Decorated runner, advocate for the LGBTQIA+ community, and founder of Out Trails, Ryan Montgomery took some time for a quick interview with us after they came to Charlotte, NC to participate in race weekend activities and run the Around the Crown 10K Together with Truist race last weekend. An inspiration to so many, Ryan formed Out Trails, an LGBTQIA+ community, to offer year-round connection through Slack as a way to grow inclusivity and diversity in the sport of running and an annual running retreat to bring queer runners together. We were excited to ask them more questions about the great work they are doing, as well as fun questions to get to know them a bit better. Read on to learn more about this amazing human!
What’s your astrological sign and how does it fit your personality?
Taurus! I don’t really follow astrological signs but according to a quick Google search, they are “intelligent, dependable, hardworking, dedicated, and stubborn.” I definitely resonate with the principles of hard work and dependability/dedication at least!
How old were you when you first started running?
Hmmm, I believe I was 11 years old! I was at a middle school campout where my entire school went camping (I went to middle school in Alaska, so our school was quite small). I remember running laps around the campground for no particular reason one day and I liked it! After that, I joined the cross-country team that next year!
For me, it was important to create Out Trails because many queer people do not run outdoors, let alone on trails because they don’t have access or don’t feel safe doing so. Thus, I think creating a space like Out Trails is essential in our work to create inclusion in trail running and the outdoors.
Permission to brag here, what is your proudest running/racing moment?
Running my first marathon in my freshman year of high school at 15 years old. A lot of people said don’t do it…that it was a bad idea…and that it would ruin me. Turns out, the marathon gave me life. Sure, it was hard but I had pushed myself to a new limit that day which I never thought possible. That moment and feeling of achievement have been the fuel for my entire running career and I believe it is why I got into long-distance running today (i.e. ultras).
Can you share a bit about Out Trails and explain to our readers why it is so important for the LGBTQ+ community to have that space?
It is been very fulfilling to meet other queer runners through Out Trails and facilitate organic community building with members of this community. Out Trails is an affinity group, which is an important piece of the movement to open up access to outdoor spaces and activities to marginalized communities. Affinity groups are intended to bring people together over a commonality and share the mutual benefits of our shared identities. Affinity groups strive to form safe and brave spaces that offer support, healing, and connection. For me, it was important to create Out Trails because many queer people do not run outdoors, let alone on trails because they don’t have access or don’t feel safe doing so. Thus, I think creating a space like Out Trails is essential in our work to create inclusion in trail running and the outdoors.
We heard Out Trails has a running retreat coming up, can you share what it’s all about and where people can register?
Yes! Right now, Out Trails hosts an annual running retreat which you can find on Aspire Adventure Running’s site. We are looking to expand with multiple retreats in 2024. The Out Trails LGBTQ+ Running Retreat goal is to create a safe, welcoming environment that allows queer athletes to trail run! It is an opportunity for LGBTQ+ runners to celebrate their community and delve deep into an incredible landscape through running and is designed to be inclusive for all levels of experience and athletic ability. Last year was a magical experience, where every participant made lifelong friends and had unforgettable experiences!
Can you share with us your journey to Western States (WSER) this year and what the experience was like now that it is in your rearview mirror?
It has taken me a few years to get to the WSER start line. I pulled out of the race about one month before the race in both 2021 and 2022 due to injury. In 2021, I pulled out because I had just recovered from a muscle tear and was worried about reinjury. Needless to say, it was very disappointing. This resulted in having to re-qualify to get into the race again. Luckily, my effort at the Tarawera 102K in February 2023 gave me another chance to race WSER this year! And wow – WSER was everything I hoped it would be for my first time. From the community and friends to the race itself, to the beautiful course…it was lovely. First: the people. The people are really special as WSER. I felt very seen and welcomed. It feels like a little family reunion where you meet new and old friends. My sponsors, my family, and friends…all in this beautiful place! The conversations were lively. It definitely filled up my cup socially. The race. The race and the course are just stunning. I got to run 15 miles through high-alpine snow fields with some of the best ultrarunners.
Can you share your thoughts on where WSER Golden Ticket races are headed with opening up a non-binary division?
This is tough because I don’t think WSER is going to open a non-binary Golden Tickets division anytime soon, at least from my conversation to date. I am optimistic though. I think the sport’s growth merits it and I think it is also the right thing to do for inclusion. I think there are opportunities to get creative here. Maybe the Golden Ticket qualification will look a bit different for non-binary athletes. Either way, I think there is an opportunity to provide solutions rather than not do anything.
If someone was coming to visit you for the weekend in Salt Lake City, what are 3 things they’d have to do while there?
Hiking up Mount Timpanogos which is the highest peak in the Wasatch Mountain Range. If it was during winter, of course, it would be to go skiing at any of our many resorts. Do dinner in Park City. Visit Antelope Island State Park where there are free-roaming bison!
If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, would it be tacos or pizza?
Tough choice, but pizza! With pizza, you have more surface area to do more things and create different flavor combinations. Also, pizza has more options and varieties in my opinion, so less likely to get bored compared to a taco!
Books or podcasts? Which are you devouring at this time and what should we all be reading/listening to?
I am really enjoying Desir’s Running While Black book right now; I am learning a lot. But most of the time, I listen to podcasts. I know it’s *slightly* boring, but I get most of my news (global, regional, politics, etc.) from podcasts! I listen to them a lot in the car. I love The Daily and all the NPR productions. I do love a good True Crime podcast (Crime Junkie!), too.
We hear you have a feline that rules the Montgomery household. Tell us more about your kitty.
I do have a kitty named Truffles! She is perfectly imperfect, and I love her so much. She is very affectionate and loves to cuddle with me on the couch! She does get into trouble like she likes to turn on the kitchen faucet while I am away or tip over house plants! But I love her too much still.
Rest days don’t get the credit they should, what does a good rest day look like for you?
I really, really enjoy my couch! Rest days are days where I indulge in my TV show or movie and honestly keep my feet up with good snacks in hand! Training takes a lot of time, so rest days are really important for me to get caught up on relaxation + other personal tasks or hobbies.
If you could meet anyone from the past, present, or future, who would it be and why?
Not sure if this is a cheat answer but it would be future me! I would love to learn lessons about my future self now so I can better prepare for what’s to come!
What’s something people would be surprised to learn about you?
I’ve visited 34 countries already!
Anything else you’d like to share that we didn’t ask today?
I used to live in Alaska during middle school, which is a pretty fun fact! I love Alaska and would recommend a visit to anyone.