Keegan Gleason made a couple of trips to Provincetown before this summer ... as a closeted teen wrestling with his sexuality.
It’s safe to say he had a different experience this time around as an out gay man.
Gleason competed in Provincetown’s first “Feet over Front Street” 5K to commemorate the town’s Pride celebrations, and won. Talk about the perfect metaphor.
“It was just more freeing to run out, rather than be so afraid everyone is probably thinking I’m gay,” Gleason told Outsports. “When I went with my friends, I was like, ‘I’m not gay! I’m not gay!’ But this time, I’m very gay.”
Ptown is known for its “very gay” offerings, from drag shows to bacchanalian dance parties. But believe it or not, the gay oasis offers more than hedonism and late-night revelry.
A lot more.
Anybody who’s visited Provincetown has probably seen the scores of runners who spend their early mornings jogging along Commercial Street, taking in the warm salt air and serene beauty.
Last May, Paul Sauceda, who first visited Provincetown 20 years ago, decided to try and bring them together. Sauceda started the Provincetown Runners, which is now affiliated with the International Frontrunners, an LGBTQ running group with outposts in nearly every major U.S. city.
Twice per week, the group gets together and runs around town. Sauceda says runs during theme weeks can attract as many as 40 people, ranging from their early 20s to 70s.
“I’ve made more friends in the last year and four months since we started this running club than I made in the last 20 years in Ptown,” said Sauceda.
This summer, Sauceda came up with the idea of formalizing a 5K race, but needed help with the logistics. To make it happen, he partnered with the Provincetown Business Guild, which supports the array of boutique and independent businesses that help keep Ptown unique.
“It’s really important to let people know this isn’t just a space where you can come and party,” said Trevor Pittinger, associate director of the business guild. “This is a space where you can come and meditate or exercise or write or look at artwork and center yourself.”
For Gleason, running has always been therapeutic. It allows him the space to sort through his anxiety and think things through, including coming out.
Running is synonymous with Gleason’s gay journey.
“When I’m training, it’s almost like meditating, like taking time for yourself every day,” he said. “Most people are like, ‘What? You’re going for a 10-mile run to decompress?’ But for me, I’m so much more calm after I run.”
Provincetown’s second “Feet over Front Street” race — the main throughways in Ptown used to be called “Front Street” and “Back Street” — will take place Sunday, at the start of Carnival Week. The first race attracted about 125 runners, and the same is expected this time around.
Unfortunately, Gleason won’t be able to attend. The Massachusetts native will soon be starting his sophomore year at Tufts University, where he’ll compete on its cross country team.
Tucked inside of Greater Boston, it’s relatively easy to get to the city harbor from Tufts’ campus, and onto the fast ferry.
Running and being gay are two of Gleason’s favorite things. He looks forward to combining them again soon.
“I just thought it was super cool to combine sports with a Pride event,” he said. “Oftentimes, people don’t necessarily associate people being gay with athletics. It was cool to have that opportunity for my first Pride event.”
There promises to be many more to come.