As an ultrarunner, Coree Aussem-Woltering normally participates in events like marathons, 50k’s, and 100 mile races. Which, in and of themselves, would be astonishing enough on any athletic resumé.
But Aussem-Woltering, who identifies as gay, decided to challenge his skills even further. So, last year, he traveled from his home in northern Illinois to the South Pacific in order to participate in a competition called World’s Toughest Race: Eco-Challenge Fiji. This extreme outdoor skills contest was just released for streaming on Amazon Prime on August 14.
The Eco-Challenge Fiji race consisted of numerous events such as outrigger canoeing, stand-up paddleboarding, mountaineering, and trail cycling. Throughout the competition, Aussem-Woltering and the other competitors had to survive harrowing environments like a shark-filled ocean crossing and flooded gorge while traversing the island nation.
While completing the contest was already extraordinary, Aussem-Woltering was also part of history, competing on Team Onyx: the first all-Black team to participate in this endurance race.
In a feature by The Guardian’s Rich Tenorio, Aussem-Woltering reflected on the magnitude of his team’s achievement:
“For us to be the first five people to do this is pretty exciting. We want to show the world there are people of color out there who like to be doing active sports that have been historically white-dominated.”
What’s more, Team Onyx’s triumph was also an intersectional one as Aussem-Woltering was one of two members to identify as LGBTQ. As he explained, his participation in the World’s Toughest Race demonstrated that there are “also gay people who are extremely active, who love the outdoors, and that this is something you can do.”
In order to participate in Eco-Challenge Fiji, Aussem-Woltering put himself through a crash course to learn a number of skills separate from running. These ranged from rock climbing and jungle navigation to first aid and CPR.
After completing the endurance race, Aussem-Woltering was inspired to challenge himself even further. Upon returning to the United States, he ran Wisconsin’s 1,200-mile Ice Age Trail and set a record for fastest-known time.
Aussem-Woltering summed up what keeps him seeking new and more impressive ways to put himself to the test:
“The African American community has so many physical issues: high blood pressure, diabetes, maybe not the best diet. I want to encourage people to get out, be active. It doesn’t have to be an Eco-Challenge. If you want to run, show up at a local 5K. Go explore a trail by your home. Go out, be active, and hopefully enjoy it.”