Joining NFR Taught Me About More Than Just Running

We are all realising that both sexual and gender identity are complex issues, and on IDAHOBIT Day 2020 it is fitting that we feature a bio written by one of our members Jo about her own growing awareness.

“I started running at age 39 in an attempt to get fit and lose a bit of middle age spread after 2 kids, a love of food and drink, and too much inactivity brought on by driving to work and sitting at a desk-based job (and possibly also some form of mid-life crisis on the approach to turning 40)!

By 2015, without being part of a running club, I’d managed to self-motivate myself to train for 3 Great North Runs (2013, 2014 and 2015) and had started to become a regular at Newcastle parkrun.

Unfortunately, after the GNR 2015, this initial burst of motivation was seriously lapsing – Winter 2015 was approaching and with the colder darker nights, I was finding it harder and harder to maintain any sort of enthusiasm to keep running.

I’d looked into local running clubs but was put off by everyone seeming to be fitter and faster than me – I was genuinely worried I wouldn’t be able to keep up and would feel out of place.

My good friend Tracey, who had recently taken part in NFR’s couch to 5k programme, suggested I try Northern Frontrunners (as NFR was called then) because they were so inclusive, really did welcome all abilities, and made sure that no one was left behind.

I joined the club in late 2015. My first memories were how welcoming everyone was, how chatting to people was a wonderful distraction and therefore made running much easier, the amazing bakers and cake after every Wednesday night run, and taking part in the Christmas 2015 fancy dress run in fairy wings and a red tutu adorned with multi-coloured lights.

Some people won’t know this until they read this bio, but NFR has also had a big impact on me personally. Being part of a LGBT+ club, taking part in Pride and other LGBT+ social events, and the friends that I have met, talked to, and confided in at NFR have helped me to recognise and work out my own bisexuality/queerness (which is probably still a work in progress but that’s ok).

I was born in 1973, so growing up in the 80’s and early 90’s, homophobia prevailed, there were so many negative stereotypes about gay men and lesbians, and bisexuality didn’t get any mention at all – I didn’t even know it was a thing! It’s only more recently that I’ve looked into it and read around the subject, and started to appreciate that sexuality (just like gender) is not binary and can also be fluid over time. It has helped me to make sense of a lot of things in my life.

Bi Visibility is still an issue, which is partly why I decided to write up this bio. My own journey has helped me to become open-minded about myself and others, and has taught me not to assume anything about other people based on outward appearances or the partner/s they are with. I’m happy to have reached a place where I can say that I am not struggling with, but celebrating bisexuality as a gift – Living by the mantra ‘What would Brenda Howard have done?’

Back on the subject of running – and the rest, so they say, is history. Here I am in 2020. NFR has absolutely rekindled and then grown my love of running, so much so that I have now gained my parkrun 100 and 25 volunteering T-shirts, become a ‘LIRF’ (volunteer leader with NFR), completed 7 GNRs, 2 Marathons (a massive sense of achievement), 4 seasons of NE Harriers Cross County League, too many other events to mention, and become a Guide Runner. I’m now hoping to complete my 8th GNR as part of a VI Runner and Guide pair with my friend and running buddy Richard (we’ll start ahead of the other runners, so this will be our only chance to be ahead of Mo Farah, albeit momentarily!)

I get so much joy out of running with NFR and motivating other new members, just like others have helped to motivate and inspire me over the years (and who continue to do so). I don’t think I would still be running without NFR, yet here I am now closer to 50 than 40, and I’m not planning on stopping anytime soon!”