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Matt Llano, professional distance runner in Arizona, comes out as gay

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Matt Llano, a professional distance runner and former Richmond spider, comes out publicly as gay and shares his journey in a new video.

Matt Llano is a professional distance runner for Northern Arizona Elite, based in Flagstaff. The running club has been airing a series of videos on YouTube (above) called "An Open Look," and this week the video was all about Llano being gay and coming out.

In the video Llano talks about the shame he felt as a teenager for being gay, coming out to his parents and the struggles so many people face doing that (his parents are also interviewed), dating in college, and how difficult it was for him simply to say the words "I'm gay."

Llano sent us this update shortly after the video appeared on YouTube:

So far the responses to my coming out story have been overwhelmingly positive. It really says a lot about the people in the running community as well as the trajectory of society in general. As a whole, we're not as closed-minded as we used to be. It's a powerful revelation that just by sharing my story I am able to have an impact on the movement for LGBTQ equality.

A lot of people have been reaching out to me to tell me their stories, ask advice, voice support, confide in me, tell me I've inspired them in some way - it's very humbling and surreal. What I hope they realize is how much they've inspired me. They are the reason I decided to use my platform in running for something so much greater than myself.

It's not all that common for athletes to have an opportunity to transcend their sport and to touch people's lives for the better, so knowing that I've been able to do that truly gives meaning and purpose to my running and is something for which I'll be eternally grateful.

Llano ran for the University of Richmond in college, where he was an All-American in cross-country. In 2012 he finished 10th in the U.S. 15k championship; In 2014 he finished fifth in the U.S. half-marathon championship.

The dude's the real deal.

You can visit Matt Llano's Web site at mattllano.com or you can follow him on Twitter @MattLlano.