It took Jake (they/them) 25 years to feel comfortable in their own skin. Motivated by their own experiences of feeling ostracized due to gender, Jake is now committed to building community and creating safe spaces for queer and non-binary runners.
Growing up, Jake participated in classic American sports like baseball, hockey, and soccer, as well as swimming and tennis. However, these activities never truly resonated with them. Initially, Jake attributed this disconnect to the sports themselves. Upon reflection, they realized the issue was actually a lack of inclusion.
" I actually really enjoy being active and moving, exploring the connection I have with my body. At the time, I didn't know that I was queer or non-binary. Now I realize those athletic spaces weren't welcoming or accepting of people who were different. "
Jake always knew they were different but couldn't quite pinpoint what it was. During their senior year of high school, they came out as gay, thinking they had finally figured it all out. Yet, something still felt off.
After moving Seattle, Jake joined the Seattle Frontrunners, a local running and walking club for the LGBTQIA+ community and its allies. The Frontrunners helped Jake find a sense of community and make Seattle feel like home. They quickly fell in love with running and the people they met along the way, progressing from a 10k race to a 3:16 marathon within a year. "It was exactly what I needed in that moment," Jake says.
Through conversations and self-reflection, Jake began to understand themselves more deeply. They came to appreciate that "gender is something much more complex than just being a gay cis man." With this newfound vocabulary, Jake identified as queer and non-binary.
Jake recognized that the running world mirrored the limited spaces they had experienced as a child. Traditionally, running races offered only two registration categories: one for men and one for women. This realization became a call to action for Jake, inspiring them to address the lack of inclusion they had felt with sport since their early childhood in Minnesota.
Jake went on to publish a guide for running race directors and joined the board of the Seattle Frontrunners, eventually becoming vice president. They worked with other board members to implement a series of changes to make the club more inclusive, particularly for queer and non-binary runners. The club now boasts over 600 members active on Heylo.
Jake went on to co-found the Queer Running Society to bring their initiative to the global scale. Queer Running Society aims to serve as both a community and advocacy arm for queer runners.
Over the years, Jake's community involvement was instrumental in discovering their identity. Now as a leader, Jake is extending the gift to others. Through inclusive communities and dedicated advocacy, Jake is making an impact on the running community—one that promises to endure for generations to come.