Pittsburgh Frontrunners

Pilots, professors and those newly transplanted to the Steel City have been seeking out Pittsburgh Frontrunners since 1989. The club, one of 100, is an international organization for LGBT runners and walkers. The Pittsburgh club sees visitors to the city about once per month because of the group’s reputation and easily accessible runs three times per week – rain or shine.

“In the middle of January, when it’s 20 degrees, you know that someone’s going to meet you,” says runner J.T. Doughty of Manchester. In August, the group gathered to participate in Run Around the Square, the annual 5K race in Regent Square, where one member hosted a potluck brunch after everyone finished their 3.2 miles.

This month, a Frontrunners contingent will take on the Great Race, as they have since the earliest days of the group.

In 1993, the Frontrunners organized its first Pride Run in conjunction with Pittsburgh Pride Festival.

“In addition to running, it’s formed my community,” says runner Ken Ho of Squirrel Hill, who said the group helped him fit in after moving here from Washington, D.C., in 2005.

Dave Torrey, who joined the group in 1995, says over the years, men have made up a majority of the Frontrunners, but all LGBT people are welcome.

“The group tries to remain casual, welcoming walkers as well,” says runner Ellen Guise of Edgewood. “It’s an inexpensive sport, all you need is a good pair of shoes.”

One recent sunny Saturday morning, I decided to lace up my running shoes bright and early. I wanted to meet with the Frontrunners to see what a legacy 24 years as a group meant for someone like me, still a relative newbie with just two years of running experience.

8:20 AM

Hit the snooze a few times, but not for lack of enthusiasm to meet the Frontrunners.

8:43 AM

Head to Schenley Park, glad for the change of scenery, since normally I can be found on the trails in Frick Park.

8:55 AM

Park my car after picking up my friend to join me. This takes a couple tries, since we got lost circling to find the correct route to the playground — where the Frontrunners suggest parking to avoid expensive Oakland meter fees or tickets.

9:21 AM

After noticing coordinator Dave Torrey in a Frontrunners shirt and member Ellen Guise with her dog Sammy, a chocolate lab mix, the group starts forming. About a dozen runners eventually gather to run the four-mile regular route. And we’re off!

9:24 AM

I realize that member Ken Ho has become our “tour guide” for the route, as he’s stuck with my friend and I at about the same pace. My confidence wavers a little when he cheerfully says he nearly died the first time he attempted the first long uphill part of the route.

9:28 AM

Ken lets us know that we’re more than halfway up the hill, an announcement for which I’m very grateful.

9:30 AM

We pass Ellen and Sammy coming from the other direction, since the second part of the Frontrunners’ route winds in a circle.

9:35 AM

My running buddies and I start fantasizing about breakfast.

9:37 AM

We emerge from the trail near the playground where we parked. Ken says it’s sometimes “very tempting” to take the short-cut, but we power through it.

9:43 AM

Through the trees, I can see St. John Chrysostom Byzantine Catholic Church in the lower part of Greenfield and hear the traffic zooming by on the Parkway.

9:49 AM

We emerge from the trails once more, the last part of the route, hitting the sidewalk on Bartlett Street.

9:58 AM

Ken asks if we want to take the old brick-paved ramp or the stairs. My friend and I choose the brick-paved ramp, which puts the Phipps Conservatory statue of Lady Liberty in sight, an encouraging finish line for the run.

9:59 AM

Finally breakfast! We follow the Frontrunners inside the Schenley Park Visitors Center to get smoothies and other goodies, which is the best part about running: loading back up on all the calories to get out there and do it again next time!

For more information, visit pittsburghfrontrunners.org or follow them on Twitter @ pghfr. The group runs three times per week, 9 AM Saturdays and 7 PM Tuesdays and Thursdays, meeting at the Columbus Statue adjacent to Phipps Conservatory at the corner of Schenley Drive and Frew Street Extension in Schenley Park.

Pink Pages: The LGBTQ Community Directory of Western Pennsylvania

Stacey Federoff is a Sutersville, PA native, Penn State alumna, and reporter living in Park Place near Regent Square. She has written for The Daily Collegian, The Chautauquan Daily, Trib Total Media. She loves music, vinyl records, coffee, running, and volunteerism.