Danny Silk Blogging for Freedom Quarter - Leeds Front Runners



Twitter: @DannyJSilk, @LGBTSportFest
Facebook: Danny Silk PT
Leeds LGBT Sport Fringe Festival


In this months training with the community, I had the honour of training with Leeds Frontrunners on Saturday 4th November 2017.




I arranged to meet Andrew Frazer the organizer of Leeds Frontrunners and ask him a few questions regarding the group. 

Hi Andrew, what are the frontrunners?
It’s a running group, an inclusive running group. However the majority of our members are from the LGBT+ community. We are affiliated to England Athletics. The frontrunner name has been going for about 40 years, starting in America in San Francisco. There are numerous frontrunner groups across the world.

I have noticed myself when ‘hash tagging’ Leeds Frontrunners that there are a few in the UK alone, as well as across the globe.
Yes we had a couple of guys over on holiday from Canada the other week that asked to join us on a Saturday run. So if you go to another city such as New York, Paris you will be able to tag along with them

What made you start the Leeds Frontrunners?
Well, obviously I like running. But one aspect was the social side of it. My partner and I didn’t have a large circle of gay friends and as we are not regulars on the social scene the ideal way to meet new people for me was to link it to something I like doing, so it made sense to start a running group. I tried other running groups within the city but none of these groups were LGBT focused, so there was always that introduction that had to be made. Things have changed
now with lots of running clubs promoting themselves as being inclusive but there were always those difficult questions and the feeling that when new members joined it would be repeated and you effectively ‘out’ yourself each time. That isn’t expected in Frontrunners and the LGBT community tends to be inclusive anyway. There is a degree of respect to your personal life and people don’t tend to ask awkward questions. But at the same time why shouldn’t you talk openly about your life whatever the company. We have had numerous messages from our members saying that it was great coming to an LGBT+ inclusive group. You tend to find you get more inquisitive people in the straight world, who are curious about the LGBT world.

Because being Gay is so exotic..lol
Haha yeah.

When you wanted to use the Frontrunners name did you have to contact anybody to be able to use their name?
Yes I first got the idea about 6 years ago. I think I may have contacted Manchester Frontrunners initially and I went across to one of their Saturday runs. I contacted International Frontrunners via their website and from there created the group Leeds Frontrunners, as the only other groups close to Leeds were at the time Manchester and Newcastle, who were just starting.

Six years that’s amazing!
That’s when I contacted International Frontrunners and created the group. But I would say in our current guise we have been going for 2 years. When I first started the group we did a few runs along the canal but it never really took off, and with no support it declined. I kept the page open on Facebook and it wasn’t until someone made contact around 3 years later, about joining us for a run that we got going properly. It then grew from there, each week we seemed to
have more people joining us.

I was amazed about the social aspect of the group! I noticed after my run that there were members who arrived for a coffee and catch up who actually didn’t

Yes, the social aspect is great with the group, there has been some great friendships formed. As you are aware the Abbey Dash 10k run was the day after so some were saving themselves for that. It goes with the territory that there are always one or two carrying injuries but people still make the effort to pop down for a coffee and chat. When we do the Leeds and Liverpool canal run on the last Saturday of each month we all meet up for brunch afterwards. We have visited ‘Archie’s’ a few times but we are looking for other venues close to the area.

How many members do you have? It was pointed out that your Facebook page has reached 300 members...congratulations.
Yes we have 300 members but we have over 40 members who actually run with us and pay for membership. But we have other people who are members of the Facebook page, who maybe part of another Frontrunners group or people who will probably never run, but chose to be part of the Leeds Frontrunners page to keep up with
what we are up to.

Where do you run?
We mainly run in Roundhay as we find it is most central for our members to get to and then we do the Leeds and Liverpool canal run once a month on a Saturday. Now and again we’ll do a ‘Park Run’ either at Woodhouse, Roundhay or Temple Newsam. There are different challenges to each location. Some people prefer the
canal run as we do an out and back route, so 30 minutes out and then wherever you are at that point you turn round and it’s 30 minutes back. This means we all finish at the same time. Roundhay we tend to stick together more as a group and there are more routes we can do. We will include a trail run every now and again in Roundhay but certain routes can be quite boggy this time of year.

Thursday evenings we will run in the park during summer but our winter route are around the local roads as the park is without lights. We are always looking at expanding our runs and we are looking at the opportunity of linking up with another local club to offer our members monthly track sessions.

What challenges do you have with the Frontrunners?
Getting people involved was tough for me initially, just getting people to help launch the group and promote the events. But then it just fell into place a couple of years ago. Now it’s making sure each club run has at least one run leader to manage the runs and as an affiliated club we need a leader present for legal reasons.

If you had a nervous person who wanted to join the group but isn’t as confident in themselves to make the first move to come and join the group for a run. What would you suggest?
This is a common theme, and all we can do is to promote ourselves as a friendly group. We post photos before, during and after a run where we try to capture the relaxed atmosphere.
Sometimes people will contact us beforehand and that gives us an opportunity to reassure them they don’t have to be at a certain level before joining us and one of the members is always happy to support a new runner, even run/walking with them until their running develops.

Do you get support from the LGBT community?
We are part of the LGBT inclusive sport hub. We also support Leeds Pride and for the last couple of years we have organised a club takeover of Woodhouse Moor parkrun on Pride weekend. This year we joined Leeds LGBT Sport Fringe Festival, which offer an inclusive  Festival and which raised money for DAZL – Dance Action Zone Leeds. This is another inclusive club for the youths of Leeds.

What obstacles do you get from the community, were there any other LGBT running
groups in Leeds?

No there were no other running groups based in Leeds. The nearest was Manchester and Newcastle. People ask are we not isolating ourselves just running an LGBT running group but to be affiliated with England Athletics we need to be an inclusive club and that’s written in our constitution. You cannot exclude anybody and you need to accept everyone, you cannot expect acceptance while excluding a group. The running community in Leeds is fairly close knit so we do
have good relationships with other clubs and a couple of our members do also run with other clubs.

I believe there needs to be a barrier broken down on both sides, to expect thecommunity needs to accept the sporting world. Both need to stand up to homophobia and bullies!
A few people probably still do perceive the Leeds Frontrunners as being an LGBT+ exclusive club, but we are an inclusive club and though the majority of our members may be from the LGBT+ community we do have a few members from the straight community. Our website also clearly states we are an inclusive club.

What other running events do you get involved in?
There are many other runs we take part in such as Leeds 10k and Abbey Dash 10k. This year we have tried to take part in a race almost every month as a club and we are currently looking at our plans for 2018 with help from feedback from some
of our members. The other Frontrunner groups organise their own events and Manchester Frontrunners do a run in April called ‘Cake Race’ which we usually go and support. We will stick around for their party in the evening too which for the last 2 years has been at New York, New York. Recently we did our own club run ‘Spooked OUT’, which was a great success and we have plans to build on this next

Do you have specific kit?
Yes we have our blue and yellow t-shirts with the Leeds Frontrunners logo on the chest. We have always had shirts from the beginning which have changed slightly over time but we try and make sure they stand out.

How involved do you get in Leeds Pride?
We have got involved in Leeds Pride for the last two years taking over a Park Run and supported Leeds LGBT Sport Fringe Festival and also including a Thursday evening Leeds and Liverpool canal run. We are looking forward to supporting Leeds LGBT Sport Fringe Festival 2018 and Leeds Pride again.

What press coverage have you had?
Apart from this...we have been on Made in Leeds, which was linked to Leeds LGBT Sport Fringe Festival.

How much does it cost to become a member of Leeds Frontrunners?
The membership costs £32, which covers costs for the club and also pays for your membership to England Athletics. Being a member of England Athletics gives you discount towards official races and a discount in certain sport shops.

How much training does a person need before becoming a member?
You cannot wake up one morning and expect to be able to run a 10k run without completing any training and you can join with no previous running experience. We have a run leader at the front and a leader at the back to support and motivate the slower, less experienced runners. Couch to 5k is a method we use and Claire Senior PT has run a few of these in the past for us. I have also just completed a Couch to 5k for DAZL and all the runners came and took part in our SpookedOUT event.

Do you do any charity work through Leeds Frontrunners?
We have done a few charity events. Leeds LGBT Sport Fringe Festival, Abbey Dash and Leeds 10 to name a few.

How would you suggest to somebody if they wanted to increase their speed and

Run with someone. We’ve got great camaraderie and we will push/ support each other. We also have the run leaders and I’m a qualified Run Coach so able to support our members.

Where is the best place to shop for your running equipment?
So many places to shop. The Up and Running store tends to be a little more expensive but a few people have suggested getting your gait checked there. If people have a problem with the cost, you don’t have to buy there. Just remember which shoe, and which size, suits you the best.

What is the best running brand out there?
I have Brooks shoes now; I do like the ‘UnderArmour’ gear also.

How often would you get your feet/footwear tested?
I would suggest every time you change footwear. Muscles change so it’s a good idea to get them tested each time, as it is free.

How many hours a week do you run personally?
Currently 3 hours per week split over 3 runs

What are the running orders of the club runs?
There’s the leader of the run who sets the pace and another leader who supports
the runners at the back.

What suggestions do you have to anybody who wants to start running during the
winter months?

Wrap up but layer up and wear lightweight clothing, which you can remove if you get too warm and tie round your waist. Light gloves are good to keep your hands warm too while it is cold.

What is the best time for a 10k run in the group?
Around 41 minutes was the quickest at the recent Abbey Dash.

Does the group receive any homophobic abuse?
No not really, I don’t think as a group we have received any homophobic abuse and the running community is supportive so we never have any issues there.

What online presence do you have?
Our Website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

Meeting the group at Roundhay Park near the café I was gearing myself for a challenge. With previously working with Leeds Frontrunners I knew that they were a friendly, social group that were a major figurehead within the community. So 9am arrived and as I was driving up towards Roundhay I was amazed by the number of runners heading towards the park. Quickly discovering ‘Park Run’ was running at the same time at a different location in the park. As I arrived at the meet up location I was greeted by members of the group, noticeable by their 'Leeds Frontrunner’ running tops, great warm welcome by the team who were running that day, even though it was cold, wet and slightly muddy after the previous evenings bonfire festivity at the park.

Eve Robinson and Paddy Gallagher were the leaders of todays run and both gave a breakdown of the run, explaining who was leading the run and who was supporting the run from the back, Paddy then started the warm up session where there were a variety of warm ups such as jumping jacks, stretches and jogs on the spot.

Roundhay is a really good run, I personally run with my clients I run nearly once a week but I get defeated when I see a hill, I stayed at the back and ran with Andrew while he supported the runners at the back, so I could chat to him and also another member. Andrew was great supporting the slower, less experienced runners giving advice and motivating. They kept the run short due to the Abbey Dash on Sunday 5th November.

After completing a 2.67 mile run around Roundhay we ended up back at the café, where Paddy completed some stretches and cool down exercises.

After the run everyone went into the café to enjoy a coffee, cake (even a bacon butty was spotted) and a chat/catch up. A great atmosphere, a great experience. As a social group goes there was no negativity, everyone was made to feel welcome and definitely a great start to Saturday morning.

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