I can’t remember when Lauren Fleshman came to my attention – it wasn’t that long ago, because it had to do with her unconventional plan to run the New York City Marathon to help her train for the 5000 meters in next year’s Olympics – but ever since then I’ve been kind of fascinated by her.
My interest turned into a full-on girl crush when I read her feature in the November issue of Runner’s World, in which she said, “Running isn’t rocket science – you’re wasting your energy if you devote too much thought to it.”
In case you haven’t noticed, I am a huge critic of the dogmatism that tends to linger around serious runners like stank-ass sweaty-foot smell. Maybe I’ve hung around too many running blogs and running forums, but I’ve seen flame wars ignited over whether, I don’t know, runners should strength-train legs or do yoga or wear barefoot shoes or even what qualifies as a barefoot shoe. It’s like, dudes, you are fighting over the esoterica of running. Quit turning everything into a dick-measuring contest and get over yourselves, please.
So I felt validated when I saw that Fleshman, who is an accomplished runner, calling bullshit on the endless debates. I was like, hmm, clearly this lady is smart. (Because when someone agrees with me, it’s a sign of their intellectual refinement and rigor, and not simply a sign that they agree with me. Or something like that.)
I also like that she’s not afraid to try something new. The New York Times ran a feature on her in which they looked at her plan to train for the 5000 meter event by running a marathon. The response was pretty much a universal WTF. Her husband asked her if she was smoking crack, while her coach called it the “stupidest idea [she’d] ever come up with.”
It remains to be seen whether her plan will work out, but one thing is for certain, and that’s that she kicked ass in the marathon, finishing in 2:37:23 – the second-fastest American woman. (She might not agree with my assessment, considering that she struggled in the final miles, but Lauren, this mere mortal still thinks you rocked your first marathon like a hurricane.)
And it’s not like she’s exactly a slouch at the 5K. She came in seventh at the 2011 IAAF World Championships, which is the highest-ever finish by a woman in the event. Her PR at that distance is 14:58.58, which is so fast it makes my face melt off just thinking about it.
But Fleshman is not just experimental, she’s also a smarty-pants, with degrees in human biology and education from Stanford. And she’s a hustler, too. She started a company out of her kitchen in which she makes her own energy bars, called Picky Bars, inspired by her pro-triathlete husband’s dairy and gluten intolerances.
And because that doesn’t keep her busy enough, she and Irish steeplechaser Roisín McGettigan started a company called Believe I Am, which is focused on sports psychology stuff for lady athletes (which, hello, I totally need, seeing as though I’m such a huge Doubty McDoubterPants). They sell these cute tops that are organic and sustainably made. I am deeply coveting their training journal, and one of these days, maybe when I embark on my ultra-training, I’ll break down and get one.
And finally, the reason why I am so enamored of Fleshman is that she’s funny as shit. I mean, the tagline of her site is “be a wise ath.” The motto for her energy-bar company is “It’s freaking science, dude.” She has a blog in which she talks about the gory, grody details of life as a professional runner, and one of her pictures – of a blackened toenail – has a caption that reads, “Yeah, that would be a hairy toe knuckle. Don’t judge. I live in Eugene.”
You have got to love a woman who proudly posts a photo of her hairy toes on the internet.