COVID-19 has “run riot” through the spring events and training calendar at all running clubs, with many runners losing motivation when faced with tight restrictions on when and where they could run. To combat this situation, at the end of April the committee of Glasgow Front Runners asked other UK clubs if they’d like to join in a virtual run across the country. It was a very well-received initiative with over 100 runners from 11 clubs participating.
May was turning out to be another depressing month, with both Glasgow and Newcastle Frontrunner clubs announcing the cancellation of their summer races (OUTrun and LGBT5k respectively), and GFR again turned the mood around by initiating another cross-UK run. The last Thursday of the month was again chosen (before lockdown, GFR regularly had a Big Club Run at the end of each month) so on May 28th runners donned their club vests, found beauty sports near home to run in, and jogged as far or little as they wanted while capturing an all-important selfie.
Turnout was again tremendous, with video messages of support posted throughout the day from the leaders of Glasgow, Leeds, Newcastle and Manchester Frontrunners.
Aided by the glorious weather the turnout was tremendous, with even newer clubs like Dundee getting several members involved, and Newcastle Frontrunners alone having over 30 runners. As restrictions are relaxed we look forward to being able to run in small groups, but as it’s unlikely that whole clubs will meet in the near future, and certainly not come together for races, these virtual events are a great way to keep in contact and be #alonetogether.
During Lesbian Visibility Week 2020 we are delighted to introduce a comparatively recent lesbian member of our club – Emma.
“I ‘came out’ fairly recently in the grand scheme of my almost 35 years on this Earth & although I didn’t make a big deal or announcement of coming out, I’ve been a very excitable and proud lesbian since. Looking back I think it must have always been there but I didn’t realise it at some points or didn’t let myself realise it at others. I know I pushed some thoughts to the background at least. But I’m so glad it’s a thing now as it’s been like coming home and I’m so grateful to my family and friends for not batting an eyelid when they realised & fully supporting me.
I have been running for about four years now and started off my journey with the fantastic This Girl Can, where I met some amazing ladies who are still great friends now and even got to train as a run leader with this wonderful group. I then had a brief stint with Claremont Road Runners who are a lovely bunch and showed me how welcoming and not-scary affiliated clubs can be. My journey from couch potato to loving running was in full swing and about two years ago I ran my first Marathon in the Brecon Beacons, along with a few half marathons and some other fell races. Being up in the hills or muddy is my favourite type of running, as is anything sprinting based.
Newcastle Frontrunners has always been on my radar for a while – mostly because they always looked like they were having loads of fun when you would see them at events and they organise one of the most jolly events of the running calendar – the Newcastle LGBT5k Festival of Running over Newcastle Pride weekend. I, however, wasn’t ‘out’ as gay when I first started noticing them and so didn’t think it was the club for me, although I now realise it is inclusive for all.
It was on splitting up with a partner around this time last year, that I decided to integrate myself more into the LGBT community. I hadn’t really done this before as I thought “why, when I am happy with the friends I have now? I don’t need to be part of the LGBT community just because I am gay”. Then I realised it’s not about that, its not an us-versus-them type of thing. In being gay, I am already part of the LGBT community so it would be nice to get to know others who are too – I also appreciated the support and knowledge that came from it. I love all my non-LGBT friends and this doesn’t change that, but its always great to widen your circle. I don’t, however, label my friends into categories based on their sexuality (I hope I’m making sense here!)
So, this time last year, I noticed that Newcastle Frontrunners were celebrating Lesbian Visibility Week and they were inviting non-members to join them for a run followed by a social. I thought this was a fantastic opportunity to go and see what it was all about. Unfortunately, something came up so I didn’t make it that week but I went along the next week for a trial session. I was lucky in that I knew a couple of members already (Hannah and Jocasta) and Hannah kindly took me to my first session and a few after and this was great to have that comfort (thanks Hannah!) As soon as I stepped through the door on that first session, it was amazing. I felt so welcomed and during the run, a few people dropped back to chat to me and introduce themselves. And it wasn’t like you needed to prove you are gay, prove you are bisexual etc. thing, it was just, “We are pleased you’ve joined us no matter what sexuality you are, we’re happy you’re here”. There is also cake after every Wednesday session! I have made some great friends now in the club and in the wider LGBT community.
It is also amazing that Frontrunners are everywhere in the UK and the rest of the world and you are welcomed if you are on holiday there. I joined Newcastle on a trip to Glasgow for the Glasgow Frontrunners OUTrun race last year and they put on an amazing weekend for any travelling Frontrunners with a free ceilidh.
As this is lesbian visibility week, I want to encourage lesbians to join if they are looking for a club. I think some of the concerns – which I had too – is that you don’t feel you need to join a specific LGBT club just because you’re a lesbian. And this is true – look around all clubs and make an informed choice on which suits you best. But what I will say is that with Newcastle Frontrunners, you don’t feel like you are there because you’re a lesbian, you feel like you’re there because you’re a friend. Pride or LGBT isn’t rammed down your throat. Obviously, we do celebrate and get excited about LGBT stuff and fly the flag for equality but a lot of the time you wouldn’t realise that LGBT is the foundation. You would just see it as an inclusive club having fun.
I am proud to be a lesbian and I am proud to be a part of Newcastle Frontrunners and a lot of the time that isn’t mutually exclusive.
In Bisexual Awareness Week 2019, we bring you our latest bio. This one is written by Holly, one of our bisexual members, and an enthusiastic eater of cake.
“My running ability as I entered 2019 had recently edged from ‘couldn’t run a bath’ to ‘could probably run for the bus’. I had a mediocre Race for Life, a just-about-not-terrible Great North Run and a handful of parkruns to my credit, but I had no real motivation to go out and start running regularly due to a combination of anxiety that I’d drop dead alone on the roadside and good old fashioned bone-idleness. On New Year’s Day, with the sort of mindless optimism that accompanies having been overfed and drunk for most of the previous week, I decided I could probably get rid of both of those obstacles by joining a running club. Decision made, I messaged Newcastle Frontrunners on Facebook asking if they’d be willing to accommodate me.
Frontrunners appealed to me not only for its infamous attitude to running as an excuse to carb-load on obscene amounts of cake, but for its inclusive nature as Newcastle’s LGBT+ running club. At the time I was an ‘open-secret’ bisexual – married to a man, had never ‘come out’, but had a look in my eyes when looking at Margot Robbie that definitely wasn’t just admiration. It’s an unfortunate fact that biphobia is common even in the LGBT+ community; too often we’re seen as either too gay or not enough, depending on who’s accusing. I therefore went along to my first club meeting not just wondering if I was a good enough runner, but if I was a good enough LGBT+ member.
Happily, I wasn’t tested on either of these things, and I enjoyed my first ‘rainbow run’ immensely. It was encouraging to be recommended to join the orange group, which made me feel I wouldn’t be the newbie dragging the rest of the group down, and I left feeling accomplished, healthy and that I might actually fit in with the ‘proper runners’. I’ve been a member of the club for 9 months now and that feeling gets stronger and stronger after every session.
The variety of sessions and club trips is excellent, and mean running and training are always interesting. Having a couple of non-serious but nevertheless annoying health conditions means that a lot of the time I feel that my body is working against me, but training with the club has helped me appreciate what I can do and how much I can improve – even if I still can’t plank to save my life! We’re also socially an amazingly friendly bunch – our Pride party and trip to Glasgow have been some of the highlights of my year (although we’re a lot better at running than we are at ceilidh dancing!) Becoming more involved in the LGBT+ community through the club led to me recently ‘coming out’ officially, which felt more liberating than I ever expected it would. I feel very lucky that three fantastic communities I’m part of – LGBT+, running, and Newcastle, one of which I entered by birth, the others by choice – can intersect in such a positive, fun and supportive way.
I’d recommend that anyone who’d like to improve their running, get fitter and healthier, or even just pick up a new hobby and meet people come along to one of our trial sessions and see what we can do for you. If nothing else, you won’t leave hungry!”
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!
A weekend away with car-sharing always gives a good chance to get to know people better, and our trip to Glasgow was no exception. 3 car-shares went up, and people from the club who hardly knew each other were put together in tin cans to drive the 3-hour journey to our latest Frontrunner love-in.
We all came together at Gretna services, where no-one got married but the love affair between several members and junk food was rekindled (guys, how many times do I have to tell you that you need pasta before a race, not KFC!).
Hayley and Iona had got the jump on the rest of the team, taking advantage of cheap early-morning train tickets to travel up at dawn, with a cheeky G&T the sign of things to come. Graeme flew up from Cardiff via Belfast, and also partook of gin. Seems to be the drink of champions.
There was an early dinner and supermarket sweep (Kellogg’s discounted to 18p being a popular find) for the first arrivals, and a later hotel bar drink for those who couldn’t leave until work finished. No-one was foolish though, and all were in bed by midnight to aid race preparation.
We stayed at the Charing Cross Premier Inn which was ideally situated between the race start and the later Pride parade. We had only to cross the M8 and we were in the wonderful Kelvingrove Park, which contained the run route. Race collection was at the bandstand, and was remarkably smooth. The sun was shining, giving chance to sit in the coliseum-style seating terraces and to chat with Edinburgh and Glasgow Frontrunners while noticing the local running club vests (we are so used to seeing the green and white of Heaton, black and white of Tyne Bridge, and red and white hoops of Saltwell that it was great to see some novel designs).
The three Founding Fathers of Glasgow Frontrunners were reunited to start the race, organised to commemorate their 5th birthday, and fittingly they were given race numbers 1, 2 and 3. After some inspirational words from Run Director James Bohan (sporting a bushy beard that hasn’t yet found its way onto his Facebook profile) we were off. The run was never congested, though we did have to evade some dogs whose owners didn’t seem to get the concept of a race. We ran through sun-dappled paths and along the river, the route being mostly undulating. At 2.5 miles we crossed a bridge and started the return loop on the other side of the river, and all was well until 4 miles when a steep hill appeared out of nowhere. Funnily enough, as I climbed it I vaguely remember having run down it 30 minutes earlier, but it didn’t seem quite so steep then. Legs suitably full of lactic acid and muscles burning, I had to push myself through the last half mile to keep ahead of the young guy catching on me. I was very pleased to round a bend and see the bridge on which the race had begun and to cross the finish line in 12th place, though only 4th for the over-40s – it really is the most competitive age group and I can’t wait to turn 50 in January.
We all supported each other across the finish line, and I was pleased to join Graeme for his last 400m and inform him this really was the end – I’ve never heard someone so relieved.
There were cakes on sale to raise money for the Terrence Higgins Trust and a coffee caravan both of which we made use of, and then it was the prize-giving in the great arena that is the bandstand. Unusually, most runners hung around for this and there was a collective Frontrunners photo at the end.
We were immensely proud to see our founder Steven win first place overall, and therefore also first Frontrunner, and nothing could dampen our spirits – not even being moved on as they weren’t licensed to allow drinking of Steven’s winning prosecco outdoors.
We had a quick freshen up at the hotel and then went to Glasgow Green to join Edinburgh and Glasgow Frontrunners in the pride parade, and continued to enjoy the weekend with a GFR birthday quiz at the Trongate Theatre and onwards to Delmonica’s and the Polo Lounge. Stephen taught us how to do all the moves to Macarena, and I do believe Las Ketchup was also played. Cheesy? Just a bit. There were some sore heads on Sunday but it was a thoroughly enjoyable weekend and we made some excellent new Frontrunner friends.