I first started running when I was 16 after my family relocated to southern Ontario from Sault Ste. Marie. The move prompted a new friendship with my brother as he became my ally in the new a foreign environment. I soon began to join him on his neighbourhood runs as he trained for soccer.
With time these neighbourhood runs evolved into a fulfilling lifelong pursuit, which is at once pastime, coping mechanism and, dare I say, addiction. I can’t imagine my life without running. The sport has provided me with some of my closest friendships and carried me through some particularly stressful times. But it is the simple pleasure of moving freely over the earth alone or with friends has been running’s greatest gift.
Unlike women’s softball or hockey however, in my experience, running is often devoid of queers. In fact, most of my running partners over the past twenty plus years have been straight men and neither of the two running clubs that I have run with in Hamilton have to my knowledge had any other openly queer members.
Notwithstanding the occasional awkward scenario, this is not generally a problem. What it does mean, however, is that a large percentage of my leisure time is spent in straight space. Once again, this never concerned me since I have experienced very little homophobia in the sport and have made great (straight) running friends. In short I didn’t even realize that I had a desire for a queer running community.
It was only upon moving temporarily to another large city in Canada and joining the Frontrunners running club (because it was convenient) that I realized how wonderful it was to run with queers. Named after a 1970’s era gay novel, the Frontrunners are an international LGBTQ+ club for recreational runners. Running with the Frontrunners, even for a few months, was incredible. Surrounded by other people not living a life ordered by the straight/homonormative rituals was normalizing and confidence boosting, particularly for my running. I made queer friends who I was able to connect with relatively easily because of our shared experiences. The reception was warmer than I could imagine and I was awarded the female runner of the year award despite my short sojourn. In short, being able to run with queers made me realize that queer space is still important, even for people like me who are privileged enough to not experience day to day homophobia or transphobia.
Now that I have returned to Hamilton, I have lost my queer running community. Of course I am still enjoying running and reconnecting with my cherished non-queer running friends, but I miss the camaraderie and connection to queer runners.
This brings me to the purpose of this article: to see if there is interest in building a queer running community in Hamilton. Fast approaching is the Pride and Remembrance Run, a fabulous fun-run/race on the Saturday morning of Pride Weekend in Toronto. If anyone in Hamilton is interesting in meeting up for a couple of training runs prior to the race and attending as a Hamilton contingent – please feel free to get in touch!
Note that many people walk the run – or walk run pushing strollers.