Central Oregon Profile: Lauren Fleshman – Professional Runner/Biz Owner
The eyes of the world were on Boston Monday and the 36,000 people racing in the 118th Boston Marathon just one year after a bombing near the finish line killed three people and injured more than 260.
Bend’s Lauren Fleshman was there too, but she didn’t toe the line for the race.
No, the 5-time NCAA champion and 2-time US 5K champ, was in Boston for the weekend signing autographs to help out her sponsors (on Friday a line to meet her and others stretched around the block,) offer encouragement to the runners and promote Picky Bars, the gluten and dairy free energy bar company she helps run in Bend.
(Oh, she found some time to run the 5k on Saturday, pacing a friend at an 18 minute pace and finishing 38th out of more than 5,000 women.)
Felshman, her husband Jesse Thomas (a professional triathlete) and best friend Stephanie Bruce (a professional marathoner) started the business in 2010 and all are part of a growing number of professional and elite athletes who call Central Oregon home.
We caught up with Lauren on her way to Boston to find out what brought her to Central Oregon, what keeps her here and what she loves about the High Desert.
Why Bend? Someone like you, who has traveled to a lot of places as a competitive runner…why’d you land here?
The trails, the accessibility, the food, the culture…it’s good for pro athletes and recreational athletes alike. I know I can train to be the best in the world here, but also train for life when my biggest races are behind me. But honestly, none of that would matter without top notch sports physicians to keep you healthy and optimize your mobility. The REPlab at Rebound is a huge draw with Jay Dicharry’s world leading biomechanics lab for treadmill testing and bike fits. That alone is attracting athletes here. Other factors? The sunshine is hugely important. The friendlinessof the business community supporting entrepreneurs. The town is big enough to have exciting things going on but small enough where you feel connected and a responsibility to one another. That’s the kind of place I want to put my roots down. There is simply nowhere else like it.
What keeps you here?
The community, the potential to make an impact long term, the thoughtfulness and engagement that goes into development and the creation of parks, the weather.
I’m sure a lot of your friends/family had heard of Bend and Central Oregon before you moved out here. What are their thoughts about it when they visit and after they leave? Have you convinced anyone to move out here?
Jesse and I are pretty much Bend evangelists. We have people coming in and out of our house all the time and have convinced a number of people to move. I have helped establish a professional running team here, Oiselle Little Wing, and it is raising the profile of Bend in the global running community. Everyone that sees Bend with the help of a local falls in love. How could you not?
When you go out to eat, where do you go?
We usually hit up the breweries. 10 Barrel and Crux and Deschutes and Silver Moon. Downtown is great. We love Joolz for special occasions. Barrio is awesome. We love to go to First Friday art walk and explore new places. Spork’s “spicy friend chicken”; Jackson’s Corner “Sparrow Baguette French Toast.” I wrote an entire blog once about all my favorites in Bend. The list is lengthy :).
One thing I hear from friends who run or mountain bike or are interested in getting into it is they’re somewhat intimidated by all the world-class athletes in their gym, on the trails, in the running clubs – so they stay away. What would you say to them?
I say stop that! All of us aspire to be you one day! When our pro careers are over, we will want to transition to exercising for the love of it. Finding the motivation to get out and exercise when it’s not your job is tough, so we look to you as examples! Most pro athletes are pretty nice, unassuming people. Shy even. Embarassed we have these crazy hard core exercises our coach gave us to do in the gym in front of everyone! If you see a pro, don’t be afraid to ask for a quick tip on an exercise. It’s kind of our job to know a lot about this stuff and I’m always happy to stop for a second and help someone out.
Talk about Picky Bars’ role in Central Oregon’s active lifestyle.
Picky Bars is the Central Oregon lifestyle. It’s really a reflection of Jesse’s character. Down to earth, real, multi-dimensional, community oriented, and carving it’s own path. The products we make are built to meet the needs of that kind of life.
What’s the future of Picky Bars and Team Fleshman/Thomas?
Grow Picky Bars to become a healthy resilient national brand, bringing our passion for Central Oregon to the rest of the country. We hope to get settled in a house of our own in the next year or so, bring home lots of trophies and medals from races, and raise Jude to be a good kid.
Describe your perfect Central Oregon weekend.
Friday would be first Friday and we’d wander downtown exploring new restaurants and tucking into Dundee’s for some live cello music. Then we’d finish the night at Crow’s Feet listening to an awesome band. Saturday we’d get up early and bike or run across some crazy trail or road, or be involved in some local event. Saturday afternoon we’d join up with family or friends on the SUP’s and BBQ. Sunday morning we’d go on an even longer, more scenic group run or ride and pig out on French Toast at Jackson’s Corner afterwards. Sunday afternoon we’d take Jude to Drake park and watch him play in the grass and finish up the night with family dinner and Game of Thrones.