By Daniel A. Kusner Life+Style Editor

Niermann, MacGregor kick up gay visibility at the White Rock 26.2-mile run

HAVE A DRINK: Niermann, left, and MacGregor warm up near the Katy Trail water fountain donated by the Gay and Lesbian Fund for Dallas. DANIEL KUSNER/Dallas Voice

Eight years ago, Enrique MacGregor told his partner, Mark Niermann, about an ambitious idea: "Hey, let’s do the White Rock Marathon!" They trained for a while, but a leg injury sidelined MacGregor’s long-distance dream.

In 2008, MacGregor kick-started the idea with a New Year’s resolution. And in June, he and Niermann started every Saturday with a 6 a.m. run around East Dallas’ big lake.

Saturdays are a small part of their five-days-a-week training schedule. Both men exercise regularly. "But we’re not used to long distances. Before this year, the longest we’d ever run was probably a 10K," Niermann explains.

Over the last five months, they’ve stuck to it. Each have demanding schedules: Niermann’s a lawyer for Dean Foods, and MacGregor’s a consultant for Ceteris. They met in Denver and relocated to Dallas 12 years ago.

Training for a marathon together doesn’t mean they hold hands every step of the way.

"Mark usually runs in the morning. And since I work from my home, the middle of the afternoon is easier for me," MacGregor explains.
On Saturdays, they run with a group that supervises their training.

"We’ll start at the same time. But usually one of us will be at a different pace, and we end up finishing at different times," MacGregor says.

Marathon training is serious. They adjust to rain, blistering heat, cold weather, wind and cramps. They don’t depend on iPods. And the runs are too grueling for their dogs.

The plan is to pace themselves at eight-minute miles. A couple of weeks ago, they completed a 22-mile run.

Niermann says the first mile is the hardest. "The second mile, your body enters ‘the zone.’ The last miles are also tough. You just keep thinking about the end: three miles, two miles… And in 10 minutes, it will all be finished."

Both men are 45 years old.

"In my 20s, I wouldn’t have had the patience to run long, slow distances," MacGregor says.

"I think people who are 30s and 40s have an advantage, mentally," Niermann adds.

"Yeah, but the people who win marathons are usually younger," MacGregor laughs.

When the White Rock Marathon kicks off next Saturday, Dec. 13, the couple will be part of a big queer team representing The Gay and Lesbian Fund for Dallas. MacGregor and Niermann founded the group in 2000.
MacGregor served as president for six years, and Niermann is the current vice president of operations.

At the marathon, they’ll be joined by two other marathoners, two five-member relay teams and about 35 aid-station volunteers who’ll serve water and Gatorade. So when thirsty runners get to that station, they’ll be greeted by a slew of helpful folks with the words "gay and lesbian" clearly visible on T-shirts and signs.

And that’s the point.

MacGregor says the fund wants people to hear or see the words "gay" and "lesbian" in a context that’s neither sexual nor political — letting community organizations see that we contribute to society.

Since 2000, The Gay and Lesbian Fund for Dallas has raised money for The Latino Cultural Center ($75,000), The Dallas Museum of Art, Parkland Hospital, Dallas Children’s Theater, The Next Thing theater inside The Women’s Museum, a statue in a Deep Ellum dog park and the Katy Trail.

Near the trail’s Henderson Avenue crossing, there’s a gleaming dog-friendly water fountain with plaque at the bottom that says "Generously Provided by The Gay and Lesbian Fund for Dallas," which was made possible through a $15,000 donation.

During KERA’s September pledge drive, the fund got a huge response — $61,000 — when they sponsored four challenge grants.

"The KERA drive probably got us the most visibility," MacGregor says. "And donations from that drive underwrite some of the programming. So when those programs air, listeners hear about the Gay and Lesbian Fund of Dallas again."

MacGregor says the fund doesn’t preach to the converted.

"There have been some instances where some board members were initially opposed to our support. But they ultimately came to the conclusion that we are just a group of citizens who are trying to help out. But there’s never been so much resistance that it stopped something we’re trying to do," he says. "I don’t want to sound corny, but in every case where there was resistance, there was always a happy ending."

Okay — so how about contributing to Dubya’s presidential library?
Both MacGregor and Niermann laugh.

"You know what? If Bush’s library has a non-discrimination law that specifically includes sexual orientation, then they are certainly eligible for our support," MacGregor says.
The fund seeks beneficiaries where gays can be agents of change. And after the group reached out, some organizations changed their employment policies. One group they’ve dreamed about working with is Boy Scouts of America.

"We’ve at least brainstormed about it," MacGregor says. "Should we help them out? And wouldn’t that be wonderful if they were eligible?" �

 This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 5, 2008.
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