Lauren Fleshman isn’t your average jock. In fact, were real life like high school, we don’t know where she’d sit at lunchtime. If you subscribe to Runner’s World, you’ve probably checked out her cover-worthy six-pack abs in November 2011 and have been reading her new column, The Fast Life. If you’re a track junkie, you’ve doubtless taken note of the 5K whiz’s impressive results at the NCAA, National, and World Championships.
But she’s not just a speed demon on the track—Lauren Fleshman’s an entrepreneur, dedicated blogger, and serious businesswoman. I talked with Fleshman about how juggling a few careers (no biggie) has improved her running and changed her life.
Dear Abby… err, Lauren
In 2010, after seven years as a professional runner, Fleshman hit a patch of bad luck. A foot surgery sidelined her for 18 months, and she felt alienated from her former training buddies during the long, solo road to recovery.Luckily she found a way to keep herself busy and stay connected with other runners. She broke out the laptop, tapped into her teacher brain (she has a master’s in education from Stanford), and launched Ask Lauren Fleshman, a site where readers can submit their running queries and get answers from the pro herself. In addition to the Q&A, the site includes Fleshman’s personal journal, in which she writes about her daily life, struggles, experiences, and latest ventures.
Even after getting healthy and running in the 2012 Olympic Trials (she did not qualify for the London Games), Fleshman’s kept up the blog. Far from withdrawing into herself and her training as she’s gotten more successful, she’s made her life an open book. From her considerable struggles with injury to daily goings-on with her triathlete husband and new baby, the blog is a testament to a life that’s sometimes messy, often disorganized, and definitely doesn’t always go according to plan.
The More (Fans, Projects, Friends), The Merrier
Fleshman’s commitment to teaching and connecting with other athletes goes far beyond her blog. Off the track, she’s become involved in sports from head to toe (or rather, from mouth to feet) via protein-bar company Picky Bars and athletic outfitter Oiselle.
In 2010 Fleshman, her triathlete husband Jesse Thomas, and pro marathoner Steph Rothstein launched Picky Bars, a line of gluten- and dairy-free protein bars. After making snacks at home to fit their own various allergies and nutritional needs, the crew put their bars on the market. Since the founders know that fueling up for multiple training sessions each day is no joke, Picky Bars are loaded with a nutritionally sound balance of protein, carbs, and fats for optimum performance. The trademark slogan—“It’s freaking science, dude”—sums this up pretty well.
This past winter, Fleshman made waves in the running world by quitting the world-famous Oregon Track Club Elite and severing ties with Nike, her sponsor for the past ten years. These days, she’s running and working with Oiselle, a small women’s running apparel company based in Seattle. Fleshman’s partnership arrangement is a little unorthodox—she has an ownership stake in the running company and is involved in the business side of things. She believes that joining Oiselle during her pregnancy (while she’s on hiatus from training and competition) has some perks. She explains, “without being laser focused on my own racing goals, I [am] able to direct my passion and time investment into Oiselle’s goals and dreams, and develop a really strong foundation for the future.”
So what’s next? Like fellow pro runners (and parents) Paula Radcliffe, Bernard Lagat, and Kara Goucher, having a baby doesn’t mean Fleshman’s out of the game—in fact, she’s chomping at the bit to head back to the track. I asked her if she was nervous about reentering the arena after such a long hiatus. Her response: “There is so much more left in the tank, so much fast left in these legs, and they are practically itching to get out there again!”
Originally published May 2013. Updated April 2014.