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.
“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.
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!”