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In 2019 we have featured biographies of lots of our members – male and female, gay, lesbian, trans, hetero and bi. We finish the year with gay royalty – our very own Pride Radio DJ. Meet Mr Dave Ryan…
“I’ve been running on and off since the age of 13. I even got involved in the school cross-country races, something I don’t do anymore – I can’t be doing with all that cold and mud! Before I moved to the North East, I lived in Edinburgh for almost ten years and spent my time running by myself. It’s one of my big regrets. During all those years I could have been a member of a running group which would have made me more confident, more motivated and have people around me to share my passion for running and socialising. Well, there’s no point dwelling on the past and what could have been. When I moved to the North East, Newcastle Frontrunners was recommended to me by one of my husband’s friends and it was just the tonic I needed. I’ll always remember my first running session with Newcastle Frontrunners with great fondness. From the moment I set foot into the reception area at Gosforth pool, I immediately felt so welcomed. What I love the most about them is that there is never any pressure to run fast or be competitive. The club is fully inclusive of all genders, sexuality and abilities, which makes it such a warm and friendly community.
It’s over three and a half years since that first session and I haven’t looked back since. Within six months of being a member of the club I was elected to the committee and took charge of organising the busy club social calendar. It felt so good to be able to give something back to this lovely bunch. The club encourages its members to get involved in all aspects of its life. One of the big events that the club organises each year in June is a fundraising quiz and I relished the opportunity to be a part of the team. I jumped at the chance of becoming the resident Quizmaster (well I do like to talk! More on that later). I’m also proud to be a qualified Leader in Running Fitness, something the club helped me achieve. I really enjoy leading groups on different routes and helping my fellow runners to improve on their running technique and fitness. I do have to admit that my orientation skills aren’t the best and I haven’t always kept my groups on the right track, but thankfully that’s all in the past now. Well I guess it should be, I’ve been a run leader for three years!
For me, running isn’t about entering races or trying to get a personal best, it’s about pulling on a pair of running shoes and being able to just get out there in the fresh air and forgetting about all the stresses and strains in life. Running is my therapy. If you take one thing away after reading my bio, the most important piece of advice I can give somebody who might be suffering mental health issues is to give running a go. Take it from someone who has struggled a bit with their mental health in the past. Running is accessible to everyone and certainly rewards me with much-needed endorphins and has taught me that I do have control over my mind.
The biggest highlight so far as a member of Newcastle Frontrunners is being part of the club’s annual Pride running festival, which takes place on Newcastle’s Town Moor. For the past three festivals, I’ve had the great opportunity of being race Compere. The atmosphere is electric and I get to dress up in a silly costume and best of all, I have a captive audience! Last Summer I decided to dress as my music idol. I even managed to get everyone involved in the infamous Freddie ‘ay-oh’ crowd chant. It almost felt like the real thing!
My running goal for the year ahead is to finally get myself out of bed on a Saturday morning and run in a parkrun. I do wish they would start the parkrun at 10am instead! I do like my weekend lie-in. As for getting back into cross-country running, I think I’ll need a lot more persuading before I go back down that road or should I say up that muddy hill!
Now you’ve read a little about me, how about listening to me! I did mention earlier that I do like to talk. I’m live on your radio every Sunday afternoon on Pride Radio 89.2fm from 2pm playing a great mix of music from the world of musicals and film. My show is called ‘Dave’s Music Cafe’ and you are cordially invited to come inside, where just like Newcastle Frontrunners, everyone is welcome.”
In our latest member bio, we feature mother-of-4 Siobhan who is a fantastic ally to the LGBT community and a valued member of the club (after all, she is one of our star bakers!) Here is her story, in her own words:
“With a degree of trepidation we set off for Gosforth Pool on a cold dark winter’s night in 2017 asking ourselves what we were doing and why?
The why was relatively easy; we’d indulged way too much over Christmas, were feeling lumpen and from boxing day Tom (son #2) and I had been walk / jogging every other day. Within a relatively short period we’d reached the dizzy heights of jogging for 7 minutes and walking for 1 over 3 miles. That’s when I saw a Facebook post on a friend’s wall something along the lines of “Your running Club Needs You”.
And so we come to the ‘what are you doing?’ You see I’ve run before, largely a fair weather runner I’d begin ‘training’ in May-ish, get round the Great North Run in September then at best do some pretty intermittent runs or most likely stop. I knew that running made me feel good and was important for my mental health (I’d had a period of 9 months off work in 2011).
In 2016 I did a C25K course with my youngest two and again stopped until heading out with Tom on that Boxing Day. I was keen to break the ‘stop start’ pattern and the post for trying out a club came at just the right time.
It’s been one of the best decisions I’ve made.
In the first year; I ran my first 10k, took 20mins off my GNR time, did a half marathon on road, trail and moorland, ran my first XC and got to see Tom named ‘runner up’ as the Club’s most improved runner for the year (proud mum moment overload).
2018 and this year have been equally good. Alex (son #1) joined the club and I’ve gone on to try new things; taken part in the Good Friday Relays, entered a fell race, been in Jesmond Dene for pre breakfast circuits, acted as a guide runner and finally, properly christened my trail shoes running through deep clarts and icy puddles and enjoying the experience, yes really!
The running is a huge part of it but, for me, there are two other reasons for being a member of NFR.
Firstly, I’ve developed incredible friendships, people who’ve celebrated my successes, sung me up hills or chatted me round when I wanted to give up, coffees, cake, celebrations, a wedding…
Secondly, I get to learn how to be a better ally – listening, being visible and loudly positive about a world where everyone, everywhere is valued and appreciated for who they are.
I’m proudly part of a community and have moved on from thinking of others who are faster, fitter, younger…as ‘proper runners’. I’m a runner and my club is Newcastle Frontrunners.”
Main image courtesy of the fabulous Maggie Davison, MDPhoto.
Led to the start by a bagpiper…joined at the finish line by a man-sized dog called Jog Scotty…dancing the Gay Gordons . not your typical race weekend! Since 2015, Glasgow FrontRunners have hosted a 5-mile race called OUTrace in August each year. As it takes place early (9.30am) on a Saturday morning, it gives us an excuse to go up on the Friday and spend the weekend in this great city. This year, to enable more people to attend, the club paid for a minibus with driver to transport a group up north. In total 19 of the club took part in the weekend, with many doing their first trip to this race and their first 5-mile race – it is an unusual and interesting distance to run.
The minibus trip started in typical Frontrunner fashion , with some wine passed around and cake on tap. Some of us had an early night, but others sampled the Glasgow nightlife. Happily everyone made it to the race start line on the Saturday, in the amazing amphitheatre of the Kelvingrove Bandstand. We were welcomed by local drag artiste Miss Bella Houston who gave our club a big shout out before helping lead a mass warm-up to get us all ready. We were then led by the bag piper to the start line on a beautifully rainbow-decorated Prince of Wales bridge.
Our runners came from all abilities of the club, with 2 finishers in the top 20 and others spread right throughout the field. No matter how fast you ran, the route was a green, lush, undulating beauty – and the difficult hill at 4 miles was rewarded with a drumming band at the top 🙂 One of the other fab elements of this race, apart from its route through the amazingly scenic Kelvingrove Park and Kelvin Walkway, is that it loops back on itself so team members can cheer each other on – which we certainly did!
After the run there was a charity cake sale with proceeds going to LGBT Youth Scotland (over £1000 was raised on the day via cake sales and texts). We then made our way back to our various hotels for a weekend of shopping, sleeping, drinking or, in one case, a tour of the Oor Wullie statues which had been placed throughout Scotland for the summer (https://www.oorwullie.com).
The FrontRunner love continued on Saturday evening with a group dinner at Arta restaurant, and then a free ceilidh for all visitors. The dancing started with the relatively simple Gay Gordons but got increasingly tricky, and increasingly fun! Some of the team went on later to the Polo Lounge for further dancing, while others had done quite enough for one day!
On Sunday morning we were invited to join a regular GFR Sunday run, where there were options of 5k. 7.5k, 10k and 16.5k, and we finished up with a group brunch at Bar Square in Merchant City and a group photo with Our Wullie. What a great time. Thanks GFR and see you next year!
The Angel View Run 2018A report by Aisling
This year’s Low Fell Angel View run took place on a roasting hot Thursday in June, and seven Frontrunners set their sights on conquering the 5.17 mile course.The race started behind the Angel Inn, with views of Gateshead and the Angel itself creating a fairly dramatic backdrop to the proceedings.
The run is a two and a half loop course, which someone feeling kind described as “undulating” – we all know with that description you should read between the lines and just acknowledge that it’s hilly. The initial hill in the first loop was pleasant enough, and (what goes up must come down) was followed immediately by a quick downhill dip through the underpass, followed by a short ascent on a forest trail path. With a sense of direction such as mine, I had no idea where I was headed, and so was pleasantly surprised upon exiting the forest to be rewarded by a worm’s-eye view (like a bird’s-eye view, but from below!) of the Angel towering above me. It was lovely to experience such an iconic structure from a novel perspective.A quick trot past the Angel, then it was time to double back along the main road and head back through the underpass towards the second loop.The second loop was less forgiving than the first, and contained one epic, seemingly never-ending ascent (I should note at this point that most of us had joined in the NFR hill rep session the night before – poor planning or perfect preparation, depending on perspective, or whether you’re at the top or bottom of the hill!). At one point I thought I had reached the top, only to find that there was an additional bit of hill hidden behind the bushes, followed by a football pitch-sized field that you had to run around before you could enjoy the long run back down.After that, the rest was a breeze. Up and over, through the forest, wave hi to the Angel, and onto the home straight (I did panic slightly at this point when the Marshall told me I still had another lap of hills to go – either he was having a laugh or had a twisted sense of humour!).The race finished back where it had started, with the Angel in all its glory standing out against the sunset sky. As always, there was a finish line fan club, with the other (faster!) NFR members cheering everyone on as we each made it to the end.There was time for some mingling and liquid refreshments back at race HQ before a short awards ceremony, a token gesture of a free buffet (insider tip: stand near the buffet table – they refill the chips when they run out!), and a decent sized raffle, in which Stevie G bagged himself a substantial bottle of vodka!All in all, it was a tough run, but the friendly atmosphere, scenic setting, and sense of smugness at the end made it all worthwhile. Definitely one to put in the diary for 2019!
My attendance at the Herrington Park Cross-Country race of approx. 10k was one of those things that seems to happens by-proxy! I definitely think the cake induced euphoria (NFR members bake exceptionally good treats) and endorphin rush of a five mile run played some part in confusing my senses and over inflating my confidence. By and large though, I admit I was distracted trying to sample all the different treats, greedily acquire a second pair of rainbow laces and…I think someone made a stirring comment about needing a volunteer for a local rugby team, which had me picturing myself holding George Ford’s kit bag (not the innuendo you might think)… Meaning I left that night with a vague memory of committing to something the following Saturday. It’s exactly this kind of lack of attention to detail that finds people driving home, face covered in chocolate, with an urgent need to buy trail shoes.
So I was only mildly surprised when I checked Facebook and found I’d been added to the Harriers cross-country team, or later, when instructions arrived by text about the Herrington Run, along with advice about which shoes might be good to buy.
I should clarify, up until this point I’d seen trail and cross-country runners as a group apart; hardier, athletic and often far more expressive about the joy of running than I have ever managed. Just look at the photo on the Harrier League homepage! Couple that with the fact I now routinely head indoors from October through March; and seem to only manage a ‘good’ outdoor run on a mild, breezy but sunny day, and you can see the disconnect between what was about to happen and what I was mentally prepared for. So, glucose-shame in toe, I headed to buy some cheap trail shoes (I was sure I would hate it, and I wasn’t about to invest in something I would try only once). It started to hail on my way to the shop but fortunately the svelte, sinewy and tall shop assistant fervently explained how great it was to run ‘off road’ in a manner that was actually quite infectious, but did nothing to convince me that my body shape isn’t designed for anything but tarmac.
I did a fair amount of pre-run ‘googling’ trying to allay my fears; finding extracts about runners first trail and off road experiences, which were overwhelmingly positive. I also did a quick practice run in my new shoes, which did seem excellent, despite being bought without the usual meta-analysis of reviews.
The day arrived and I’d convinced myself I’d be there for the start of the women’s race, but possibly only arrived just in time for the men’s to actually begin. There were already NFR members there, cheering everyone on. It was absolutely freezing but the team had a tent, picnic table and mulled wine! What more could you want on a wintery and muddy day? There were lots of treats, cakes and plenty of encouragement and supporting words from everyone. Although somehow the ‘run’ had become a ‘race’ in the time it took me to walk past ‘Hogg Heaven’ and regret not bringing actual money.
Herrington Park, has views of of my favourite landmarks including Penshaw Monument and Durham Cathedral, and is a really outstanding area; you probably couldn’t ask for a better place to have your first experience of cross country. When I arrived I could see the women’s race in the distance and hear the cheers. Most noticeable was the mud, which was everywhere and seemed to have a magnetic attraction to humans, particularly running shoes. Confirmed when some of our team came back looking like they were wearing camouflage and talking about how much messier things had been on the second lap. At this point I heard someone mention that the men’s race was actually three laps. I took this to be a macabre joke and we all set off for the start line.
Unbelievably, most people seemed to be wearing vests and racing shorts, which made me feel slightly out of place in three layers and a coat, but I was insulated and felt toasty warm! I joined the mess of people all waiting to run and a few more words of encouragement were issued (I may have looked terrified) before the race set off.
The initial lap felt ok/manageable/I didn’t cry or sneak away. It was incredibly muddy and I had never before realised how much I relied on the bounce and push-back of my trainers from the pavement; I’m only acutely aware of this now because 500 meters in, I wondered why my legs were so tired and realised I was actually having to lift them out of mud and clarts, which added far more work to the effort of running than I’m used to. There were a lot of uphill struggles and careering out of control on the downhill sections. I thought the man behind me was having an asthma attack until I realised I’d been listening to my own breathing.
The uphill sections wind their way around a number of small hills, but this meant the gradient was always on the lefthand side and caused an instability which was discomforting. One half of my body got a good workout though. At about 2.5k you start to run downhill and through a wooded trail, which actually felt exciting, especially as it was strewn with branches and logs to add additional, mildly-perilous obstacles to the whole experience. It was actually quite peaceful and dry in the wood, and you could hear the rhythmic breathing and pounding steps of the other runners. I seemed to be transported back to school cross country, and how much I disliked running then. But here today, part of a team, it felt great. The more athletic runners bounded through this section, vaulting over the logs and capering through as they overtook the slower amongst us. I felt it was enough to stay upright, having long abandoned my twin aims of staying dry and maintaining my dignity.
Emerging from the wooded area, I heard someone shouting my name and nearly fell with joy as I tried to scan the crowd for someone I might know. Taking my eyes off the ground to look at my vest, checking to see if my name was printed there, caused me to stumble and collide with a very attractive man; proving every catastrophe does indeed bring a small gift. I will, in future, always wear aftershave to race days. It occurred to me later that it was likely someone from the women’s team or another member, who had come to support the NFR runners; very dedicated on the cold and wintery Saturday. Perhaps they had knowledge of the mulled wine and brownie situation. Although my sense of the club so far suggests they didn’t, and would have been there wind or hail, to support their fellows. As I have only just joined, and am not well known nor been to many of the outdoor runs, socials or any other events, this felt incredibly kind and heartening. Unfortunately I didn’t catch who shouted, but your encouragement kept me going until at least kilometre five and I am very grateful.
At kilometre five I had the disheartening realisation that the person who mentioned the mens race is three laps was likely not lying. I had just started the second uphill section and it became painfully obvious that there was no way the remaining course, plus back to the start, would cover another 5k. I struggled for the remainder of the second lap and noted that things seemed to be getting muddier and wetter. I also seemed to be falling further behind. The green of the grass was now long lost to the brown and squelching mud, and there were far fewer ‘dryer’ spots to run on whilst going uphill. I found I was loosing my footing more on the approach to the wooded area, which was essentially waterlogged, with the ground now a good few centimetres below water in parts. I wasn’t brave enough to attempt to avoid these by pivoting or jumping around them, instead ploughing straight through but feeling quite jubilant about this, like a child jumping in puddles. Only children very rarely have to clean the mud out of their own thermal layers and coat, and might not take such an insouciant attitude to life if they did.
The third lap uphill sections were much more difficult again. My legs were aching, it felt hard to keep up even a jogging pace and my breathing, not great in lap one, now sounded like the wind section of a symphony orchestra. My watch had also started to chime in, warning me that a heart rate of more than 200 is unlikely a sign of great health or physical prowess. However, it was the last lap, and there was mulled wine and coffee to be had! The people around me seemed to be finding their energy and drawing upon their reserves as we raced to the finish. In the glade I found my own second wind and sped up a little, running in the tracks made by the other runners. I could see the evidence and work of hundreds of runners before me, compacting the ground and mud. Sadly I lost this little reserve from my own, undersized, tank when I rounded the corner before the finish line and noticed another 600-700m of uphill to go. I heard cheering, saw the jubilant celebrations (read: relief) of those already finished and thought about the hot tub of my gym. I chose to ignore the older lady who was running up the hill, her cool down pace outstripping my own race finish by miles. Finally it was over and I was welcomed back by the runners who had already finished and were staying to cheer those still to come.
I’ve still not made sense of how I felt abut the whole experience. It was equal parts much harder than I thought, exhilarating and yet also reminded me of times I was younger and things were novel, or when I’ve been walking (saying nothing about my pace) outdoors with friends or family, collectively working together to achieve something, or be part of something that is just inherently good fun. I guess I don’t need to decide now, and will instead take the advice of everyone I’ve spoke to since…just wait until Thornley Hall Farm in February…