I’m Here Because…

Written from the 5-min writing prompt “I’m here because…”  Retired professional runner Lauren Fleshman posted weekly prompts for Oiselle’s Run Read Write month in March.

Originally I posted this on Instagram and Facebook, but the ending got cut off in both posts. And that’s kind of like the super important bit. WordPress is definitely the best place to showcase long prose. And Instagram is the best place to showcase visual things you’re proud of, like a meal you made or your biceps. But def go check out #RunReadWrite on Instagram for others’ writing from the prompts, and let me know if you ever find a filter that gives you biceps.

I’m here because…

I’m here because years ago I made the decision to join the 8th grade cross country team. Nobody in my family ran, I wasn’t trying to impress anyone, and I wasn’t inspired by any particular athlete. I just had this desire to run. I was proud of myself for taking on this challenge when my coach made the heartbreaking and life-changing decision to NOT let a handful of us run our first XC meet. She thought we weren’t ready. I’m not gonna lie – I wasn’t in great shape – but the race was TWO MILES. I’ve had longer bike rides and hikes as a kid. I could have finished that race…just with a lot of run-walking. But it did light the I’ll-Show-You fire under my butt.

The next year in a different school in a different state, I join a new XC team. At the end of the season I’m the back of the pack poster child for the C-Team, but I get the Most Improved and Most Spirited awards at our banquet. Hey, Coach, I’m HERE. Still doing that sport you thought I sucked at. Maybe I’m not still up to your standards, but a team also needs dedication and camaraderie from its members to be successful.

A couple of years and a lot of hard work later, I earn that very last spot on the varsity team. Hey, Coach, I moved up HERE. And my varsity letter is on my jacket over HERE. How could we learn to fly if you were going to keep us in the nest?

I got comfortable racing “long” distances in XC and track and am encouraged to stretch farther. My first half marathon was an eye opener and a gateway drug. Hey, Coach, I’m now HERE…andddd gonna be HERE for awhile…I’m gonna fuck your two miles and raise you 11.1 more. Maybe my steady but consistent pacing was meant for more. My strength is HERE.

During my first (and only) full marathon, I have WAY too much time to think about how I’ve physically and metaphorically gotten to this point. Hey, Coach, I’m HERE…HERE!!!…and still HEREEEEE…so far from the finish lineeeeeeeeee…but by the grace of God and Body Glide, I’m gonna FINISH THIS BITCH.

I’m still running but no longer sure where HERE is anymore. But I’m enjoying my journey and enjoying supporting and watching others’ journeys as well. Because I wish my 8th grade XC coach had known then what I know now: there are many different types of runners with many different purposes. What matters is that we persist and keep showing up, believing in one another. Together. HERE. In a place stronger than where we started.

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Blue Valley Track Team Senoirs 2005 (I’m middle right). I loved that damn track jacket. If the school hadn’t threatened to hold our diplomas, I wouldn’t have returned it. #highfashion

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