“Vulnerability leads to growth. That is something that I fully believe. I am willing to expose myself knowing that not only will this make a positive difference in my life, but maybe someone else’s.”
Professional runner Addie Bracy wrote those words in a blog titled, “An Exposé,” which was published in August 2016. That post was the first time Bracy came out on a public platform as an LGBTQ+ individual.
The “someone” in the post turned out to be her now-partner Corey Conner, also a professional runner—who, at the time, knew Bracy from competing together on Team USA at the 2014 Bupa Great Edinburgh International Cross Country Championships.
At the time Conner read Bracy’s blog, she had been struggling with her own identity and sexuality for several years. But reading about Bracy’s journey was a turning point in Conner’s life. Bracy’s honesty reassured her and provided the courage she needed to finally live as her authentic herself.
Now Conner and Bracy want to help others find the same courage.
“I think the more visible and open we can be, the better it is for other people out there that may be struggling like we were four years ago,” Conner told Runner’s World. “It’s just been this full circle life thing, and it’s time to give back.”
In May, the couple announced the launch of OUTrun, a new initiative meant to connect and support LGBTQ+ individuals through running. Bracy, 32, and Conner, 29, will host group runs and meet-ups at races around the country with the goal of connecting not only LGBTQ+ individuals in the running community, but also encouraging members of the LGBTQ+ community to embrace the sport of running—a community which supported them through some of the most challenging times of their lives.
Finding Support Through Running
For Bracy, the support of the running community contributed to the strength she needed to come out. Towards the end of her track career in 2016, Bracy carried her identity as a secret that weighed heavily on her, and the burden showed in her results on the track. When she felt her running career slipping away, Bracy fought back.
“I just absolutely love running. I’ve always loved it and I think I got to the point where I wasn’t willing to let that secret take the sport away from me that I loved so much,” Bracy said. “I wasn’t willing to walk away.”
In her last effort to hit the Olympic Trials standard in the 10K, Bracy had one of the toughest races of her career at the 2016 Portland Track Festival, where she finished far off the mark she needed to hit. But her last track race also pushed her to finally come out to her friends and family, and those conversations lifted the burden that had weighed her down for so long.
Just weeks after the 10K in Portland, Bracy won her first-ever trail race at the 2016 U.S. Mountain Running Championships, where she crossed the finish line of the 10.6K race in 57:25.
“I got my life back and I got back the joy that I got from running. It could be a stretch to say it saved my life but in a lot of ways it did,” Bracy said.
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When Bracy published her blog that summer, she wanted her story to share the complexities of the decision to come out and the feeling of empowerment she gained from being open. That story created a ripple effect.
And Conner was one of the first to experience that. After she graduated from the University of Maine, she ran for the Hansons-Brooks Original Distance Project, but struggled with the same secret, which eventually led her to quit running entirely while she was still in her prime.
“For me, it was really hard to compete at the level that I wanted to compete at when I was struggling with something so big,” Conner said. “I ended up walking away from running to go and deal with that on my own and get away from that pressure while trying to discover who I was and figure out my sexuality.”
She moved from Rochester Hills, Michigan to Portland, Maine, a place where she had no ties other than her older sister who lived there at the time. For several years, she worked at a cafe and led a simpler lifestyle.
Then, when Conner read Bracy’s blog, the words immediately resonated with her—it was almost like Bracy had provided a road map to the place Conner wished she could be.
Conner reached out to her former teammate and let her know that she wanted to come out, too. Bracy helped her navigate that process.
“She inspired me to take the same lead and be totally transparent with my sexuality,” Conner said.
Bringing That Support to Others
After she came out to her friends and family and was met with support, Conner moved to Longmont, Colorado, where Bracy lives, and the two started dating in January 2017. Both runners have embraced the trail running community and currently compete as professionals for Nike Trail.
“It took awhile to get there, but I feel like I’m finally living life how I want to live it and I feel really at peace with who I am now,” Conner said.
OUTrun is a way for Bracy and Conner to give back to the running community—one that includes all types of runners. Their vision is to connect other LGBTQ+ individuals and share their stories through the website and social media channels, just as Bracy’s story impacted Conner.
Conner especially doesn’t want another runner to feel compelled to leave the sport like she did.
“We wanted to use our last few years in the sport to make a difference, and hopefully leave it better than it was when we got here,” Bracy said.
The first group run took place on June 12 at Improper City in Denver. Bracy and Conner will be traveling in a camper van this summer with the goal of capturing stories, spreading the word, and hosting meet-ups at races.
“If we can reach other people and make this so normal that everyone feels safe and welcome in this community to be who they are, I think that that could be something really awesome,” Bracy said.
Contributing Writer Taylor Dutch is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas.