Recently all but dead, Lin Wang helped Frontrunners catch its second wind
When Lin Wang came to Dallas and thought about joining the DFW Frontrunners, he encountered a fizzled-out band of running enthusiasts with an expired website.
“I found an email to an old contact, but no one answered,” Wang says. “Then I learned from someone that it died out a few years ago.”
But Wang’s enthusiasm is infectious, and his spirit has helped bring the group back to life.
Frontrunners isn’t just a Dallas thing — it’s an international affiliation of LGBT running and walking clubs that first began 28 years ago in San Francisco. Wang had been an active member of both the Pittsburgh and New York City chapters, so when he moved to Dallas in the summer of 2010, he was surprised to find that in a city of its size, the group basically didn’t exist.
“I don’t know why it went away,” he says. “With all the other sports groups, there is such a demand for athletics in this large LGBT community.”
So he started the rebuilding.
DFW Frontrunners had been so out-of-date that the international association told him to just register the group as “new.” With the help of Julio Chong, the group changed its meeting place from White Rock Lake on Saturday mornings to a more central spot in Lee Park. For the group to succeed, Wang felt it needed to be closer in the ‘hood.
“Julio and I did this together,” Wang says. “We started small, but the biggest group we’ve had is about 15 members and we now have close to 20 active members.”
Wang recalls the decisions to have the first group meeting last June.
“It was a horrible time to begin because of the summer,” he laughs, recalling the sweltering heat of 2011’s record-breaking season.“ But we had to prove this was not a dead organization. We welcome anyone who wants to join us.”
With a diverse group including some straight members, Frontrunners meets at the Robert E. Lee statue and then proceeds to the Katy Trail. Groups can then walk or run in their preferred direction, eventually meeting back at the statue. Then it’s off to breakfast.
Like any gay sports organization, Frontrunners also pushes the socializing aspect of a club. Fellowship is a booster among those working on their fitness levels. Local activist Latisha McDaniel has met some of her personal goals as a member along with broadening her circle of friends.
“[Frontrunners has] been a great experience and has really increased my love of running,” she says. “It has given me a new jump start and a good way to meet new people.”
McDaniel even improved her fitness level. She started with the walking group, but has graduated to running and even surprised herself with her abilities.
“I’ve participated in two races since joining and about to run in another one,” she says. “I did a few races in college but haven’t really done anything since moving to Dallas.”
“We’re not gonna scare people away who like walking,” Wang adds. “We always make sure one person walks so others feel fine to join in.”
Wang intends for Frontrunners to be much more than the weekly meetup. He’s used Facebook and Twitter to get the word out on the group and to entice online members to join them in person. He has had the group participate as volunteers for the White Rock Marathon as a water station team and expect to repeat that this year. He also wants to push the group into hosting Dallas’ first Pride race.
We’re focusing hard on doing the first-ever event,” he says. “St. Louis has one and we think that it could be an integral part of our Pride festival. It would be a different way to have and witness a different Pride involvement. And we’d like to tie it in to an organization and the race can be a viable fundraiser.”
Although Wang would like to accomplish all this in 2012, it’s more realistic to expect everything in place by Dallas Pride 2013. In the meantime, the group hopes to expand membership and enjoy the health and fellowship that accompanies it. And for now, you can join without paying membership dues.
“We’re in the process of becoming a nonprofit and so we may have to charge in the future,” he admits. “but we expect it would be very minimal. We don’t want to push anyone away.” The only running away he wants to see is on the trail.
For more information, visit Frontrunners Dallas.org or meet up with them Saturday mornings at 8:30 a.m. under the statue at Lee Park.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 17, 2012.