kevin, who will also accept the paddle challenge. So, with the moral suppor
t of their children and parents, Rita Capps and Gary Whittington of Whiteville, “Team Whitaker” has accepted and intends to complete all four Take the Lake Personal Endurance Challenges.
Along with the daily chores of managing a family, Whitaker, a wife and mother of two, has found her own inspiration in exercise.
“This is my sanity,” she said, “Instead of going shopping, I train. Everyone has to release stress and anxiety at times, and cycling, running, swimming or just exercising helps me do that.” She can’t always be with her children while she exercises, but she understands that fitness for one makes better health for all. So she tells her children, “I owe it to you all to take better care of myself.” And they will soon understand that caring for their own fitness and health will help their own families grow strong.
Whitaker gets her greatest motivation when she can find a way to “set a goal and step outside of my comfort zone,” she said. The Bike & Hike should be easy for her, but she’s looking forward to Labor Day, when she will attempt to swim the longest distance of her life.
That’s the kind of challenge that keeps her going, with the actual swim just the icing on the cake. She likes to find a significant challenge that is scheduled months away, and then train for it. Each day she wakes up with thoughts of being closer and more fit and ready for that “big day.”
Whitaker also finds strength in Kevin, an N.C. Guardsman. “We motivate each other,” she said. For the Whitaker’s efforts, Kevin will receive two John A. McNeill awards, while Natalee will receive one JAMA for the Bike & Hike and one Lee J. Greer award for the swim.
The JAMA is a custom-made resin token donated by the McNeill family, and the Lee J. Greer award is a gold coin that Colliers Jewelers has donated to swimmers for decades.
An expansion of the Labor Day Swim and the newer Walk/Run around Lake Waccamaw, Take the Lake is in its second official year, and organizers hope to double last year’s participation of more than 400 people completing more than 500 challenges. Early registration is encouraged at Takethelake.org.
Whitaker, who was recognized in the Eastern Carolina Parent magazine’s second annual Fit Mom contest, is far from being a full-time athlete, exercising as little as three times a week for a half hour. Some days she’ll burn up an hour or more, and in triathlon season she’ll train up to six days a week, but it’s a flexible schedule that often includes her family.
“It’s fun to get out there and exercise together,” she said. In a few years, the Whitaker children may take on a Personal Endurance Challenge or two, and Noah, 5, ran in his first race recently. It was only one mile, but it took Noah much further, from an anxious contender to an excited and successful participant.
“After the race, he told me ‘I was so nervous before, but I want to do another one next weekend!’” Natalee said. It’s the confidence of success that brings with it a healthier son and a healthier family, and as a fit mom, for Natalee Whitaker that is a first-place finish for the greatest success of all.