Mikah Meyer is a queer outdoorsman, a change maker who’s determined to make our natural spaces more inclusive. Meyer first drew public attention in April 2019 when he became the only person to visit all 419 units of the U.S. National Park System—including national parks, monuments, historic sites, rivers, and more—in a single journey. The feat took him three years, which solidified his role in the outdoor community as an LGBTQIA+ advocate and garnered him a large social media following.
Now, the 34-year-old continues to push for change and acceptance in outdoor culture.
“I didn't meet my first openly gay adult until I was 19 and left Nebraska for college,” Meyer told SNEWS. “What I'm doing now and what my national parks journey really taught me was the need for that openly gay outdoor role model that I never had growing up.”
When George Floyd was murdered in Minneapolis this May, Meyer was living just miles away. As millions took to the streets to protest nationally, he felt inspired to help.
“I’d made it a goal to run to all 180 Minneapolis city parks," Meyer said. "Suddenly, I was running and seeing my city change in so many ways—the streets were speaking out for social justice. That was the end of May and then June was Pride Month, so I asked myself, ‘What can I do within my job, within my passions and control, to help fix this problem and help make the world a better place?'”
Inspired also by Terry Fox, the Canadian athlete who died in 1981 while running to raise money and awareness for cancer research, Meyer decided to run all the way across his home state of Minnesota—an event he's calling, appropriately, the Run Across Minnesota.
“The experience I had with my national parks road trip was that when you do something epic that's out of the ordinary, it brings more attention to a cause,” said Meyer. “The idea is to use this positive trip and my own platform to highlight all types of diversity in the outdoors.”
More than 200 miles in 38 days
On September 4, Meyer will start the 200-plus-mile journey across Minnesota, averaging six miles over 38 running days. He plans to live in a loaner Winnebago, the same model he used for his national parks trip. He encourages people to follow his journey on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, where each day he’ll highlight diverse people of all kinds, many of whom Meyer has gotten to know through his work with Diversify Outdoors, REI, and Eddie Bauer.
“I still think the prevailing [participant] in the outdoors is a straight white bro who has a beard, wears flannel, and drinks beer,” Meyer said. “So I’m working on ways in which we can invite more people to the outdoors. Not only to keep the industry fun and diverse and thriving, but to keep it surviving as our country changes.”
The Run Across Minnesota will also raise awareness for Outside Safe Space, Meyer's initiative to showcase LGBTQIA+ adventurers and allies, as well as to promote representation and acceptance in the outdoors. For people eager to support the project, there’s a ton of merch available for purchase online, all featuring the Outside Safe Space logo, an original design of Meyer's. The logo, which depicts a multicolored pine tree, is a symbol of LGBTQIA+ pride and "something allies can pin to their backpacks, stick on their water bottles, or post in their offices," to signal that LGBTQIA+ people are "supported in being 100 percent themselves." All proceeds from sales of Outside Safe Space merch will help fund Meyer’s work.
Representation—more than a buzzword
“Representation is one of the buzzwords we use a lot, but I think it really is one of the most important things we can do right now. As we're all stuck at home on our devices, who are we seeing in outdoor stories? Who are the people inspiring our own adventures? This run is part of that goal to aid representation,” Meyer said.
If you want to support Meyer, you can following him on social media, sponsor a mile, or reach out with suggestions for individuals to highlight. (Meyer is still looking for diverse individuals in the hunting, fishing, and cycling communities who want to share their stories.)
Finally, as Meyer makes his way across Minnesota next month, take a moment to reflect on the oft-quoted African proverb about teamwork. “If you want to go fast, run alone. If you want to go far, run together.”