Dallas FrontRunners Up and Running Again
When a friend in Orlando, Fla., suggested to Julio Chong that he join a group called FrontRunners in Dallas, he was intrigued by the idea. Orlando and many other cities around the country have active chapters of the group that is made up of runners and walkers from the LGBT community. Unfortunately for Chong, he would find out Dallas was no longer one of them.
"For a city this large, I certainly thought there would have been an active chapter," said Chong, explaining that he was interested both for the exercise and for the social aspects of the group.
Inspired by Patricia Nell Warren’s "The Front Runner", a 1974 novel about gay love, the first FrontRunner club began that year in San Francisco. The second formed six years later in New York City and other FrontRunner clubs followed. Today there are roughly 100 FrontRunner groups around the world. Most have regular weekly runs/walks and many hold regular get-togethers at local bars and restaurants after their runs.
While Texas boasts three other FrontRunner clubs-one in Austin and two in Houston, it’s not clear how the Dallas chapter, which used to meet at White Rock Lake in the eastern part of the city, met its demise. In any case, not having something of which Houston has two should be cause enough for action.
Chong said that when he tried to join, the website no longer worked and an email address the national organization provided failed to produce a response. Chong decided to contact the Austin chapter, which put him in touch with Lin Wang, a recent arrival to Dallas who had been active in FrontRunner chapters in Pittsburgh and New York City.
The two decided to start things up again. They built a website, started a Facebook page and sent out emails. The gathering site was moved from White Rock Lake to Katy Trail in the Oak Lawn neighborhood, which has the largest concentration of LGBT households in the city.
The inaugural run in Dallas had three people, but the numbers have grown to half a dozen at one time and nearly a dozen in all. There are currently 36 people on the Facebook page. Some of the larger FrontRunner clubs around the country have more than 100 members. And Wang said there’s no reason to expect less in Dallas.
Currently there is no formal membership or dues, but that could change soon.
"Right now joining the Facebook page or just showing up for an 8:30 run makes you a member," said Wang. "We’d like to formalize things soon so we can raise money for promotion and getting a booth at Pride in the fall."
Reggie Snowden, a member of San Francisco FrontRunners who represents FrontRunners International on the West Coast, said most groups start with three or four people. Their dedication keeps things going. And Snowden added its individual motivation, and ongoing outreach that builds the organization.
"It’s hard for the first couple of years," said Snowden. He advised start-up groups to keep their membership open. "It doesn’t have to be just LGBT runners, but can include brothers, sisters and friends."
Dallas FrontRunners meets each Saturday at the Statue of Robert E Lee at Hall Street and Turtle Creek Boulevard for a run on the Katy Trail. Walkers are also welcome to join. Log onto www.frontrunnersdallas.org/ for more information.