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'Eco-Challenge's History-Making Gay Ultrarunner Hopes to Inspire

Eco Challenge

As Coree Aussem-Woltering tells it, he wasn’t really into running long distances growing up.

“I was just a really bad distance runner when I started so I tended to like the sprinting stuff more, which is really funny because now I don’t do anything short anymore,” says the trail runner and triathlete who is now known around the world for his running ability.

Aussem-Woltering was fresh off setting the fastest known time at the 1,147-mile Ice Age Trail in Wisconsin when he spoke to Out, in fact. His posted time of 21 days, 13 hours, and 35 minutes beat the previous known best by over five hours.

In other words, the 29-year-old from Ottawa, Ill., has improved just a bit at running those longer distances and now he's helping to make history on Amazon Prime's World’s Toughest Race: Eco-Challenge Fiji. Looking back, Aussem-Woltering describes a “normal childhood” where he “played sports, family went to church, just all the typical normal things you’d expect in a smaller Midwestern town.”

When he finally decided to come out to friends and family, they were all supportive, in large part because everyone already knew.

“They were like, ‘Nah, we’ve known for a long time,’” he recalls. “So no big deal to them.”

Aussem-Woltering sees a larger purpose for taking on challenges outdoors like the Ice Age Trail and Amazon Prime’s World’s Toughest Race, in which he is a part Team Onyx, the first all-Black team in the franchise.

“I really do think it’s important to encourage kids, especially children of color to go out and explore the outdoors,” the ultrarunner who is known for wearing a Speedo says. “They’re always talking about how you don’t see a lot of people of color in trail running and it’s one of those things where if they don’t know about it, then how are they going to do it?”

Aussem-Woltering is hopeful his example at the World’s Toughest Race will inspire other gay and Black people to turn off the devices and head outdoors.

“I think it’s awesome to just kind of show that off,” he says. “And show there are Black people or people of color out there that really do enjoy the outdoors and these crazy things, and there are also gay people out there that also like to go out and get dirty and do these crazy things.”

There’s little time to relax these days for Aussem-Woltering. Even his family life is full of adventure.

“Yeah, so my husband, Tom, is a professional skydiver,” he says with a chuckle. “Welcome to our house.”

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