Growing up, there weren’t many resources for myself as a gay athlete. I didn’t have any role models so the thought of coming out never crossed my mind. There was no safe space within sport for me to be who I truly was. It was never discussed; there were no support groups or local clubs in the community and/or school. I believe if there was, then my journey might’ve looked a lot different, and that’s what brings me to a company I am so grateful to be a part of: OUTrun.
OUTrun is a company that was started by two professional trail runners, Addie Bracy and Corey Conner, who are dating (a true power couple if you ask me!) I accidentally came across OUTrun when scrolling through Instagram and I fell in love with their mission so I decided to reach out to Addie and Corey. I just wanted to let them know how much I loved their company’s mission and I gave them a little bit of my story. I was immediately met with such grace, compassion, and kindness, and it was so heartwarming. I am so thankful I scrolled through Instagram that day because it has now allowed me to be a part of the company as the Director of OUTreach and Advocacy.
Addie and Corey have some phenomenal results from their running, but they are so much more than their statistics and performances; they are two individuals who embody what it means to live a valued life full of authenticity and passion. If you ask me, I don’t think it gets much better than that! Addie and Corey are on the forefront of creating change and helping to bring about an inclusive, supportive, and encouraging environment for LGBTQ+ folks in the running community. I had the opportunity to ask them some questions about themselves, their running, coming out, and their new company OUTrun!
1. What is OUTrun and where did the inspiration for it come from?
OUTrun is an organization that aims to empower and connect LGBTQ+ individuals within the running community. We seek to create an environment that is encouraging, supportive and inclusive for all individuals. The inspiration behind OUTrun came from our own experiences as gay runners trying to work through the process of coming out and living openly while also competing at a high level. We both felt like the running community in some way, either directly or indirectly, helped us gather the strength and courage it took to be vulnerable and come out to the world. It was this realization that led us to conceptualize OUTrun as an organization that could also encourage and support other LGBTQ+ individuals in their own personal journeys through the power of community. One of the strongest communities we both have been a part of for many years is in fact the running community. It’s an activity that can really unite so many different individuals with very different backgrounds through this common interest. On top of that running is a sport that desperately needs some visibility. For people that identify themselves as both runners and members of the LGBTQ+ community, it’s important that they can see real world examples of others being an active part of both communities in a healthy way. What better way to establish that then build an organization that highlights and connects both identities.
2. When did the two of you come out?
Corey — I didn’t come out until my early twenties. I struggled with coming to terms with my sexuality in college and post collegiately because I never really took the time to figure that aspect of myself out. I was so focused on running and establishing myself as an elite runner that I refused to kind of deal with what was going on internally. I ended up leaving the sport altogether because I felt like I couldn’t come out and live authentically at that time, while also trying to be an elite runner. After leaving the sport I was able to find myself and gathered up the courage to come out to my family and friends. The catalyst that really helped me do that was actually reading a blog post that Addie had written. Since I knew her from racing against her it really hit home with me that someone I looked up to was open and essentially came out to the world via this blog. It inspired me to do the same, so a few weeks later I did the same.
Addie — I actually didn’t come out until pretty late, probably my late 20s. I had lived in North Carolina for 26 years and honestly never felt very comfortable being open in that culture. When I moved to Boulder in 2012, I started to recognize how much more open and accepting this community was. I eventually found the courage to come out to my close friends and family, but it took me another year or two to be comfortable enough to be totally open.
3. What was it like growing up an out or closeted athlete? (e.g. Did you feel like it affected your performance? Did sport provide a safe space for you?)
Corey — Trying to compete at such a high level while also struggling with my sexuality really affected my performances. Even more so, I was just really unhappy. I felt like I wasn’t being authentic and I was suppressing this huge part of myself. At that time there was not a lot (if any) visibility in women’s distance running for LGBTQ+ individuals. So there really wasn’t an example of what being an openly gay elite runner could even look like, and for me that was really discouraging. I think had there been others living and competing openly I would have come out a lot sooner than I did.
Addie — Being closeted absolutely affected my performance. In fact, that was what eventually led me to make the decision to come out. I felt so heavy holding on to this big secret and not being honest about who I was that it totally drained me of all emotional and mental energy and strength. When I saw my performance declining and, as a result, my love for the sport decreasing, I wasn’t willing to let this big secret take running from me. When I did come out, the sport absolutely embraced and supported me. I’ve always felt welcome in the running community.
4. How did the two of you meet?
We both made a USA cross country team back in 2014 and we met in Scotland where we were competing as a team. We ended up connecting really well but we both were not open at the time and we both were in relationships. We kept running into each other at various races and we kept in touch but it wasn’t until 4 years after our initial meeting that we began dating. Addie came out in her blog and then I contacted her right after that to tell her “thank you” for having the courage to write that because I really needed it at the time, since I was struggling to come out. We reconnected over that blog post and I flew out to visit her and see if we still had the same connection we did 4 years ago, and lo and behold — we did!
5. Since coming out, what has changed for you (both in your sport and life)?
Corey — I can honestly say I’m so much happier in life since coming out. I feel like I’m living life as the most authentic version of myself and I’m super at peace with where I’m at right now. I was able to return to running and start competing again, but my approach is totally different than it was when I was running professionally on the track and roads. I’m enjoying myself in the sport and I’m a lot more focused on the journey than the outcome during a race. I feel really content with who I am as an individual in this world and I’m so passionate about helping others get to this place as well.
Addie — A lot has changed and a lot has stayed the same, which I think is a good thing because it reinforces that my sexuality doesn’t change who I am. The biggest change is just that I feel more authentic and more myself which has just made me so much happier and more free. I’ve also felt like it’s created this opportunity to connect and build relationships with other LGBTQ+ runners, which has caused my involvement in the sport to feel so much more meaningful.
6. What are some goals you like to see happen with OUTrun?
We would like to see OUTrun spread its wings and start to reach individuals in other cities and even rural areas. Places where the visibility and message of OUTrun is so needed. We would like to see local chapters of OUTrun start to form and we would also love to be able to share other’s stories. Connecting with people and learning about their own personal stories and how they have dealt with obstacles, such as coming out, is super important to us. So, we want to be able to share those stories so others out their can benefit from them similarly how I did with Addie’s blog.
7. What do you think is important for coaches/trainers/teammates of LGBTQ+ athletes to know?
Corey — The biggest thing people can do is create an accepting and supportive environment for LGBTQ+ athletes. One that feels safe for them to be who they are and one that feels encouraging to them. There are so many ways to build and create that type of atmosphere but it all begins with respecting each other. Valuing each athlete as an individual regardless of their sexual orientation or identity.
Addie — I think one of the best things that people of all roles in our sport can do is to not necessarily wait for someone to come out to acknowledge and communicate that it’s a welcoming and supportive space for all kinds of diverse populations, LGBTQ+ included. I think normalizing diversity and making inclusion more of the rule than the exception will cause more people to feel safer coming into an environment or culture already openly being themselves.
8. If you could give advice to someone who is not out yet, what would you tell them?
Corey — I would encourage them to come out, on their own time of course, but to try and live their life a little more authentically. For me, it really changed my life for the better and I’m so thankful I gave others the opportunity to support me in that process. There are a lot of great people in this world and if you’re willing to be vulnerable and open up to them they can be the best kind of encouragement there is.
Addie — Put some faith in your friends, family and the world to support you. When you have the courage to be vulnerable people will surprise you in the best way.
9. How can individuals get involved in OUTrun? What opportunities are available?
Right now we are setting up group runs and events in the Boulder/Denver area but we hope to start to expand those across the US. If you want to join the community you can subscribe to our mailing list via the website www.outrunning.org, so you can stay up-to-date on the latest happenings. We will be venturing into the podcast world eventually and hosting podcasts where we interview inspirational people and share their stories. Also, if you want to represent the organization in your own community you can buy a t-shirt or hat to represent. Local chapters should be starting up in the near future and if you’d like to get one started in your area you can send us an email through the website as well!
Well folks, you heard it from the two incredible individuals themselves! I couldn’t be more excited to partner with a group of people for a company that encompasses two things I am so passionate about: the LGBTQ+ community and running. Huge thank you to Addie and Corey for being so open and taking the time for this! I can’t wait to see all that happens with OUTrun!
Love and light,
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About the Author:
Meg Mottola is an east coaster but a traveler at heart. Aside from her work with Matthew’s Place, she is an advocate for mental health awareness. She is in recovery from a 10+ year battle with Anorexia. In addition to writing, Meg enjoys running, traveling, jamming on the guitar, and photography. She believes the key to joy in life is to surround yourself with positivity, express gratitude, and always choose love. You can follow her Instagram, @megmott!