I hope in my life time we stop using the words ‘Good for a Girl’

Good for a Girl: A Woman Running in a Man’s World

By Lauren Fleshman

288 pages, $37.99, Penguin Random House

Me too, I’m good … for a girl. I’ve grown up in a man’s world and while most of the time I do not notice it, the evidence for the world being designed for cis white men is nauseatingly abundant. While I’ve grown up believing there is no glass ceiling I’m still at times cut down by micro-aggressions. 

I’ve met Lauren a few times and I’m always a bit of a fan girl, probably not just on the inside but also the outside. I’ve also embarrassed myself in ways that only runners can laugh at ourselves. The first time I met Lauren was at the Stanford track, before the elusive Payton Jordan meet. The day before the meet we all descend to do our pre-competition routines. As I’m finishing up my strides Lauren walks over, and instead of hugging her I all of a sudden had to go to the bathroom (immediate people, you runners understand) and literally ran away from Lauren. We hugged after my bathroom emergency. Another time I was chatting with Lauren at a bar post-NYC marathon and she said the word ‘Grumplestiltskin’ and I spat beer all over her. One, that word is too funny to and I’d not heard it in years, and in the context of the conversation it made me laugh even more. Sorry, Lauren again for spitting beer all over you. Not my finest Sasha moments. 

Lauren, as always not only handled those moments with class but with humility and laughter. While I was embarrassed I did not feel shame. Lauren has a calming effect over any space she enters making us all stand a little taller because she believes we can all be the best version of ourselves. It’s what makes Lauren not just a great coach, but a great human. 

I was envious of Little Wing, not just the camaraderie of the teammates but from the way Lauren coached these women. A dose of empathy, a dash of accountability, everyone working hard at what’s important to them, including Lauren. I wanted to be part of the inner circle, I wanted to be the best version of myself coached by someone who knew what it was like to be a female and standing out on the track in a bathing suit. Like most track clubs, it was exclusive but not in a way that’s damaging to others (although I still wasn’t invited in but to be fair, I never asked if I could join the team). What I’ve learned since then, I may not be a part of this special club but I can still live my life through Little Wing values – camaraderie, hard work, grit, grace & gratitude. 

Lauren’s book, part memoir part manifesto, tells the story of the barriers Lauren faced, including other female runners then and now, because the sports world was built by men for men. Echoing what Christine Sinclair says in her book, women are told it should be enough that we get to play, instead of having equity with the men. She challenges us all to look at the systems that got us to where we are by looking at them in a different light – one that reminds us that most things are built by cis white men for cis white men. If I put my universal design for education hat on, looking at doing things differently, not just for other majorities but especially through the lens of other minorities, then the whole system gets better. In Adam Grant speak, we think again

I’m dreaming up ways to have Lauren not just as a book club guest, but to speak to the young runners and athletes of the Greater Toronto Area, Ontario and across Canada (want to sponsor an event?). I’m dreaming of ways that I can leave the sports field better than when I first found it. I imagine a future where we no longer think of one body type, this stereotype, those standards as the norm for whatever we endeavour. I’m dreaming of a future when we do not hear the words ‘she’s good for a girl’ instead we hear the words ‘She’s great.’ Period.  
Get your copy here, here, here, or here.