Dear Younger Me: Lauren Fleshman

Posted by Sam on May 19, 2017

Lauren Fleshman wrote a letter to her younger self that I thought was worth sharing.

For those who don’t know, Lauren Fleshman was a very successful runner for the US from the early 2000s until about 2012. Here’s a good race of her’s.

The letter touches on the issue of young runners, specifically girls, going through puberty, and how it affects their running and personal health.

Puberty affect boys and girls unfairly when it comes to running. For boys, it’s an automatic performance enhancer. For girls, it’s a total guessing game, and often leads to a decrease in performance.

However, girls, and more specifically, coaches, don’t handle this well. Pressure exists to perform well in the short-term and this often results in sacrificing health, most notably in the form of an eating disorder.

The athletes are too young to recognize how serious it is and the coaches (not all, but too many) are too selfish to stop it. This can be a plague on college teams and the culture is such that girls on the team often don’t speak about it at all despite everyone knowing what’s going on.

This issue isn’t talked about enough based on the amount of impact it has on young women in the sport, so Fleshman’s letter, and any other effort to bring this issue more to the forefront of high school / collegiate running is a positive.

Filed under Life Running

3 thoughts on “Dear Younger Me: Lauren Fleshman

  1. Glad you shared this. It reminds me of a similar story an elite Michigan State runner shared recently.

    I think you are spot re: coaches (and to some extent parents) not being supportive stewards of transition. Over the years I’ve read a ton of studies about ED. While not incredibly large, two of the most vulnerable populations are student-athletes and culinary students (male and female).

    It is a shame that this is not more widely discussed, taught, etc.. No PR is worth ED. I imagine it ties into yet another concept of “worth” : “I am here on scholarship to run. Coach is yelling at me to improve…etc.etc.”

    What was your experience as a student-athlete? Did you ever feel pressure that if you didn’t run well (over a period of time) you may lose your funding for school?

    • Personally I didn’t feel pressure from much other than myself, but that’s because I was scoring points for the team during track. My coach is the prime example of someone who’s behavior could drive girls to a disorder. He literally told girls to their face to lose weight time and time again.

      That, among other things, is why I was shocked he held his job for 10 years and why I was adamant about him being fired in my exit interview. Fortunately, most people on our D3 team didn’t take it seriously enough to actually let him impact them in that way, but you can bet if he were at a D1 school with scholarships on the line, absolutely.

  2. Good on you.

    Here is something about the MSU runner:

    I think it is difficult for “coaches” versus “teachers”. They both start at the same point – a “lesson plan” on what they want to accomplish and how to get the most out of their kids. “Teachers” get to suggest “Hey Sam, have you read this book? It would help with your thesis…” (etc.). Unless you are fast or performing, there is not much more a “coach” can do for you (I suppose).

    Plus, it takes a ton more for a teacher to get fired than a coach that racks up losing or sub-par athletic seasons. As you noted, especially at D1…