Professional distance runner Matt Llano came out publicly on Tuesday for the first time in a video released by his running club, Northern Arizona Elite. The video is a part of the club’s YouTube series, “An Open Look,” which follows Llano as he prepares for the Bank of America Chicago Marathon.
In this episode, Llano remembers how he felt as a young man stuggling with understanding who he is, and his conscious decision to release the shame of being closeted. “You feel alone; you feel scared; you feel like you’re the only one who’s going through this, when in reality, you’re not at all alone.”
Llano says he had a difficult time working up the courage to come out to his parents, particularly uttering the phrase “I’m gay.” While he didn’t expect his parents to react poorly, he really had no idea what they would say. Llano's parents make an appearance in the video, and they couldn’t be prouder of their son. They describe the betterment they’ve seen in him since coming out, both in his racing and in his well-being.
Also in the video, first noted by OutSports, is Llano’s housemate and fellow runner Alicia Shay, who lost her husband Ryan during the U.S. Olympic Marathon trials in New York City in 2007 when he suffered a sudden cardiac arrest due to a pre-existing enlarged heart. Shay says she could see a closed-off frustration in Matt as he wrestled with his sexual orientation. “Afterwards, he just seemed a lot more peaceful," she said. "All of that totally dissipated and went away.”
Llano speaks with nostalgia about being in a more than three-year relationship during college, and how much easier it would have been had they felt comfortable being out. “I do wish that we could have been more open about it, and that people could have known us more in the context of our relationship, rather than just two people who are friends.”
Llano says the response from young athletes expressing their gratitude to him for coming out publically has been “surreal and humbling.”
Watch the video below: