Equality of opportunity is one of the most fundamental philosophies that our country was founded upon: everyone should have an equal opportunity to pursue something they want. However, several high-profile trail running athletes have claimed that their sport does not provide adequate opportunity for minorities or LGTBQ+ members.
ESPN published an article detailing how Coree Woltering and Ryan Montgomery – both distance runners who are gay – are trying to make trail running a “safe place” for people in minority and LGTBQ+ demographics. They claim that trail running is a place “where they see few people who look like them and say they have often been made to feel like it isn’t a space they are welcome in.”
Woltering said that he works so hard because “no one should experience barriers to taking part in nature’s playground.”
“I’m openly gay, and I’m Black, and my big thing is [to get] more people of colour in the outdoors, more LGBTQ+ people in the outdoors. The outdoors have not always necessarily been a safe place for people of colour or the LGBTQ+ community.”
There’s a lot of generalizations in Woltering’s statements, without a lot of specifics as to how people in the trail running community have made him or others feel like they couldn’t participate in a sport based on their skin color or sexuality.
In order to assess whether or not this is even a remotely credible assessment – which it isn’t – we have to go back to the principle of equal opportunity.
Everyone has a choice of whether or not they will pursue sports. After that, should they decide to do so, they have to pick a sport. Generally speaking, black people more frequently choose sports like football, basketball, or baseball, which means that there might not be as many that choose outdoor sports (the article highlighted how little data there is on trail running demographics).
This leads to the second truth that directly ties into equal opportunity: just because everyone has (or should have) the same chance to pursue something, does not guarantee an equal outcome.
No one can control whether or not black people choose to trail run instead of playing other sports. If more blacks choose football than trail running, then so be it. It does not highlight whether or not the sport has been purposefully excluding black people or LGTBQ+ members (by the way, watch any marathon race ever and you will see plenty of black people hustling for a victory).
You would need concrete and credible testimonials from individuals or a list of undeniably racist policies that expressly prohibit these groups from joining (which there aren’t). Even the examples that Woltering and Montgomery highlighted in the article were generalizations and any situations they described in detail did not sound like discrimination it just sounded like their feelings got hurt by crude comments.
My advice to non-white athletes who want to get into trail running? Find a trail and start running. There is nothing other than your own desire preventing you from enjoying “nature’s playground.” Just don’t be the emotionally unstable sissies that Woltering and Montgomery apparently are.