IRL: how running together builds social ties (not just muscles)

Mike Findlay, communications officer for Glasgow FrontRunners, an inclusive road-running group with strong links to Glasgow’s LGBT community, explains how the group offers social – not just health – benefits

I made a change in my life last summer. After 10 years away in the big smoke (London), I took the decision to return to the wee puff (Glasgow). I was a bit apprehensive – back to colder climates, returning in my mid-30s, many of my friends had since moved on. What about the social scene?

I had been a member of London FrontRunners for a number of years. Originally I joined to step up my fitness levels in my late 20s, then to train for the London Marathon in 2014. I remember my first run with them vividly. It was a Monday night during winter and I was nervous. I didn’t know if I would be fit enough, and I didn’t know what the company would be like. I was matched with a “buddy” for my first run who was a nice chap from Edinburgh (yes, it’s true they lump all us Scots together!). Thankfully it was a hugely positive experience that, not only got me through the marathon, but also introduced me to a whole range of people I wouldn’t have met otherwise.

Fast forward to summer last year, I ripped up my London FrontRunners card (sorry guys!) and joined the Glasgow team. My first night running and I was back to that nervous feeling. That was soon quashed with a few familiar faces from times gone by and a fantastically welcoming committee.

I couldn’t help but make a few comparisons between the two teams in my first couple of weeks. In Glasgow, you have a proper warm-up and warm-down involving stretching; in London, the warm-up is running from Soho to Hyde Park dodging cars and shoppers. When I was there, Thursday nights were the big social night for the London team, if you are a drinker, you headed into town post-run; for Glasgow, we have our main social once a month on a Thursday evening in the civilised surroundings of either Café Hula or Tiso.

I have now been back for just over six months, and I honestly think that GFR has helped make my transition from one city to another easier. To me, it’s about sense of community that you get from being part of a team. First off, and it sounds really obvious, you all have running in common. Second, many of our members are also part of the LGBT+ community (though not all of them are, as we are inclusive) and you do tend to have life experiences in common, which helps.

In August this year, GFR held OUTRun the same weekend as Pride. I was part of the motley crew who managed the registration desk, in the pelting rain I hasten to add! What impressed me was the number of FrontRunner teams who travelled from outside of Glasgow to take part: Leeds, Manchester, London and Edinburgh to name a few. Again, this is where I think the community aspect comes into it.

Each year GFR has an international trip. Some of us had the pleasure of travelling to Munich in October for the Munich Marathon.  We met up with the Munich FrontRunners, one of who took time to give us a guided tour of the city and told us about its history and customs. Again, the community spirit.

At the start of this year, we embarked on our Couch to 5k programme, which is aimed as new runners and attracting new members. It was tremendous to see so many new faces at the club. Current members brought friends, colleagues, and partners.

My experiences with FrontRunners both north and south of the border has led me to believe that you could be just about anywhere in the world, and could pop on your trainers and join the local FrontRunner team and you’d be welcome and part of it! Be it in the big apple, the big smoke or the wee puff…

For more information on Glasgow FrontRunners, go here

Follow Mike Findlay on Twitter here


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