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Pro runner Nikki Hiltz signs with Lululemon to increase trans representation in sports

It’s so funny, in my career, big things usually happen in June – that’s our schedule [in track and field]. I love it. There was a Pride event in Flagstaff this weekend and I just feel like I can really capitalize on that. The energy, excitement and love that Pride brings – every time I go to a Pride event I leave feeling my heart is so full. And that also helps me a lot on the track. I’ve been able to tap into that energy from Pride and we also opened Pride 5K registration on Friday so it’s one more thing that adds to the excitement. It’s definitely my favorite month of the year.

They were sponsored by Adidas until earlier this year when they graduated from college in 2018. Knowing that athletes depend on sponsorships to generate a more reliable income and to fund training and event costs, it is extremely important to nail this type of partnership so early in your pro career. How long have you been running without sponsorship and what have been some of the challenges that came with it?

It was five full months, basically from January to May. It’s been really hard going from a sponsored athlete to an unsponsored athlete in the last three years, but I really leaned into the fact that I could wear whatever I wanted. This indoor season, I got to wear the work of a transgender non-binary artist that read, “Protect Trans Kids” [on my racing kit].

It gave me a lot of perspective [that running is what] I want to do it whether I make money or not. I want to be here as myself showing up and educating people about the sport. The time without sponsorship was challenging, but I certainly gained a lot of perspective from it.

How important is your partnership with Lululemon in building trans visibility in esports?

Representation is huge for me. The more I see, the more trans kids out there get to see themselves in a sport that they might love too. Lululemon using their platform to showcase me as a trans athlete will only help.

How do you see the future of representation in sport?

Last year’s Olympics had the most out athletes ever and I think that’s just going to keep happening. I feel like growing up it was all very white and cis and straight and now that’s changing. You just see more and more representation at all levels.

How has it been for you since you came out as trans a year ago?

It was definitely a transformative year. There are ups and downs. I feel so seen and I feel so validated when people use my correct pronouns. I just feel freer.

I’m also sometimes scared and don’t feel safe in rooms. It’s been a rollercoaster of self-discovery and I don’t know if people are literate enough to know what non-binary means and that’s been tough. At the end of the day I’m so happy to be outside and living the real me, but it wasn’t all rainbows and sunshine.

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