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Trans long-distance runner finds freedom as she lives her life fearlessly

Lauren Harrigian spent years struggling with her transition, but she can now say she is ‘both a competitive marathon runner and also an amazing trans woman.’

Lauren Harrigan
Lauren Harrigian was on the track and cross country teams at New Mexico State.

It was in November 2018 when I was admitted to a hospital struggling with an eating disorder and coming to terms with my transition, that I caught a break.

During my stay in Arizona, I was assigned a counselor who happened to identify as part of the LGBTQ community. She was amazing. During those first few months she really helped me learn to speak more up for myself.

It gave me the courage to come out as transgender at work and to begin the process of legally changing my name and gender. Everyone was so accepting and all my fears proved unfounded. My bosses and co-workers at the running store where I worked in Arizona were totally accepting.

Like a lot of people coming out as LGBTQ, I had struggles, doubts and setbacks. But I now can say that I am both a competitive marathon runner and also an amazing trans woman.

My story of coming out and being myself has taken many turns. As a competitive runner I was living what seemed a fine life in Colorado, but then feelings of depression started that took me back to when I ran for New Mexico State University and I struggled with life and school.

Trying to live while denying my gender identity was slowly destroying me and I decided I was going to stop hiding her. I had grown up shy and timid, but I now decided to go to grad school in Arizona and let Lauren break free.

When I got to Arizona I made appointments for hormone therapy and started the process of accepting myself and trying to do it without seeing a therapist. I was also still competing at a high level as a male and winning a lot of races. It was a bit too much for me to be fully out just yet.

I was running sub-three-hour marathons and fast 5Ks and was concerned how hormones would affect my running ability. I found a supportive Facebook group for trans runners and one of the women asked me to be a part of a study at Arizona State University to see how being on hormones changed my performance.

After running in the 2017 Boston Marathon, I started taking hormones and began the study. I also was asked to be part of a documentary about being a trans athlete.

I was training very hard and was on hormones, but I was still hiding at work and in the rest of my life. A series of negative events and struggles with an eating disorder made me very depressed and unable to cope. It’s how I wound up in the hospital and found the LGBTQ therapist.

Lauren Harrigan
After finding a supportive coach, Lauren Harrigian hopes to turn pro next year.

A few months into therapy I confided in her about my eating disorder and my emotional struggles in general. She then encouraged me to tell my coach at the time and that was tough.

I then ran a half-marathon and won and then decided to take a break from running and work on my eating disorder. I entered an Intensive Outpatient Program for two months and then a residential treatment for another three months.

I was released in June 2019 and resumed running, but my panic attacks would not stop. I went back into treatment in September 2019 and the results have been amazing.

My running has been going extremely well and I have been working with a coach who is supportive and brings out the best in me. I am finding my speed again and my goal is to go pro next year.

Without coming out and being myself, I would not be here and living my life fearlessly every day.

Lauren Harrigian, 31, has a masters degree in Counseling from Grand Canyon University in Phoenix and a bachelors degree from New Mexico State, where she was on the cross country and track teams. Her best times are 2 hours, 52 minutes in the marathon, 1 hour, 14 minutes in the half-marathon and 16 minutes in the 5K. A native of Las Cruces, New Mexico, she now lives in Herriman,Utah. She can be reached via email (fastrunneraggiegirl89@yahoo.com) or Instagram (fastgirlrunner23).

Story editor: Jim Buzinski

If you are an out LGBTQ person in sports and want to tell your story, email Jim (kandreeky@gmail.com)

Check out our archive of coming out stories.

If you’re an LGBTQ person in sports looking to connect with others in the community, head over to GO! Space to meet and interact with other LGBTQ athletes, or to Equality Coaching Alliance to find other coaches, administrators and other non-athletes in sports.

If you are considering suicide, LGBTQ youth (ages 24 and younger) can reach the Trevor Project Lifeline at 1-866-488-7386. Adults can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 24 hours a day, and it’s available to people of all ages and identities. Trans or gender-nonconforming people can reach Trans Lifeline at 877-565-8860.

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