Wyn Wiley, a.k.a. Pattie Gonia, and Ryan Montgomery are a couple with a shared mission. As Wyn says, “we are really open to learning new things and messing with systems and trying to change this world.”
Pattie describes themself as a “professional homsexual, queer environmentalist, and drag queen building community for queer people, allies and our planet.” Ryan is a record-setting pro ultra-runner who will be competing in the 2022 Western States on a Golden Ticket. Pattie is a founder and Ryan is a founding member of The Outdoorist Oath, an organization committed to taking action on climate change, actively working to ally all people in the outdoor community, and supporting a connection to the outdoors for everyone.
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Wyn: “We remind each other all the time that life isn’t just the work you do or the sport you do, but it’s having a person to spend time with.”
Looking back on the backpacking trips he’s done, Wyn has realized that “it’s never about the mileage, it’s never about all this s*** that I think it is, it’s about the people and the love of a thing.” Ryan has the same perspective on running, which is rare, although as Wyn points out, that may be because “he’s fast, so he can run in the daylight while everyone is running in the night time most of the time.”
Wyn: “I really look for North Star people in my life.”
Wyn credits his chosen family with teaching him about slowing down and enjoying life. His emotionally-invested friendships have made Ryan examine his own relationships and recognize that in the running community, “oftentimes we have friends that are just our running acquaintances and we only meet up to run and perhaps there’s not actually a ton of depth there.” But he’s also come to the conclusion that that can be okay: “you served a purpose in my life and I’ve learned something and now there’s another set of people in my life that have other purposes.”
Ryan: “I approached Javelina as a way of just celebrating who I am and just having fun with my crew and the people around me.”
The Javelina Jundred bills itself as “the original 100 mile trail run party” and as such, Ryan says, “it becomes this big celebration of diversity and uniqueness of expression. As someone who identifies as a queer trail runner who, you know, likes to paint his nails and maybe occasionally wears a crop top when I run, I loved the energy there.” That energy and the support of his friends helped him to a second place finish with a time of 13:33:52, and secured him a Golden Ticket to the 2022 Western States.
Ryan: “Running is a lifestyle for me and second is competition and performance, and I think making sure that I have that mindset as I approach my sport has been fundamental.”
Ryan has seen so many runners who jump into the sport and quickly get burned out because of the pressure from their sponsors to produce results. He believes that you need to ask yourself why it is that you’re running; it shouldn’t be just to win a race. Making it a lifestyle is key to longevity. “I want to be a 50 year old, a 60 year old, a 70 year old running races still,” he says, “and having that mindset is going to make my sport and myself so much more sustainable.”
Wyn: “Never for a day underestimate the ability that all of us have to be a voice that other people listen to.”
The current running industry model, they both agree, is antiquated and needs to change. “The day and age of just sponsoring athletes is done,” Wyn says. “I’m going to push for dollars to be put behind people who aren’t just serving themselves but are serving their communities.”
He also encourages people to take action themselves. “I thought that allyship or advocacy or being a community voice was reserved for people only if they had a million followers or only if they had a blue checkmark by their name or only if they went to school for this stuff. What I’m seeing allyship and action actually look like is people taking their privileges and talents and skills and unique access to communities and people and truly making change happen.”
To that end, Wyn has founded The Outdoorist Oath, a non-profit that will provide free education on how to activate as an ally and create a community that can help shape the future of the outdoors.
Ryan: “If you’re passionate about something, you’ve just got to go ahead and do it yourself and tap the people in your circle that are also passionate about that.”
That means using the tools at your disposal, which for many people can mean the privilege that they were born with. Privilege is often regarded as a bad thing, but Wyn says, “it just means there’s a lot less obstacles in my way than another person’s way and so what can I do with that?”
Wyn: “Look for opportunities to collaborate, to learn from other people.”
There’s so much that we can learn from others, especially if we’re open to diverse voices. As Wyn points out, “If you read different history books when you grew up, would you maybe understand different perspectives about the world?”
Ryan’s advice is “when you’re met with otherness, when you’re met with a difference, lead with curiosity and say, ‘well, why is that?’ or ‘tell me more’ or you know, ‘tell me more about yourself and why you think that way.’ When we enter a space where we’re prohibiting new information from coming in to help us learn and grow is when I think there’s something extremely wrong.”
Ryan: “I think that it is so much better to build a bridge rather than cause a crack between two people.”
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“Thank you” to Wyn and Ryan. We look forward to hearing your thoughts on the show.