Brisbane FrontRunners are not your average running club


Frontrunners Brisbane club standing in front of Story Bridge

Despite their name, the Brisbane FrontRunners are not all runners. They’re also walkers, plodders, sitters, eaters and talkers, and they’re looking to expand their LGBTIQ+ membership.

In 1974, the gay San Francisco magazine Lavender U advertised an ‘introduction to jogging’ class. Promoting more than just athletic training, the club provided a social atmosphere that attracted people to the group.

Later, the group were inspired by Patricia Nell Warren’s novel The Front Runner, a romantic novel about a gay runner who has a relationship with his coach and who represents the U.S. at the Olympics.

FrontRunners was born, and became the first gay and lesbian running club to be a member of the Amateur Athletic Union.

Since then, FrontRunner clubs have formed in many cities across the United States, Canada, Australia, Asia, Africa, and Europe.

The clubs vary as much as their geography: there are large clubs, small clubs, clubs with many women, clubs with only a few, those with only running and others that include walking.

Finally, in 1999, the International FrontRunners was created as an international umbrella organisation for LGBTIQ+ running and walking groups around the world, and maintains a visual directory of each country’s clubs.

QNews sat down with some members of the Brisbane FrontRunners group to find out what motivated them to join and why the club has such an enduring legacy.

Hit the ground running

RAY: FrontRunners in Brisbane kicked off in 1999 with just 2 people. I got involved around 2005 because I knew one of the founding members.

He suggested that I come along, and I’m still here! It’s probably one of the longest continuously running LGBTIQ+ community sporting groups in Brisbane.

I think it started with growing awareness of both International FrontRunners and other FrontRunner groups around the world. Plus, the founders were both just keen on running! It started from there as a small group and then gradually grew.

I actually started out as a walker because I’d never really run much in my life. My idea of running was on a treadmill in air-conditioned gym comfort. I never thought about running out in the open.

So I started out walking for about a year or two, then slowly progressed into jogging. I started doing the half circuit then the full circuit.

And then I started doing fun runs like the Gold Coast Marathon 10km, the Bridge to Brisbane, and other fun runs. So, it was a late in life decision, I guess, to just get a bit more of a healthy lifestyle.

MAJELLA: I’ve basically always been a runner within team sports as a kid and teenager. What got me into running with Frontrunners was the community.

I found the Frontrunners group at Gay Pride Day in 2015. We came along and were the only females in the group for a little while until others joined us.

The best thing is the camaraderie of running with like-minded people, encouraging people who want to run and encouraging other women to join in as well, of course!

Fitness credentials

TUAN: I had always been conscious about being into fitness. But running was not my specialty.

It had always been just going to the gym, getting fit, trying to be healthy, but that’s about it.

I never thought about becoming a runner. And here I am.

 

MAJELLA: Although I played many team sports as a young woman, I didn’t think of it as fitness. At the Gay Games in Sydney 2002, we watched the physique competition.

Onstage were some men and women in their 60s and 70s and I thought, if they could do it, I could do it too.

So, I joined a gym and did weightlifting for the next four years. I competed in Physique at the Out Games in Montreal in 2006 and proudly won a silver medal. Two days after the games I had my first bagel in years.

Over time I put a little bit more weight back on and decided to do something, so I started running. This has been great for my mental health and weight.

Straight or queer?

RAY: The difference, I think, between joining a mainstream group and us is probably that sense of community in which people feel comfortable.

Being comfortable in your own space and with people of the same ilk. Frontrunners is a very friendly group. Very social.

So I think everyone is just made to feel comfortable and at home.

 

MAJELLA: I mentioned before about camaraderie and being with like-minded people. I think with a straight running group, you’re there to run, and maybe talk.

Whereas in the gay group or queer group, you’re here to participate and support each other.

And it doesn’t matter what happens; you can be yourself and say stupid things and be supported. It doesn’t matter if you run or not.

 

TUAN: For me, it’s about belonging to the queer group, being with like-minded people.

You can be yourself and you respect each other and be respected. You can join some other sporting groups and may be discriminated against.

Being gay is not a valid reason to be discriminated against! That is how I came to FrontRunners.

We know we are queer, but we are also human beings. We can demonstrate to other sporting groups that we can achieve our individual fitness goals in a supportive and friendly environment.

Have we convinced you?

RAY: I would just say just come along. We’ve had people from all walks of life who have been nervous about coming along.

People who’ve moved to the city and don’t know anyone. As I said before, FrontRunners is a very social, welcoming group.

No one judges anyone. You can be a fast walker, slow walker, fast runner. No one really cares.

It’s a matter of trying to promote a healthy lifestyle and a really good social interaction between people.

TUAN: Just be yourself, basically. Just go out and have a go.

The reason why you join the group is for your fitness and your health, mentally and physically.

You don’t have to show people that, okay, I’m gay, I’m queer, I can do anything, you know?

It’s not about bragging or showing off. It’s more about ‘this is who I am’ and what I want for my life.

Being there as a person, and wanting to be a better person.

MAJELLA: Being gay is not just going to clubs and getting drunk and partying.

So come along and just be yourself and be supported.

There will always be someone beside you regardless of how fast or slow you are.

 

TUAN: I say just come along, join the group. See what it’s like and just meet up with some new friends.

You never know who you may meet in the group.

This is a nice group of people and very friendly.

 

MAJELLA: That’s true. It’s a great group. Very, very accepting, and welcoming.

And as I say: walking, talking, running; whatever you want to do.

 

A final word from the FrontRunners

When I look back over the years it’s interesting. We’ve had people who have been very shy, have had issues, depression and the like. Some were actually referred to us by medical practitioners–psychologists and psychiatrists– to come along because we were recognised as such an easy-going social LGBTI group.

We’re an unincorporated group so we don’t have any membership fees for people coming along to run or walk.

We try to mix walking and running with social activities; for example, we always go out to dinners after a run.

We also try to have social activities at least every three months just to get a good mix of people meeting outside the running group as well as inside the running group.

For more details on the Brisbane FrontRunners check out www.brisbanefrontrunners.org.au

For the latest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) news in Australia, visit qnews.com.au. Check out our latest magazines or find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

Andrew Blythe

Andrew Blythe is an writer and editor who has a Masters in Writing, Editing and Publishing from the University of Queensland. In addition, he is an Adjunct Research Fellow at Griffith University within the School of Human Services and Social Work, assisting the school with both curriculum review and lived-experience research development. He enjoys communication in all its forms and has prepared and presented material via print—including as the former editor of Time and Place (the magazine of the Queensland Heritage Council) and consultant editor of QNews Magazine—as well as radio, television, and multimedia formats. He has written a memoir about his father’s experience of receiving a heart transplant, as well as documenting other peoples’ experiences of the Queensland health system.

QNews, Brisbane Gay, App, Gay App, LGBTI, LGBTI News, Gay Australia

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