Categories
Altra Interviews

RYAN MONTGOMERY: TAKE UP YOUR SPACE

Take Up Your Space by Laura Cortez

We sat down with Altra Ultra-Runner Ryan Montgomery, who holds many titles. We talked all things running, finding who you are and how to balance everyday life while still making time for yourself.

WHO IS RYAN MONTGOMERY

A 26-year-old full-time worker at Accenture, a 100-mile winner, 200-miler 2nd place finisher, Badwater 135 finisher, Wonderland Trail Fastest Known Time record holder. These accolades are just some of the things that fill up Ryan’s running extensive running resume. More than a decorated runner, Ryan is also taking up his space as one of the few openly gay athletes in the trail running world with a goal in 2021 being to continue creating more visibility and space for other LGTBQIA+ athletes to feel comfortable and ultimately, themselves.

YOUR SPACE

“I want to create space and a feeling of belonging for other gay athletes in the community. I’ve gotten messages before from other gay runners who thought they were the only one, or where I’m one of the only other gay runners they know of.”

Reiterating his identity in not just the running world, but life as a whole as an openly gay man is a critical step toward continued diversification of the sport. Ryan knows this. One thing in particular he talked about is to take up your space and not to be afraid to do so. 

After growing up in a more conservative environment and culture, being 26 today, Ryan said, “it’s still uncomfortable sometimes to say i’m a gay person in public, it should be a normal thing. A lot of these feelings still exist with me today.”

“Take up your space you know, emotionally, physically, know your value.”

It can be scary, the concept of taking up space. Holding an identity that has historically not been truly accepted is exhausting. This is one of the many reasons Ryan wants to be upfront and visible through his continued action in sport and those he works with to support him. By creating space and room for a conversation to be had, he hopes to give others the support they need to feel comfortable being who they are. He’s been vocal, for example, to brands who he represents about who he is, the value he brings and even the value he wants to bring. 

“We do these sports because we want community we want ti find people who are like ourselves. So that’s why i think it’s important for me to continue to be visible, to be an advocate for other people like myself.”

It’s important to sit with yourself every once in a while and think about your value outside of a job or running environment. Jotting down on paper your values, the things you value about yourself the most and the things you stand for can actually be a very empowering exercise to find yourself.

RUNNING SPACE

From his first 100-mile race at the Wasatch 100 in Kaysville, Utah in 2017, learning how to navigate the emotional highs and lows ultrarunning brings you, to more confidently running 100 miles through the Alaskan wilderness in the middle of winter in 2018 to setting FKTs on some of the hardest routes, Ryan has certainly learned one thing “my body is so much more capable than I think it is,” he said. “All my experiences have allowed me to epxplore that state of being and to develop the confidence to compete.”

“You really need to have a lot of experiences, diverse experiences in various settings to really understand your body and your mind to see how deep you can go.”

So this brings us back to the “more miles means better performance” argument. When Ryan talks about ‘diverse experience,’ he means it. Living in the mountains of California at 7,000ft with the nearest trail being a half-mile from his door and plenty of snow in the winter, he is able to take advantage of the elements with skiing and snowshoeing. Embracing new elements is one of the many things that helps to contribute to athletic diversity. “Through a lot of diverse experience, you can really learn how to adjust the body and mindset to see how deep you can go.”

Though, knowing that not everyone has the ideal lifestyle to go ski for lunch every day, he still recommends that others find more ways to be active instead of just running. “The more you diversify your athleticism, the more you can push your limits.”

Much like life, trail running takes a lot of time and experience to learn how to do things better, rather than chasing perfection. You take learnings from training runs, racing, the way training load makes you feel and how it changes as you get older. Understanding that no day, no race, no week will be the same, but knowing how you can adjust to your ever-changing self.

RYAN MONTGOMERY’S SPACE

“I’ve learned that communication is key, both with yourself and others. Knowing when to pull back training and work.”

We went on to talk about his balance between holding down a full-time job and a being professional athlete and all the moving parts those things encompass.

However, this all circled back to the concept of unapologetically taking up your space – not just when you need it, but all the time. Knowing your value and worth can help you stay on track to being your most authentic self. 

RAPID FIRE – I say, you say

  • Shoe – Altra
  • Nutrition – Pizza
  • Book – Humans
  • Season – Spring
  • Show – Schitt’s Creek
  • Dessert – Dark Chocolate

WHAT’S RYAN RUNNING IN?

“I love the Torin Plush for the road, the Lone Peak for all-terrain running and the Olympus for trail…I actually wore the OG Olympus way back when I started competing!”

SHOP TORIN PLUSH
SHOP LONE PEAK

Categories
Interviews

OLYMPIAN MECHELLE FREEMAN & TRACKGIRLZ

Mechelle Freeman is 2007 World Track and Field champion, and a 2008 Olympian in the 4×200-meter relay. She founded the organization TrackGirlz in 2015 as a way to provide exposure and access for girls to the track and field world that so often gets left behind after college.

She and her co-director, Jennifer Nash Forrester have developed this community to create sisterhood, provide empowerment and to equip girls with the resources necessary to pursue track and field at any level.

Mechelle Freeman - Olympian and Trackgirlz Founder

MEET MECHELLE FREEMAN

“Growing up, our mom always made sure we had access,” Mechelle said over a nice 9:00 am zoom call. “Whether it be dance, theatre, sports, she always made sure.”

Mechelle and her sister were dubbed “the fast twins” after becoming track athletes in high school. Have a record near and dear to your heart? If it was between 100-meters and 400-meters, you could have wished it farewell once they stepped onto the track.

“We broke records and got state records. When I went off to college at the University of South Carolina, we brought back the first National Championship the school has ever had,” she said.

When we think of track and field today, or have friends who participated in it growing up, there’s often a massive drop-off in participation after high school. The National College Athletics Association (NCAA) released their 2018-2019 “Estimated probability of competing in college athletics” report in which they found that of the 605k high school track and field athletes, just 4.8% go on to compete at the NCAA level.

POST COLLEGIATE JOURNEY

After university, Mechelle found herself in New York City as an intern for VMLY&R (previously Y&R), a top ad agency where she placed her focus for a few years.

Being on a budget with the exorbitant prices in the NYC area, the cost of training, commuting, and gear, Mechelle knows first-hand just how difficult pursuing track can be when you’re on your own.

“I had a vision, though. I knew I was going to make the Olympic team. I became very intentional, everyday.” She later decided to quit her job and make a run at becoming an Olympian.

Coming in last in her first race, her support system was there to encourage her to keep going. “There were a lot of losses and uncertainty,” she says about the start of her time back on the track. “I was hustling, working odd jobs, traveling across town to practice, I relearned discipline.”

FINDING HER STRIDE

After finding her *stride* and gaining more consistency, she found herself in a race with Allyson Felix and others at the U.S track and field championship in the 100-meter sprint (aka the make-or-break race of her career).

“I was on the right side of the race that day. I looked up and saw I came in 3rd by 100th of a second.” For reference, the top runners then go on to make and compete on the World team. She showed up for herself that day and gained Nike, her old ad agency and a local gym as her sponsors.

And so the story goes.Mechelle gets a shiny new PR in the 100-meter sprint of 10.01-seconds and goes on to the Olympics to make the 4×100-meter relay team.

THE OLYMPICS

“It’s all about executing the battle. You can only control the controllables and that’s what I had to do.”

Mechelle and her team were watching the Men’s 4×1 relay team against Jamaica where they dropped the baton. An absolute nightmare, and the men’s team was disqualified. The women’s team was next and Mechelle was the second leg.

“I was just going and going on that straight. Passing people everywhere, you know? And I knew all I had to do was pass off the baton and we’d be good, I’d have done my job.”

She comes into the passing zone seeing her teammates hand, which to us would look just fine, but Mechelle could tell the hand was just a little bit lower than comfortable. Hand back, she reaches out to pass the baton and they nail the exchange. Her teammate is off in stellar position to run the final curve and hand-off to the anchor.

“It was all just happening so fast. I was trying to breathe and I looked up and, well, they dropped it in the same zone the men did.”

_____________________

“People kept telling me track wasn’t relevant after a certain point. I just want to expose the dopeness,” Mechelle starts to tell me. “I want to provide a consistent platform for the community.”

TrackGirlz - strength in speed

TRACKGIRLZ LAUNCHES

Thus, TrackGirlz was born.

What started as a general platform to empower girls and women in the track and field space, turned into a non-profit organization in 2018 after she met her co-director, Jenniger. Since then, they’ve put on running camps both domestically and internationally as well as running and fitness workshops.

This past year in 2020 amid the start of COVID-19, they’ve started to work on making grants accessible to be able to support girls who want to have the chance to take running to the next level – whether it be in high school, college or after. Exposure and accessibility are two key things Mechelle had learned from her mother growing up. Exposure, accessibility and inclusion are all three key things that are also promoted in TrackGirlz.

“I want to get more Black, Indigenous and people of color involved to expand the conversation,” she says about the future of the organization. “I want to bridge the gap between track and the rest of the running community. I want to bring out all different body types to show just how inclusive this sport is.”

What’s Mechelle’s advice for getting more involved in the running community? “Find your local track club to create community, so you can have people lead you. Track and field has organic diversity, so you can always find something.”

As for future goals of TrackGirlz, Mechelle plans to be able to provide access to millions of girls for sport, to be able to provide direct mentorship opportunities to help them reach the next level, and to eventually develop a team that can be financially supported.

Want to learn more about TrackGirlz? Visit their website here for information about the organization, Mechelle and Jennifer.

Categories
Gifts for Runners

GIFT GUIDE: BEST WINTER TRAIL RUNNING GEAR

Embrace the cold, wet and mud this winter season with JackRabbit’s top gifts for trail runners from footwear to apparel and must-have accessories.

Even the most seasoned trail runners tend to dread winter training. Getting up from bed and knowing you’ll be running in the dark cold hours, likely alone are not the most incentivizing training circumstances.

For those of us (like me writing this!) who are barely making it out the door, here’s a quick rundown of the best running long sleeves, jackets, shoes and accessories that make getting dressed (if anything) fun.

LAYER LOVE

In anticipation of the cold, we tend to overlayer because we can’t fathom being cold even for one second. However, after that initial 5-minute warmup period, you’re thinking about dropping layers and tying them around your waist.

Pro-tip: take off the last-minute decision layer before you leave; you likely don’t actually need it.

RUNNING TOPS

Running tops – these are a great and easy way to keep the midsection a little warmer.

Trail Running - Men's Running Tops

New Balance Men’s Jacquard Short Sleeve Top. $45. It’s functional enough to run in and also nice enough to make that zoom call in.

Trail Running - Women's Running Tops

Nike Miler Short Sleeve Running Top. $35. Lightweight and breathable top that you’ll end up wearing all day!

Trail Running - Long Sleeve Men's Running Top

Saucony Stopwatch Long Sleeve Top. $34. Layer over the running top. The long sleeve layer acts as a light pullover.

Trail Running - Long Sleeve Top

Saucony Stopwatch Long Sleeve Top. $34. The anti-microbial finish helps reduce odors and for those darker runs, it has reflective logo marks

JACKETS

Running jacket (optional) – not taking off that last-minute layer decision? That’s ok! At least this can be tied around your waist.

The Brooks Carbonite Jacket was made for both warmth and visibility while out running.

SHORTS vs. PANTS

The Great Debate.

At the end of the day, this great debate comes down to preference and cold tolerance. Some runners refuse to wear pants unless it’s under 32 degrees F, others will only wear shorts if the temperature is in the 50s.

There’s no real right or wrong here, but whatever you choose, comfort is key.

RUNNING SHORTS

Trail Running - Men's Running Shorts

Men’s New Balance Impact Run 5″ short. $45. 5inches, practical and moisture-wicking. What more could a guy want?

Trail Running - Running Shorts Hers

Women’s Nike Tempo Lux 3″. $40. The perfect length to keep a perfect stride on the trail and lightweight enough to wear under tights if it gets a bit colder.

RUNNING TIGHTS

Trail Running - Running Tights Men's

Men’s New Balance Impact Run Heat Tights. $90. The perfect balance between warm and breathable

Trail Running - Running Tights Men's

Women’s Saucony Fortify Tights. $85. These tights have pockets. Enough said. How long have women been asking for pockets? Too long!

WINTER TRAIL RUNNING SHOES

Runners know it’s critical to check weather and trail conditions before heading out. If it’s too wet and rainy, it might be a road day to preserve the trail system.

Here are winter trail running shoe top picks.

Trail Running - GoreTex

New Balance Hierro v5 Gore-Tex $150. A great lightweight trail shoe that can withstand the cold wet terrain that also acts as a good transition shoe from road to trail and back.

Trail Running - Hoka Trail

HOKA ONE ONE Speedgoat 4. $145. The tried and true all around trail shoe. The Speedgoat works well on even the wettest of trail surfaces to provide a breathable and largely dry running experience

MUST-HAVE WINTER ACCESSORIES

These accessories never go out of style and last for miles. For both safety and warmth, these are what we don’t leave home without.

Trail Running -Petzl Headlamp

Petzl IKO Core Headlamp. $90. The 100% compostable packaging is only half the reason this headlamp is a must have. The Petzl IKO Core has a rechargeable battery, 3 different lighting options (from ‘Oh yeah, this is nice’ to ‘OMG turn off the brights’).

Trail Running - Feetures

Running Socks. $9-$22. Feetures has a sock for everyone and meets every need. They are moisture wicking, come in different thickness and styles that make the most sense with where you’re at.

Icebreaker Gloves & Headband – Because matching is key and Icebreaker delivers both. The Icebreaker Sierra Gloves and Affinity Headband are essential to keeping your most vulnerable ligaments that affect the rest of the body, warm.

Plus, no one likes cold hands.

Trail Running - Icebreaker Gloves
Trail Running - Headband

Categories
Gifts for Runners Trail Running Training

GIFT GUIDE: NUTRITION FOR RUNNERS

If there is something all runners have in common, it’s that we could do a little better pre-, during- and post-run nutrition.

This year for the holidays, help yourself and the runner in your life stay on top of their nutrition game with these easy items.

Ultra-runner Laura knows a thing or two about the how prep, fuel and recover from a run. Ready on to learn her best nutrition offerings available at JackRabbit to fuel your next adventure.

laura cortez - fuel the run

PRE-RUN NUTRITION

There’s about a 50/50 split between runners who eat before every run and those who can’t fathom the thought.

Which camp do you lie in?

Picky Oats

Pre-run-food lovers

Eat now, thank us later. The Picky Oats Performance Oatmeal has some of the cleanest ingredients around and contains the perfect amount of carbs, sugar and protein to make every run just that much better. Plus, these are made with beets which studies have shown to potentially help running performance over a period of time.

Waffles

I-refuse-to-eat-before runs, runners

If you don’t like stoopwafels, you probably just haven’t had one yet. These Honey Stinger Waffles are the perfect size for any stomach.

Trying to procrastinate your run? Pro tip: warm this sucker up over the stove or coffee.

DURING-RUN NUTRITION

Virtual raise of hands for those who eat during their runs. Hardly any? That’s what we thought.

After about 90 minutes your body becomes more or less depleted and needs additional sugars and energy to remain efficient.

Choose your nutrition below:

Gu Gel

Gels: For those who just want the nutrition to be over with. GU Energy Gels are a runner’s staple with the variety of flavors and calories to meet your needs. A JackRabbit fave flavor? Lemon Ginger GU

Honey Stinger Energy Chews

Snack: For those who want to take their time or maybe munch over a longer period of time, try these Honey Stinger Energy Chews. They’re like gushers but for running and minus the gel filling.

POST-RUN NUTRITION

After running, there’s about an hour long recovery window to get the nutrients your body needs at a rate that is most effective.

Ideally, your body will be taking in carbs and proteins within an hour after your workout.

Cracker Bar

Snack: Try the Honey Stinger Organic Cracker Bar – packed with tons of flavor and organic ingredients, it’s the ideal pick-me-up.

Skratch Recovery Mix

Recovery drink: Get all the protein and carbs in one delicious drink. The Skratch Labs Sport Recovery Drink has been a go-to drink for us after long runs and hard workouts.

DAILY NUTRITION

Consistent nutrition and hydration intake during the day is also essential to being at the top of your running game. UCAN has a great Hydrate Electrolyte Mix that’s easy to drink throughout the day.

UCAN

Runners, we’re just scratching the surface here. There are myriad other ways to get your calories and your recovery on at JackRabbit. We’ve spent years mixing, chomping, chewing and digesting (yes, the latter is probably the most important of all) many different types of sports nutrition for all types of adventures.

Check out all the running nutrition options at our virtual ‘Nutrition Kitchen’ at JackRabbit.com.

SHOP ALL RUNNING NUTRITION AT JACKRABBIT
Categories
Diversity Trail Running

REPRESENTATION IN RUNNING

AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT

This blog is about racial and ethnic representation in running. We feature input from those who have participated in sport at every level, on every surface and are non-white.

From the everyday runner to collegiate to elite and Olympic trial qualifiers, from road to trail. Each take and experience is unique and most importantly, both valid and essential.

Why do people care about representation in running so much? We’re all just here to run and improve, so why does what everyone looks like have to be so important?

We all have the chance to lace up our running shoes and hit the road or trail for a run. Right?

In theory, everyone can just throw on running shoes and walk out the door for some easy miles. In theory, what people look like doesn’t matter and we all have equal opportunity when it comes to sport.

In theory, representation in sport shouldn’t be such an issue.

Victoria Junius - Running as a black woman

VICTORIA JUNIOUS

Victoria Junious recounts her journey as an African American runner. She shares her experiences as the only Black runner on her cross country team.

“I distinctly remember my coach proudly announcing in our post-race briefing that my teammate was the ‘first non-African runner to cross the line’. My teammates all clapped at this feat. He got fifth place, but that didn’t matter. In this moment, he was first. When I asked my teammates why they cheered, they said that it was ‘pretty much like winning.’ They said it was a ‘compliment to the African runners.’

They did not see a problem with it. I let it go. In the weeks following, I found that it happened after every race in which a white person did not win outright. My coach would give the standings, then add on the standings as if every African runner did not finish. Micro-aggression does not feel like a strong enough word to describe it.

I was the only black girl on my team for the first two years of my college cross country career. I felt every bit of that “only-ness.”

I was only person our coach thought could teach her how to dance or know the hip-hop or r&b songs she flipped past in on the van radio. The only person with “interesting” hair. The person expected to translate “what the sprinter girls meant by…”

Even when I stood on the starting line and looked past our team box, I saw very few non-white people. This was true from the athletes to the coaches, to the support staff.

It was frustrating and alienating, especially when the few black people who made it to top of our field were invalidated by my coach. Over and over, I questioned my place. What was my value to my team, and my standing in the sport as a whole?

I had a sense of longing that at the time that I could not put my finger on. Now I know that I longed for belonging. I wanted to train with someone who shared in my experience. I needed someone to tell me that when I heard something offensive, I did not have to let it go. I did not want to be the only one anymore. I wanted to be represented.”

REPRESENTATION IN RUNNING: WHAT IS IT?

People most often participate in activities where similar backgrounds and interests are shared. Without much thought to that space, we can move into it easily. It’s an automatic safe, and familiar space when it’s with people we can identify with.

Being able to find your identity with those who look like you can be essential to one’s participation and longevity in a sport.

Let’s breakdown the identity in the running world, using demographic data from 26.2.org.

  • 78% are college-educated.
  • 73% report a household income of $75k+, 56% reporting a household income of $100k+.
  • The half marathon has the largest year over year increase and is thus, the most popular distance to race.
  • Road-runner participation increases every year

Fun fact, in 2020, over 450 women participated in the marathon Olympic Trials.

When looking at the NYTimes article on the marathon Olympic Trials, there are many things that stand out. Firstly, let’s acknowledge the fact we have are over 450 females to celebrate for breaking barriers down in the sport.

There are many more reports showing higher participation from females as opposed to men in the sport. Female representation is there, so what other kinds of representation are we talking about?

We’re talking race.

Non-white, colored bodies that have vastly different experiences from the white people who come to participate. Take a look at the very bottom of this The New York Times article, you’ll see what I mean.

What follows are some candid comments from the BIPOC running community sharing their journeys and experiences. If we as a running community are going to raise representation in running, we must first understand the experiences of all of those in our sport.

We each come with our own stories. Together we can learn, change and continue to share our running passion with all races, genders, ages and paces.

Candace Gonzalez - Running as a Latina

CANDACE GONZALES

“One of my favorite runners is Des Linden. She’s hardworking, dedicated, keeps showing up, and has a great sense of humor. In 2018 I watched her cross the finish line at the Boston Marathon. She was the first American woman in 33 years to win the race. However, for me it was more than that. For me, it was watching a Latina cross that finish line and accomplish an amazing feat. 

As a Latina runner who has been trail running for two years, I have noticed the lack of diversity in the sport. Unlike road running, where we see more BIPOC participate, we do not see that as much in trail running. In fact, when I run trails on my own, it is rare for me to see another BIPOC on the trail.”

Have you ever entered a space and just felt, weird but unsure of why that is? Or maybe you’ve been to a social group where you just haven’t fit in for one reason or another. Not because people are malicious, but just because. Enter Black, Indigenous, and people of color and the wide experiences of coming into running spaces knowing the misplaced feeling will be there and actively preparing for it.

Laura Cortez - Ultra running and the Latino Community

LAURA CORTEZ

“To me, representation means respect. It means I can go to a race that is serving Mexican food and not have to worry about getting looks for eating it. It means I don’t have to listen to people mock the Spanish language or accents.

Representation means seeing my identity on the starting line at every level, not just elite or beginner. In this way, I not only have something to aspire to, but to also it promotes accessibility of the sport at all levels.

Representation gives me a mental break; I don’t have to be perfect every race. Representation in running can provide a mental break that so many other people feel.”

REPRESENTATION IN RUNNING AT EVERY LEVEL

This is what we talk about when we talk about representation.

At a high level, having that automatic safe space comprised of people you can share your identity and experiences with, is the foundation of two thing. It advances participation in sport but also keeps athletes involved. Not only that, but representation at all levels gives people the grace to start wherever they are. It removes the pressure to be the best right out the gate.

On an elite level, representation gives people someone to look up to. Someone who likely shares similar backgrounds and struggles and is relatable beyond just an athletic level.

As Black, Indigenous, people of color and just non-white runners, when we find that space, it becomes manageable and accessible.

At JackRabbit, we know we take up space in a predominately homogenous environment. We aspire to support those who are less seen, and to help promote a space where change can happen.

Rajpaul Pannu - what it means to run

RAJPAUL PANNU

As a first-generation BIPOC growing up, you’re not nurtured to realize what your self-actualization is. Rather, what it takes to be ‘successful’ in the eyes of society. As a result, the outdoors are not prioritized despite the many health benefits that come along with it.

Funding for shoes, running camps, etc. make it difficult for an equitable playing field. Being the mantle for this change starts on the ground level; to take it upon yourself as a BIPOC outdoor enthusiast and bridge the gap. This can be done by simply showing up.

  • Showing up to road, mountain and trail races.
  • Showing up to the podium to claim your prize.
  • Showing up for a group/trail run and encouraging dialogue/hard conversations.

Mother nature is inviting and all you have to do is show up.”

Candace Gonzales further shares her journey into trail running.

“Even when I first started trail running, I felt a bit out of place due to the lack of diversity and representation of LatinX trail runners.  However, recently I started running with a local group called Trailtinos. A group formed to promote and connect BIPOC on the trail.

This group has been very special to me. Every time I run with this group, I feel represented. I am running with people who share similar experiences and a similar cultural background. More than that, I do not feel so alone, or out of place knowing there are others out there on the trail with me.

I’ll never run as fast as Des Linden, nor anyone in Trailtinos. But, knowing these runners exist makes me want to continue to work hard and show up to all my road and trail runs.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Laura Cortez, is a dog mom, intersectional environmentalist and runner living in Denver, Colorado. You can listen to an interview with Laura on ‘The Long Run’, a podcast about what keeps runners running long, running strong and staying motivated.