Leeds' inclusive running club
Members of the LGBT+ athletics group Leeds Frontrunners discuss how they built up their membership and aim to foster a sense of community.
TRANSCRIPTRH: What were the early meetings of the Leeds Frontrunners like?
MB: Quiet. I remember the first run I had was with Andrew and we met at the Leeds-Liverpool canal, and we did our first run along the canal. The second one, Dom you arrived with us…
DB: Yeah, because I couldn't make the first one.
MB: …and we started to grow with one or two members over the next few months. And after maybe 4 months we had 10 people who would turn up for runs, and that's when we thought we'd take the club a little bit further. We'll get it registered with England Athletics and become an official UK-registered athletics club, but yeah they were quite quiet at the start.
RH: So you're an inclusive group for all LGBT+ people – do you have to sort of market yourself on that basis?
AF: We do, yeah. When we became affiliated with England Athletics the constitution needs to be specific to being inclusive to everyone so we can't just limit ourselves to LGBT, which we weren't doing anyway. But we need to make it clear that we’re an inclusive club – that's under the rules of the affiliation – but we are anyway so we do market ourselves but the members, at the moment, I would say everyone falls under the umbrella of L, G, B, or T. Yeah, but we do market ourselves as an inclusive club to everyone and, you know, where we've all got friends in regular running clubs as well, so yeah.
MB: One of the things that makes it a little bit more tricky for us to market is that we are an LGBT running club and most people’s running clubs are location-specific, so if you live in Roundhay you're a member of the Rounday Foxes, if you live in the Kirkstall area you're one of the Kirkstall Harriers. Whereas we're not location-specific, so our membership can come from absolutely anywhere. So at one point, we were having members travel either from Halifax one way, to, all the way over to Grimsby, where was Adele from? Scunthorpe! On a weekly basis to come and run with us, so our catchment was absolutely huge.
RH: So where do you generally run?
AF: Roundhay. We tend to run around Roundhay twice a week. Once a month we actually come to Leeds to the canal and run by the canal, meet in Granary Wharf, and that's just to allow people who… we have quite a few members who live in Leeds centre, so it just gives them the opportunity not to have to travel to Roundhay. But we chose Roundhay, initially… we did meet in Leeds centre like Matt said, but I think we chose Roundhay because it's quite a well-known and relatively central park in Leeds, that wherever you live, North, West, South, or East within Leeds you can tend to get to Roundhay fairly easily. I think that's why we chose that one.
RH: What do you think makes people want to join an LGBT running group, rather than just their closest one?
NA: I think to a certain extent, I… we are very much runners first, but there is definitely a social element to running with other people within the community, and very often we get new members turning up who are new to Leeds, and they want to meet people, and meet similarly-minded people. So we kind of then introduced a sort of social element to help support people within the community. So we do a dining club once a month, we've done… we’ve organised sort of nights out, we have barbecues and picnics and it sort of helps us bring the community a bit more together and play our part in that… We do weekends away as well, and it kind of, I think what's happened more and more is that it very much, I suppose, more feels like a family than just a running club, which is quite nice. And I think it then brings more people in. We say to people that, when they come and try it out, we offer 3 free runs before we look for any sort of commitment and, in that time period, people see what a good thing we've got going, and very much want to be part of that.
AF: Mm, yeah, we do tend to have quite a good uptake on people who come to run once with us and tend to come back and run again and join. We have probably only a handful who don't actually convert to a member, which is good.