The 2006 Dana Point Turkey Trot changed my life. I first learned about the race when the year prior, Ben (my new boyfriend at the time) ran the 10K and won $1,000. I ran a 10-miler the same day in AZ and won a pumpkin pie. My mom said, “Your boyfriend won $1,000, and you won a pie? You should probably be a professional runner.” Fast forward to 2006 when my UCSB teammates and I drove down to Dana Point and ran the 5K. We had just come off our 9th place finish at the NCAA cross-country meet and thought, let’s join the hundreds of thousands of runners earning their Thanksgiving feast. The gun went off—and my controlled fun race plan went out the window. I crossed the finish line in 16:47. This was my second-best 5K ever. (My track PR was 16:40.) I was hooked; road racing rocked! As I caught my breath and removed my hands off my knees, my teammate whispered “Hey, that’s Lauren Fleshman.” As a college runner absorbed in her own world, I knew of Lauren but really didn’t know much. She had just won the 5K in 16:26. Wow, only 20 seconds ahead of me. Not bad, I thought, acting all smug… until I found out she also won the 10K earlier that morning in 33:21. Not so smug anymore, I swallowed my pride, sheepishly introduced myself, and began plotting how I could one day be as studly as her. She was fast, cool, personable and so down to earth. After that encounter, I dreamed of being a professional runner—and Lauren’s best friend (little did she know what was coming).
So why did this particular Turkey Trot change my life? You never know what chance encounters at any race will bring you. If you’re questioning whether to sign up for that turkey trot or enter your local 5K because it’s too far to drive, you’re not in shape, 5Ks hurt too much or some other really good excuse you’re telling yourself, ignore those voices. If I hadn’t gone to Dana Point that year, maybe I wouldn’t have believed I could blossom into a professional runner. Perhaps I’d run into Lauren somewhere down the line, but would the spark have been lit so fiercely as it was that morning? Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to a stranger or approach someone you’re a fan of. You never know what might be in store if you come out of your shell, be brave and take a chance. It’s taken a lot of work and stubborn believing (sprinkle in a bit of stalking), but eight years later I’m a professional runner and co-founder of Picky Bars with Lauren. I also run for Oiselle with her after she introduced me—and my stalking paid off, as I consider her one of my best pals.