Running communities across the globe are becoming more accepting and inclusive, but there’s still work to be done. Here, in recognition of Pride Month, we’ve asked Altra Elite Athlete, Ryan Montgomery, to share some of his experiences of what running has meant to him as a queer, gay athlete, and what it’s like being an LGBTQ ultrarunner. 





Altra Elite Athlete Ryan Montgomery in a black Altra hat and grey and white Altra singlet



As a queer, gay ultrarunner, I feel support by friends and community today. However, my journey to self-love and self-expression has been long and stressful. I grew up outside of Seattle, Washington and moved around to many rural communities in Alaska and Eastern Oregon throughout my childhood. During this time of my life, I also got into running; it became an avenue for me to explore myself and the world. I remember running along a three-mile trail next to the beach in Craig, Alaska when I was 13 years old and feeling a sense of wonder, adventure, and freedom. I felt so connected to my surroundings—and, really, to myself.   

While all these environments gave me positive life experiences and life-long relationships, I hid a lot of myself whenever I wasn’t running. Many of the places I lived and their social environments frankly did not provide a space for me to express myself. The lack of visibility of LBGTQ folx in my life perpetuated my attempt to presented myself as a very masculine, cis-gender straight guy.   

Today, I live in Utah and in a rural mountain community—even more rural than where I grew up. While I feel supported and loved, there are a lot of lingering feelings of shame. I still feel uncomfortable being 100% myself. When I am on the trails or running around my neighborhood, I find that I still hide my painted nails as I approach people. I still hesitate before I say, “My… boyfriend and I…” when talking about my personal life with others.  

Running for many of us is a way of expressing ourselves. From the laughter that comes from running with friends on a trail to the ‘serious self’ that comes out from chipping away intervals on the track, we manifest ourselves uniquely and wholly while running. Running really has been the common thread that has helped me understand others—and for others to understand me.  

On a recent podcast, I had shared my personal experience at Western States Training Camp in May where a man verbalized a “guy with painted nails passed me” when I ran past him on Day 1 of the training camp. That day, I was reminded that the ultra-trail running community (and other running communities around the globe) still have elements of being unaware, uncultured, and homophobic at times.



“Running really has been the common thread that has helped me understand others—and for others to understand me.”



While I think the running community and trail running community are amazing and loving to others, there is a lot of inclusivity work to be done. In my personal coaching business, I coach a handful of trans-gender athletes and other queer men and women, and the stories I hear inspire me, but many also break my heart. Many don’t feel safe on trails or are nervous to present themselves in front of others. Shame has a strong hold on many LGBTQ folx. Quite explicitly, the invisibility of LGBTQ people is a barrier to entry for queer people in our sport.  

It’s important to not let the fear of backlash from others stifle authentic self-expression, though. We need your queerness in our sport! My hope is that by talking more about my queerness on trails and within our sport, other folx can feel like they can express themselves, and ultimately, participate in running and trail running, too.  

For the fellow LGBTQ+ runners out there, I am here for you and love you. I hope you consider me a safe space for you to share your thoughts or simply a soundboard for you. I am here for you. 

If you are a closeted runner or beginning your LGBTQ+ journey, I see you. I am a safe space for you, too.  

For my ally runners out there, thank you for your support and love. I hope you know how much your allyship means to the LGBTQ community, and that you can always consider me a resource for any question you may have. 

For those who may be unsure how you feel about LGBTQ community or may not have LGBTQ friends or families in your life, let’s talk. Let’s learn from each other's experiences. Read LGBTQ stories with an open heart. We need allies who are not simply ‘supporters’ but rather co-conspirators to truly see that side of LGBTQ lived experiences. Let’s dismantle homophobia and strive to create a sport that allows everyone to show up as their best selves—we need and want you. 


About the Author 

Ryan Montgomery is an Altra Elite Team member, ultrarunner, & coach. Now living in Truckee, California, Ryan is committed to competing at a high level, growing the sport with other athletes and fostering diversity and inclusion in the sport of ultra-trail running.