Back On Track: Exclusive Interview With Lauren Fleshman

Last weekend you ran — and won — a low-key 5K road race in Bend, Oregon, two weeks out from what’s going to be a not-so-low key 5K on the track at nationals in Des Moines. What did you take away from that race?

I took a lot away from it. It was exactly what I needed at the time. It’s not something you’ll probably see a lot of athletes in my event doing at this time of year but because I’m in a slightly different position than a lot of my competitors right now coming off a huge amount of time off, I kind of had to scale things back a bit after doing the 1,500 against good competition and do something that was a time trial effort on my part. I had a specific goal. I wanted to try and put myself in a situation where I’m running alone and it’s just all up to me and I just go out there and hit my marks and practice the mental toughness involved in a 15 to 16-minute race. That’s what that was, and I did everything I went there to do.

A huge part of me as a person and an athlete needs to be involved in the community. I have to feel connected to the sport as a whole now and then, otherwise being an elite track runner is really isolating. You start to lose perspective on what you’re doing. Just touching base with everyday runners, running for a cause, going to a town I love to go to and doing all my favorite runs up in the trails and up to the waterfall – that’s the kind of stuff that feeds my soul and I think that’s every bit as important as the training going into a championship.

Building off the last part of that answer, your website, asklaurenfleshman.com, is pretty unique. A lot of athletes have blogs, but your site is a place where readers can not only follow you, but also connect and interact with you. How and when did the idea for the website come to be?

Ever since I was in college I always felt there was this tendency in sport to become very focused on yourself and everything is always me, me, me, me, me. And that just never was fun for me; it drove me crazy. But when you’re in the sport as a professional you constantly feel pulled toward that. People say, “You’ve got to invest your whole life in this. You need to focus, focus, focus.” Very rarely are people telling you that you need to go out and maintain relationships with other people. You don’t hear that side of reason and balance.

Any time in my life I’ve gotten too far away from the running community I’ve felt unhappy and miserable in a way. The other part of it is I’m naturally a teacher. I’ve always been a teacher and I think because of that people tend to find me more approachable. People ask me questions and people have always come to me for advice, so when it came to making a website, I asked my husband’s opinion – he actually as a consulting business for sports marketing – and he helped me come up with a website idea and concept that would help me connect to the running community, which would then make me happier.

What’s been the most enjoyable part of your experience with the site?

Just helping other people. Your own individual performances come and go. You have injuries that take everything away from your own performance, but you can always reach out to other people. You can always help other people – no one can take that away, and it’s completely independent from whether you’re healthy or sick, or winning or losing. That’s always there, and so it was just such a natural fit. When my husband gave me the tools to set up the site and create the concept and help me identify the bits and pieces, it just really made this year more fun for me. I think it’s helped me run better in the end, too.

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