Allo bonjour, I’m Paul from Montreal (rhymes 😁).
Montreal is a city well known for its multicultural diversity, sporting events, natural spaces, bilingual status (French is the official language), and PRIDE/DIVERSITÉ parade every August. In my life presently, I am many things: A trail runner, an artist, a VF employee, a husband, a stepfather, a grandfather, a brother, and a son, to name a few. The journey wasn’t planned. Nonetheless, I am happy for having finally learned to accept and embrace myself as a gay man, because at the core, that’s where it starts before we expect others to accept us.
Trail running wasn’t a known thing when I was a teenager or young adult. Even during that time in my life, I lacked a lot of confidence and self-acceptance which resulted in physical pain, anxiety, and confusion. In my thirties, I had done my coming-out, so I was learning to accept myself and feel good, inside and out. Many doors metaphorically opened when I allowed myself to branch out and be curious to try new challenges like the Spartan Race. I discovered trail running seven years ago following a dare from my former employer to join their team for the Spartan Race. At the time, I was not an experienced runner, had never cross trained, and didn’t belong to any organized outdoor or sporting clubs, even LGBTQ+ to say the least. I joined the Montreal Outdoor Adventure Club (MOAC) through Meetup for their weekly Spartan Race training activity to prepare myself, training on gravel roads and trails close to the city. Soon after, thanks to the friendships I made in the culturally diverse MOAC, I was sold and hooked to trail running (my husband says I’m obsessed). I wasn’t the fastest runner in the pack, and the club motivated me to push my limits; the color of skin, religion and sexual orientation never mattered. What mattered was, collectively, we liked the same thing: the freedom of running in nature, getting muddy and seeing new places.
In 2015, I accepted an opportunity to work at VF Outdoor in customer service. Working at VF opened many rewarding opportunities such as running with colleagues at lunchtime on the nearby trails. Soon after, they saw me as ‘that Paul-who-loves-to-run.’ I started entering a series of brand sponsored trail events and had the opportunity to connect with a variety of trail runners in my journey, notably Corey Woltering and Ryan Montgomery, two outspoken LGBTQ+ athletes.
Last year, I eagerly jumped on the opportunity to become a customer service rep for Altra in Canada, and soon after, a R.E.D. Team member. What got me through this challenging year with COVID-19 was trail running and artistic creativity through figure drawing. Although the two don’t seem connected, they’ve allowed me to remain healthy, grounded and stay connected with my distinct running and creative tribes which is important when we identify as LGBTQ+. Who knows, maybe soon enough I’ll do a project where the pursuits can be bridged into a creative one.
With VF and Altra, they sky is the limit!
Paul Davidson is an Altra R.E.D. Team member, an LGBTQ trail runner, and an artist.