For her, a professional runner of more than 10 years, it has been paramount to create her own path, one that will allow her to be the best version of herself – not only as an athlete but as a person. The harder she tried to live by the rules of the industry, the ones she was told were required to be successful, the more she was unhappy. Her world was too small. Too limited. She needed something bigger. Something more. And when she chose to open herself up to the idea and expand her horizons, she found not just joy but success.
The presentation was not about Oiselle or Nike, the USATF or athlete rights. She spoke about herself and what it took to find her place, experiencing the lowest of lows and the highest of highs. As a runner, as a mom, as a fan girl – it was captivating to hear. From social media and her pieces for Runner's World, Ask Lauren and Oiselle's blog, I thought she was refreshing, honest and, well, totally rad. I liked Lauren Fleshman, as a representative of the industry. But I didn't know why I liked her as a runner or even why I should.
"The person that's last place always has a story."
And, now, I know – but not for the list of accomplishments that were on the banquet program. It was that she shared she came in last in the finals of the 2012 Olympic Trials for the 5K. It's this emotional video of an interview taken after she qualified for said finals. It's that she still has hope, she still has the dream of going to the Olympics. Eyes set on 2016. It's that she's been injured and remained driven during recovery. It's that she tried to run at times and couldn't. It's that she had the courage to believe and she did.
I came away from the banquet with new-found respect, admiration and kinship. OK, so the last part's a stretch – it's not like we're BFFs now – but she totes showed the most relatable picture (to me) in the beginning of her presentation: She was at a triathlon, cheering on husband Jesse Thomas, with son Jude in a carrier on her back. Jesse was running, Lauren was enthusiastic and Jude was screaming. (See it HERE; I don't feel like stealing.)
It sort of reminds me of that photo post-Veterans Marathon when I'm sweaty and exhausted, Kasey is beaming and Miles has a bloody lip.
And now, as Lauren looks forward, she insists it's not about the times. It's not about what she's done or could have done. It's where she's going and she's moving forward.
"Honor the narrative of your running."
But should I honor my inability to take a serious photo, that is the question?
Other banquet highlights:
- Lauren noticing my fan girl nerdiness in wearing the Fleshman Flyer shirt. I think I was a bit self effacing rather than gracious but 'tis my style.
- Finally getting my hands on a "Believe" journal and having her sign it. I think I'm going to save it for my post-baby comeback.
- Celebrating and honoring the sport of running, what it has done for me and how it has expanded my world.