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Elite runner Lauren Fleshman talks empowering girls in sports in Park City

Lauren Fleshman will speak at the Park City Library April 29.
Park City Library
Lauren Fleshman will speak at the Park City Library April 29.

Elite runner Lauren Fleshman wants to change how sports treat female athletes. She’ll speak in Park City next week.

Fleshman is famous for her achievements as a distance runner. She says women succeed in competition in spite of a system centered around men – and she thinks sports can do better by women and girls.

“Essentially, from taking the men’s sports model and then copying and pasting it when we finally let women and girls participate… instead of building it around their needs and their physiological development, we experience a lot more harm,” she said.

Fleshman has made it her mission to change the face of women’s sports. She says she “found running as a place of belonging,” and now she wants it to be a place of empowerment for girls, too.

She says puberty is a time when girls are especially vulnerable to quitting sports if they don’t have support.

“We know that girls are still dropping out of sports at twice the rate of boys at age 14, and we lose half of girls in sports by age 17,” she said. “We’re not addressing the very basics of their embodied experience as they go through puberty and change.”

She advocates for girls to have access to sports bras along with their team uniforms, and she wants to make it easy for everyone to talk about menstruation: skipped periods are a warning sign for a host of health issues that affect female athletes.

“If you can’t talk about the period, and the period is the thing that needs to be happening regularly, then that’s our first red flag, our first line of defense in keeping girls healthy, then that’s a problem,” she said. “But what an easy fix.”

She says transgender athletes, especially young trans girls, deserve to feel safe in sports too – Fleshman says sports should include as many people as possible.

“Forcing them to compete in the boys’ category, that’s just going to drive them out of sports,” she said. “There’s a lot to be gained by embracing all kinds of people on our sports teams… It’s a matter of respect.”

Most of all, she says she wants a world where everyone is empowered to find joy in sports – something you don’t have to be an elite athlete to achieve.

Lauren Fleshman will discuss her book, “Good for a Girl: A Woman Running in a Man’s World,” at the Park City Library April 29 at 7 p.m. The event is free to attend.

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