Proud To Run: 40th annual Pride run and walk returns June 25

Thu. June 16, 2022 8:40 AM by Ross Forman

‘We are beyond thrilled to be able to have this race return,’ says race director Patti Flynn

In 1982, Peg Gray of the Gay Athletic Association organized the first Proud To Run race in Chicago, along with Rob Williams and Jim White. Ironically, there were 40 participants for a 10K run and 1-mile walk, held on the morning of the annual Chicago Pride Parade.

But as attendance for the race grew over the years, it moved to the day before the parade.

“It has seen many changes since that inaugural (race), but it has always been a big part of Pride weekend, and we hope to continue that now that we're back,” said Patti Flynn, board president and race director.

Proud To Run returns on Saturday, June 25, with a 5K and 10K run, and a 5K walk. Thousand will descend on the city's northside race for this event's 40th run.

“We are beyond thrilled to be able to have this race return,” Flynn said.

Erika Snell of the Proud To Run organizing committee added: “We are really excited to celebrate 40 years of this race. We approached the design of the race this year with that in mind from the graphics, color palette and the throwback medal. We also decided this year to change up the race swag shirts and do tanks instead. It is always so hot that weekend and it's Pride, so we thought people might want to show a little skin.”

About 1,500 participants are expected and thousands of dollars will be raised for the event's two charities: Brave Space Alliance and the Youth Empowerment Performance Project.

As of 2019, Proud To Run has donated nearly $700,000 to various charities.

The race, Flynn said, “is a great way for our community and allies to come together and do something fun to get the Pride Weekend running. It has grown from the vision of one woman, Peg Gray: from 40 runners and walkers in 1982 to nearly 2,500 in 2019.”

Proud To Run Chicago is one of the first races in the U.S. to offer a nonbinary scoring category. “Not only do nonbinary athletes get to register authentically, but they also get the same recognition in awards as male and female categories,” Flynn said.

This year, there also is a new category: The 'I am here to have a fun time category, simply called, Participant. It caters to those who aren't interested in any sort of ranking, but it is also there for someone who is trans or nonbinary that isn't yet out and doesn't want to misgender or out themselves.”

Brave Space Alliance is a Black Trans founded and led organization serving the LGBTQ+ community on the South Side, Flynn said. “We want to make sure that our event represents our entire community; that includes all sides of this city. BSA is a grassroots organization that provides so many necessary services to LGBTQ+ folks who have not had services closer to their neighborhoods. Going to the northside to access services isn't in the cards for so many reasons, so to have these resources closer to home is pivotal.”

The Youth Empowerment Performance Project was founded on five values: Harm Reduction, Trauma Informed Care, Transformative Justice, Restorative Justice, and Education for liberation, YEPP provides a space for LGBTQ+ youth who may be experiencing houselessness, a way to process their experience and struggle through various forms of art-expression, and also to participate in programming for personal, leadership and community development, Flynn said.

“We are so proud to support these two organizations. Our community stretches beyond Northalsted and we are from many intersections. Our beneficiaries directly work with communities that are under-resourced, over-policed, and are at higher risk of harm. We picked them to help close some of the resource gap by directing the money we raise through Proud to Run to organizations like BSA and YEPP. We also encourage direct funding from all our participants, and friends, to these organizations year-round. We are a community together.”

Flynn said organizers are hoping to raise $20,000 for their charity partners.

Proud To Run will not offer a half marathon (13.1 miles) run, as it did in 2019.

This year's event also will be extra memorable as “we lost one of our board members and a crucial voice for Black trans women in the community, Elise Malary. She was my friend and losing her was personally devastating to me, and I know the rest of the board as well,” Flynn said. “She was someone who I met soon after moving to Chicago, and although we lived in different neighborhoods, and had different social circles, we kept our connection through the years. Her involvement in our board was so important. I would like to continue efforts to have our board truly reflect the diversity of our community here in Chicago.”

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