It's time once again to "Meet the Runners", where we profile some of the members of our LGBTQ+ running club in Manchester. Today we have Jacqui, who has been one of our co-chairs for the past few years. Here she talks a little bit about her time with Manchester Frontrunners, and how she enjoys the community aspects of running. She also tells us more about our special monthly social runs for women, trans, and non-binary runners.
Name: Jacqui (she/her)
Fun fact: According to my (older) sister, I used to cut peas in half before eating them!
How long have you been running, and why did you start?
I've been running since about Year 10 at secondary school. We used to do a cross country race every year, and I remember agreeing to run with a friend one year to help motivate and encourage her round. We set off laden with several of those candy necklaces for sustenance and long sleeve layers and coats in case we got cold. It felt like a marathon back then, but I'm guessing it was only about 2K! I think that was the beginning for me.
What do you enjoy about running?
I've always like the fact that you don't need anything special to be able to run so you can go when you like and run as far or as fast as you like. The drive of a challenge and the sense of achievement after give you a lovely warm glow of satisfaction. Plus, of course, my biggest passion in life is eating so I run to be able to eat the portions I enjoy!
How did you find out about Manchester Frontrunners, and why did you want to join?
I'd been running on my own for many years and hadn't really considered a running club until I got to about my mid-30s when I felt I was missing out on being part of something with other people. A running club then became obvious because of my enjoyment of running, but I didn't know where to try first. I first joined a weekly running group hosted by a shop, but didn't particularly feel a connection. I came across Frontrunners through a friend whom I knew loosely through work. He knew I liked running and he knew the club needed more women members, so he asked (pestered!) me to join, and I did.
What do you enjoy about being in the club?
Hands down the members. Everyone accepts and welcomes everyone, and there is no judgement and hierarchy in ability or racing status; everyone is on a level playing field with the focus being on inclusivity and community. I enjoy the club community aspect of a race more so these days than the personal challenge of a distance or target pace. During COVID, my running reduced because there were no races, and over time, I lost my pace, fitness and motivation. It's taken a long time to get back into a pattern but being part of something with others has made it easier to find the focus and drive.
Do you take part in any races? If so, what is your favourite distance/type of race?
Pre-COVID, I was (younger!) and fitter, and taking part in anything from 5K Parkruns to marathons. During COVID, my running dropped off and since then, I've struggled to get back into races and find the confidence and drive to push myself. If I had to pick a favourite event I'd say a half marathon road race. It's easy under foot, far enough to set goals and be a challenge, but not too far so that I could drag myself round one without much training if needed (although that would not be a pretty sight). I do enjoy off-road trail races as they're often in scenic locations with great views, and the technical routes provide variety and a totally different dimension to running.
Which running-related achievement are you most proud of?
My first marathon, which was Manchester in 2018. There was a personal drive behind it in that I decided to give myself a challenge to raise money for the local hospital in Hastings where my mum was cared for before she died. That was the motivation. The goal was to complete it sub 3:45, which was my Good For Age time to get into London Marathon at the time. I'm proud of myself for finding something positive to channel my emotion into and proud of the fact that I diligently followed a training plan to achieve my goal.
In your opinion, what makes LGBTQ+ sports clubs like Manchester Frontrunners so important?
Welcoming and inclusive spaces are vital for giving people a safe place to participate and enjoy their passions. Everyone has the right to belong and to feel welcomed into a community. Whilst there are many spaces that aim to be inclusive, LGBTQ+ groups aim to provide that level of assurance and security that a person may need to be able to bring their whole self.
What would you say to anyone thinking about joining Manchester Frontrunners, particularly women?
Come and join us! We're a friendly bunch. It took me a while to get the confidence to join, I wasn't sure how I'd compare with others, whether people would be friendly and kind, or whether the club would offer me the social aspects I was after and the structure to improve my running. I needn't have worried! I was made to feel welcome from the first time I tried out a weekly run. The club will give you back as much as you want and as much as you let it.
We have a small but loyal and committed contingent of women, as well as transgender and non-binary members, but we're not always visible at our main weekly Thursday and Saturday runs. We know it can be daunting when we can't always see ourselves represented at club runs, so to counteract this, we're currently hosting monthly runs on a Sunday at Alexandra Park in South Manchester specifically for our women/trans/non-binary members. Furthermore, we're welcoming non-members from these communities to come and trial us at one of these instead of our usual Thursday or Saturday runs if they wish. It's a maximum of 5K followed by a cake and a brew at the cafe. Our next run will be on Sunday 26th November at 11 am. For more details and to sign up, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.