Cool runnings

Cool runnings

It’s a funny thing, running. Either you do it or you don’t. And if you ever ran seriously you may always need to run, probably for the rest of your life. You can be a loner and run, be in a running team or join a club like Sydney Frontrunners. For serious runners, whatever environment they choose to run in, that need never seems to go away.

Take Dennis, for example. A few years ago he had back injuries that made him doubt he would ever run again. Today, here he is with his spine fused, one of the fastest runners in the Frontrunners club. He’s expecting to cover the Southern Courier Maroubra Fun Run’s eight kilometres in a very respectable 31 minutes.

Maroubra might seem a bit far from the usual lesbian and gay stomping grounds, but one of the good things happening in queer sport is that competition with the wider community is increasing. Participating in sport means competing on the same playing fields as everyone else, and being more accepted because of it. Frontrunners are a force to reckon with. It may be called the Maroubra Fun Run because it is open to runners, walkers and wheelchairs from school age to eternity but the four and eight kilometre runs are serious stuff. Dennis is a serious contender for best in his age group in the eight kilometre run.

Sydney Frontrunners are serious contenders on Sydney’s gay and lesbian scene too, boasting about 80 members. There is also an International Frontrunners with hundreds of clubs to which Sydney is affiliated. Across the world there are thousands of Frontrunners. When they comment about standards and rules at major running events the organisers listen. Sydney does the camp stuff too: the Little Black Dress Run in Centennial Park at the start of Mardi Gras sports festival is something to see.

In Maroubra, about a dozen Sydney Frontrunners are among almost 1,000 starters. Club president Zoe has recovered from an injured Achilles tendon and lines up for the eight kilometre run alongside Dennis. In matching singlets the runners warm up together and look enthusiastic about the event. Wayne describes the course. The start is at the South Maroubra Surf Lifesaving Club and the local streets are hilly and testing terrain to be tackled before the finish back at the Surf Club. Stopwatches are reset, hamstrings stretched and eye candy checked out.

Dennis and Zoe find themselves a good position and head the group of Frontrunners. There’s plenty of repartee with other runners who either don’t know the Frontrunners are gay or don’t care. At the start a bundle of bagpipes play Waltzing Matilda to lead off the field, the tape goes down and they’re off.

At halfway the mood is more serious. The faces are focused and the paces measured. Being part of Frontrunners means the entrants have had plenty of help with training and advice. The club has been around for more than 20 years. Some of the members think this might be the 12th Maroubra Fun Run Frontrunners have competed in. For the competitors running the two laps the halfway point skirts past the finish line where the one-lappers are turning in. It’s flat here, a chance to steady up before the hills appear again.

It’s Jeannie’s debut fun run and she reels in her four kilometres in 28 minutes and four seconds. Frontrunners have entered a team for each distance with the first three home counting towards the result. Wayne, Matthew and Mark are first Frontrunners in for the four kilometre run. Dennis, Paul and Jim lead the team and Tora is the first female home in the longer run.

It’s cool-down time and most of the Frontrunners look pretty pleased with themselves. They came over the finish line clicking their stop watches. Wayne lists everyone’s times for the records and there is happy banter about the performances. Breakfast at the Maroubra Seals Club is the next event eagerly anticipated.

In the eight kilometre run, Zoe ran the course in 39 minutes 59 seconds, about middle of the field. Both teams finished second. Dennis won his age group with eight kilometres covered in 32 minutes 42 seconds.

Contact this friendly club by visiting the Sydney Frontrunners website or give Wayne a call on 9311 3062.

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