LGBT runners have two races this June

Wed. May 21, 2014 11:57 AM by Matt Simonette

Chicago, IL - Runners from Chicago's LGBT community will have two races they can participate in when Pride weekend arrives at the end of June. A new event, the Pride 5K, takes place the evening of Thursday, June 26; its organizers say they largely intend it to be a celebration to kick off the weekend. Meanwhile, Proud to Run, the annual 5K and 10K race organized by the Frontrunners/Frontwalkers ( FR/FW ) club, takes place the morning of June 28.

Pride 5K starts at Fullerton and Lake Shore Drive at 7:30 p.m.

"We all sat around here trying to figure out the cool angle of this race," said John Barry, president of Star Events, which is organizing Pride 5K. "We wanted to do ours at night— that's part of what makes it unique. Another part of that is the 'plus one' angle we have." Runners have been encouraged to bring along a "plus one," be it spouse, partner, friend or relative. Fashion designer Borris Powell planned matching T-shirts for each pair of participants.

"It's really just coming out with someone you want to spend time with, but you don't have to come with a 'plus one,'" Barry said. "Maybe you'll meet your 'plus one' there." He added that Pride 5K is intended to have a "party feel" and that entertainment following the race would be provided by DJ and performer Adam LeBlanc of Sixteen Candles. Pride 5K organizers expect about 300-400 participants this first year.

"It would be great if we could get 1,000. It all depends on many factors. But it's a huge community and we don't know what will happen over the next few months," noted Barry, pointing out that Center on Halsted will be beneficiary to the event.

"From all the folks that we talked to, Center on Halsted felt like a really great fit," he said. "This year we are going to focus most of our [fundraising] energy on the Center because it's a first year event, and we are somewhat dipping our toe in the water with this whole race."

The 2014 Proud to Run kicks off at 8:05 a.m. two days later. According to co-director Gary Brown, FR/FW has added several board positions to help with planning the race, which is the organization's largest annual event, and plans to have newly-designed T-shirts and participant medals.

In 2013, the race had about 1,600 runners participating. "This year the goal is to sell out," said Brown. "With the Park District, we're allowed up to 2,000 participants. We're trying to sell out and not have registration the day of the event."

Proud to Run's three main beneficiaries this year are Test Positive Aware Network, Night Ministry and About Face Theatre.

In 2013, FR/FW raised about $27,000 for its beneficiaries, Brown said, adding, "I don't see why we won't be able to grow that number significantly this year."

FR/FW asks that beneficiaries use money they receive not to cover operating costs but to take on new initiatives, he noted. "We have an open application period and look at how [the organizations] have a direct impact on the LGBTQ community. What it comes down to is, we're not looking to make a donation to keep the roof over our beneficiaries' heads. We ask each beneficiary to tell us how they'd spend their money on special projects."

Over the last three years, corporate sponsorship for the race has grown significantly; more than 100 companies have given cash and inkind donations, among them Pepsi and CNA. "CNA has donated over $50,000 in the last decade," Brown said.

This is Brown's third year as Proud to Run's co-director. "It's two of my favorite things, raising money and running—they're my favorite things to do when I'm not doing my nineto- five job."

Brown and Barry both said they were not looking to set up a rivalry between thier races, and each maintained that Proud to Run and Pride 5K are differently focused.

"We love the Proud to Run folks and really want to support what they're doing" Barry said.

"There's no competitive vibe on our side. There are morning people and there are night people. Some people like to come out early and run, and some people like to come out at night to do that, and I think there's room for both of us."

"I think you can do both," said Brown. "What they're trying to do is different, on a Thursday night after work. I plan to go check out the event myself—it's not [trying to be] competitive, I think. And even if it is, I don't mind a little competition myself. It keeps us on our toes."

Information and registration for Pride 5K is at Information and registration for Proud to Run is at . FR/FW will additionally host its "Proud to Runway" fundraising event at Sidetrack, 3349 N. Halsted St., 4:30-7 p.m., on April 26.

This article by Matt Simonette, originally published April 2, 2014 on Windy City Times, is republished with permission. 

Editor's note: Windy City Times and are proud media sponsors of both races.