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Personal Journey: Lauren Waddell Runs

Lauren Waddell is on a personal journey.
Lauren Waddell
Year started: 2023
Next race: May 5th: UPMC Health Plan/Sports Medicine Pittsburgh 5K

For most of her life, Lauren Waddell viewed running as something that wasn’t for her. Born with clubfoot and having a leg length discrepancy, Lauren saw running as an insurmountable challenge. “I was not an athlete in high school,” she recalls. “I was like the band nerd and not doing physical sports. Even running the mile in PE was just the worst. I was always dead last. It sucked doing it. I wasn’t good at it. So running was always, like, the sport that just terrifies me.” For Lauren, this was a personal journey.

Having A Blast

However, everything changed in late 2023 when Lauren found inspiration from a friend who is an avid marathon runner. “He just made it look so fun. I don’t know what it was. He just made it look like he was having a blast,” Lauren says. As she watched her friend take to the pavement, a thought crossed her mind: “If I had normal legs, that’s what I would be doing.”

Rewrite Her Own Narrative

Despite that thought, rather than wallow in perceived limitations, Lauren decided to rewrite her own narrative. “I don’t know, something clicked in my head, and it was like, well, why don’t I just go do it then?” With a newfound determination, she laced up her running shoes in December 2023 and hit the pavement. Lauren started an Instagram account to profile her journey and represent herself in the sport. “I’ve never seen a person that looks like me in the Instagram running community.”


A Mile Straight

From those first strides, Lauren’s mission was refreshingly straightforward yet powerful: “My goal right now is super small. It’s just to be able to run, like, a mile straight. I’m very much a beginner. I don’t have the endurance built up at all.” Undeterred by the Pennsylvania winter chill or the arthritis that stiffens her joints, she committed to a run-walk routine three times per week.

Deeply Personal Drive

Her goal of completing one continuous mile grew out of a deeply personal drive. “I have this primal urge sometimes to just run,” Lauren explains. More importantly, she sought to boldly defy convention about what an athlete should look like. “I’m just trying to go on Instagram and show people that I have every right to pursue physical fitness for my own benefit as anybody else, even though it doesn’t look like your typical runner body.”

Incredible Insights

As the weeks progressed and the miles slowly accumulated, Lauren gained incredible insights about inner fortitude, self-acceptance, and the beauty of her personal journey. “The only person that I’m really competing with is myself,” she states. “If I’ve always been slow and there are physical things that are always going to prevent me from getting faster, it’s like, well, I can just accept it and just improve compared to myself, like six months ago.”

Her First 5K Race

Now, with sights set on her first 5K race, Lauren hopes her path will inspire others to chase their own dreams, however daunting they may seem. “If I can do it, so can you.” More than cardiovascular fitness or physical transformation, Lauren’s true motivation is to live authentically and persevere despite assumptions. “It’s literally okay that I look this way,” she affirms. “I’m not injured. I’m just running my own race. That’s what I’m doing.” As she moves towards the first endurance challenge on her personal journey, she continues to inspire others.