Pro Spartan Karl Bautista Talks LGBTQ+ Inclusion

Pro Spartan Karl Bautista Talks LGBTQ+ Inclusion


Get to know the 2023 Spartan Ambassador who’s bringing his experience and advocacy into the national arena

One of six male athletes chosen to be Spartan Race PH ambassadors this year was Karl Bautista. Karl already has an impressive athletic career so far, diving into sports like ultimate frisbee and parkour—and he’s just getting started.

Notably, Karl said that his first love in sports was football, but eventually left his school’s team because he was being bullied and didn’t feel welcome. His next love was gymnastics—he liked the flair—and this led him to parkour. Karl has been a parkour athlete since 2013, and while the Spartan Race hadn’t come to the Philippines at this point, the urban landscapes he would practice on familiarized him with obstacle sports.

Looking back on his Spartan journey, Karl mentioned that his very first race was in 2021 in Batangas. Though he had no prior experience with obstacle course racing, Karl’s friend invited him to join the elite category, which he completed. And yet, according to Karl, the race was a lot tougher than he imagined so he wasn’t able to finish it in the time he was expecting.

From then on, Karl has been hooked on obstacle sports and Spartan Races, which he describes as being like a playground for adults. “When you’re a kid, you jump over things and hang from bars—you play around—but this time, it’s set in the mountains or in the trails and the obstacles are a lot harder,” he said.

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“Obstacle sports makes you feel like a kid again, like reliving your youth but feeling how old you’ve gotten,” Karl added.

When he first heard that he was going to be a Spartan ambassador, Karl said he was “super honored and shocked” they chose him since he only joined in 2021 and never got a podium finish at that point. That said, he said he’s thankful because this platform gave him the opportunity to talk about his advocacy, which is the inclusion of the LGBTQ+ community in sports. “I don’t represent everyone, but at least I get to represent some more people,” he remarked.

Karl said that the LGBTQ+ community was underrepresented in sports in general so he felt it was good that he gets to meet a lot of athletes from the community. However, he said that to be put in the spotlight or to have a platform is a bit different because those who were less aware could see him now.

“As an ambassador, I felt I had to train harder. I had to prioritize obstacle sports racing more over my other sports like ultimate and parkour. I had to focus more on trail running,” Karl added. Explaining, he said that the difference between obstacle sports racing and his other sports is the rough terrain. With Spartan Races taking place in the mountains or trails, he and other athletes often have to crawl going up or slide going down.

Not only is the terrain drastically different from his other sports, but he has to use different shoes, too. On the topic of equipment, Karl said the essentials for Spartan Races are trail shoes and a pull-up bar to train your grip strength and upper body prior to the event. 

RELATED: A Quick Beginner’s Guide to the Spartan Race

Of course, Karl isn’t stopping with this achievement. According to him, his plans going forward is to eventually run a full marathon. He remarked that he thinks this goal is crazy for him since he’s more accustomed to bursts of energy prolonged over a few minutes, whereas a full marathon is 42 kilometers long. With that, he said he has to mentally prepare himself to do a marathon, so he’s first doing a 21-kilometer Spartan Race in May.

His other goal is to represent the Philippines in trail running at the Gay Games occurring in Hong Kong. Happening in November, this competition will be the first of its kind in Asia. There, he wants to get his first podium finish.

For Karl, these goals are for himself—to prove to himself he can. He also wants to inspire people of all genders that they can participate in sports, no matter their age and background. “I want to be the person I wanted to be growing up,” he added. 

At the end of the interview, he brought the conversation back to LGBTQ+ inclusion in Filipino sports. To underscore the significance of his advocacy, Karl said, “Nakakatuwa to see more diversity in sports federations and to see them be more welcoming to LGBTQ+ athletes, but we still have a long way to go. We still don’t have the SOGIE bill and we still have cultural trauma. Hopefully, things get better for the generations ahead of us.”

Photos from KARL BAUTISTA (via Instagram)

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