For the second year the Front Runners & Walkers Fort Lauderdale are offering their free Couch to 5K training, a 9 week training for new or aspiring runners. The target piece is the Rainbow 5K (what they are training people for), which is the Pride Centers annual fundraiser on January 21. Not only is it free, but individuals need not join the club to participate. Last year they started with 15 people, and 8 finished training, and all 8 have stayed in the Front Runners. So they trust that once people are introduced to the club, finish the training and the Rainbow 5K they will want to become members.

Over the years, Front Runner clubs have formed across the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, South Africa, Japan, and the Middle East. Back in 1974, “Lavender U” was formed in San Francisco to provide a setting for gays and lesbians to participate in track and field events, especially running. Also in 1974, The Front Runner, by Patricia Nell Warren was published. This was a ground breaking novel about homosexual love in the sports world. It is a love story about a coach and his star runner. In honor of this book, the name “Lavender U” was changed to “San Francisco Front Runners.” With that first running club in San Francisco, other larger cities started to form gay running clubs. In 1989 a local group of gays and lesbians who had the goal to run the New York Marathon formed Front Runners Fort Lauderdale. Walking was later added to the Front Runners activities. Front Runners Fort Lauderdale has members from Palm Beach, Broward, and Miami-Dade Counties.

Front Runners & Walkers Fort Lauderdale still has some of their original members from 1989. They have three weekly runs…two at Holiday Park on Wednesday and Sunday evenings, and the Saturday morning run at the Pride Center. After all the runs they go out to eat and socialize. They also have a social every month, which have included kayaking, bar romps, and joint socials with other sports clubs. They also produce a banquet every year.

I asked President Eric Runyan why he joined the group and what has kept him part of the group, and he said: “The reason I joined was because experts say you are much more likely to stick with a fitness regimen if you are around other people that are fitness conscious. I wanted to make sure I stuck with it, so I joined Front Runners. I stayed, because I enjoy the social aspect and the company of the members.”

Front Runners and Walkers Fort Lauderdale has become much more diverse and now has straight members. Gyl Meloche got started because his wife (Verneshia) was getting nervous running through the neighborhood at night, and she wanted to run with people who wouldn’t be hitting on her.  To support his wife, Gyl started running with her as soon as she joined Front Runners. When asked about his membership in Frontrunners Gyl said: “I felt that Front Runners and Walkers Fort Lauderdale was a very welcoming group who accepted my wife and I for who we are.”

If you’d like to get into running, attend their Couch to 5k Interest Meeting and Raffle at the Pride Center, Monday, November 13 at 7:30 p.m. in room 200. The event is free and winner of the drawing will receive a free membership, member shirt and free registration for the Rainbow 5K.  The actual training for the Rainbow 5K starts 2 days later on Wednesday Nov 15 at 6:30p.m. at Holiday Park.

Front Runners & Walker Fort Lauderdale is a proud member of Road Runners Club of America and is a 501(c)(3) corporation. To sign up for Couch to 5K training or for more information on the club visit: Frontrunnersfortlauderdale.org.