Houston Strong

Going the Extra Mile

FrontRunners Houston is an all-inclusive space for LGBTQ joggers.

Members of FrontRunners Houston (photo by Andrew Kim)

No matter your endurance level, the local LGBTQ walking and running group FrontRunners Houston invites you to participate, get in shape for the New Year, and have some fun.

“We have a wide range—from walkers and novice recreational runners to competitive marathoners,” according to members Rick Potter and Daisey Vega. “All are welcome. We have plenty of experienced runners with lots of free advice. Usually someone can go from their couch to a 5K (3.1 miles) in a couple of months.” 

Walkers usually walk for 30 minutes to an hour, while runners generally go three to four miles at meets. You can walk or run solo, or team up with another member. 

It’s free to join, so just ask to join the
Houston chapter’s Facebook page. You’ll answer a few questions, agree to the club rules, and then just show up. You’ll get a free FrontRunners Houston T-shirt after one month of participation. 

The club is part of the nonprofit International Front Runners, an affiliation of local FrontRunners clubs. The first one started in 1974 in San Francisco when a group of gay activists published a newspaper called Lavender U, which offered free classes for the community. Jack Baker and Gardner Pond took out an ad offering a free “learn to jog” class, and they held their first run in January of 1974 in Golden Gate Park. In 1980 a chapter opened in New York, and from there it just exploded. There are clubs in more than 20 countries around the globe today, including the three Texas groups in Houston, Dallas, and Austin.

FrontRunners Houston was formed in 1984, and is the city’s oldest LGBTQ run/walk social group that invites all community members to join their meets.

So what happens at a typical meetup? There are usually between 5 and 17 people, and there might be members from other clubs dropping in. To help members get to know each other, Potter and Vega always start with a “Question of the Day” submitted by a team member via Facebook. Announcements are then made for any upcoming social events or races, such as a 5K, a marathon, or a Pride Race. 

The group also has a club dinner every Thursday, and holds a Happy Hour once a week. Various holiday parties are planned throughout the year. This month, several members will be running in the Chevron Marathon and the Aramco Half Marathon while other FrontRunners offer their support along the route.

Even if you don’t aspire to run competitive marathons, walking or running is a great way to start the New Year. Besides the social aspects of the group, members note the physiological benefits of the walks and runs such as improved cardiovascular fitness, aerobic capacity, stamina, and the release of endorphins that make you feel good.

Other members have their own reasons for running—everything from wanting to shed a few pounds to taking on a new challenge, managing physical and mental health, or simply because a friend dragged them into the group. 

Whatever your reason is, you’ll enjoy the comradery and fresh air, with the only cost being your investment in a good pair of walking or running shoes.

FrontRunners Houston’s group runs are held at:

• 6:30 p.m. on Tuesdays in Hermann Park. Meetup location is to the left of the McGovern Centennial Gardens entrance.

• 6:30 p.m. on Thursdays in Memorial Park. Meetup location is across the street from the stretching area. (A post-run dinner is held at a predesignated venue.)

• 8:30 a.m. on Saturday in Memorial Park. Meetup location is across the street from the stretching area.

For more info, visit frontrunners.org and facebook.com/groups/52680174080.

This article appears in the January 2021 edition of OutSmart magazine.

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Marene Gustin

Marene Gustin has written about Texas culture, food, fashion, the arts, and Lone Star politics and crime for television, magazines, the web and newspapers nationwide, and worked in Houston politics for six years. Her freelance work has appeared in the Austin Chronicle, Austin-American Statesman, Houston Chronicle, Houston Press, Texas Monthly, Dance International, Dance Magazine, the Advocate, Prime Living, InTown magazine, OutSmart magazine and web sites CultureMap Houston and Austin, Eater Houston and Gayot.com, among others.
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