IFR History (1986 - )by Bill Winkelman, L.A. Frontrunners
International Frontrunners ("IF") celebrated six years during 1992's Second International Frontrunners Invitational in Long Beach CA the weekend of February 14-17, 1992. The concept of an International Frontrunners group was actually fostered in 1986 during two (2) distinct U.S. events.
At the conclusion of a Midwest GALA (Gay and Lesbian Association of Choruses) performance in 1986, six of the participants thought it would be a great idea if Frontrunners could get cities together for an event emphasizing their own interest. Frontrunners from Chicago, Kansas City and Minneapolis were present at this meeting.
Almost simultaneously at Gay Games 2 in San Francisco, Lee Graham, then President of Philadelphia Frontrunners, distributed a sign-in book inscribed to the "Guests of the First Gathering of Frontrunners from Around the World" as Guests of Frontrunners/Philadelphia. The Philadelphia club hosted this event on Monday, August 11, 1986, at the Eagle in SF. This book was first signed on that day and remains with IF to this day.
Later in 1986, Craig Rodich, a former President from Frontrunners Chicago and attendee at the GALA performance, began contacting clubs from around the country to see if they would be interested in sending one or two representatives to attend a meeting to be held in the Spring of 1987. Fresh on the heels of the very successful Gay Games II, the timing of Craig's solicitation was perfect!
History was made when Craig Rodich opened up Saturday morning's work session welcoming everyone to the 1st INTERNATIONAL FRONTRUNNERS FORUM on APRIL 4, 1987. Eleven US cities were represented by some 20 delegates, many of whom were highly motivated by the spirit of camaraderie and participation they'd experienced the prior August at the Gay Games.
Each city represented possessed its own set of activities, organizational structure and membership roster. A couple of cities had only a handful of members with no women, while New York had close to 500 members and a large contingent of active women. Whereas some clubs met informally just to run, others were non-profit organizations with by-laws and formal mission statements.
Due to this diversity, each city was given just one vote and egos were requested to be left at the door in order for those in attendance to participate most constructively.
In the interest of maintaining the international group as a "concept", it was unanimously agreed that IF would have no governing body or formal affiliation and that each club would maintain its own autonomy. This idea continues to this day.
Topics addressed at this first forum were:
- No formal affiliation of International Frontrunners
- The need to share and exchanged information among all cities
- Formation of an International Directory of existing clubs: Started by Guy Zelenak, Secretary of FR-New York
- Date set for a convention/competition to be hosted by FR-NY during Columbus Day weekend (Oct 1988)
- A second forum would be tentatively hosted by Chicago sometime in 1989
History was again made when Richard Walker opened up Saturday's workshop/clinic sessions welcoming everyone to the 1st EVER INTERNATIONAL FRONTRUNNERS CONVENTION on October 8, 1988. Co-chaired by Richard Walker and T.J. Storch and hosted by Front Runners New York, this event became truly international in that it included attendance from Running Wilde, recently formed in Toronto, Canada.
And after going though its own organizational changes thru the earlier 1980s, Boston was back in big numbers, their contingent having enthusiastically arrived in a yellow school bus.
Saturday's activities included informative seminars throughout the day broken up by a tasteful lunch and fashion show during which each club displayed articles of clothing for sale. That evening a very festive dance was held at the Gay and Lesbian Center, the site of that day's seminars.
A TAC-sanctioned track and field competition was held all day Sunday at Downing Stadium in New York followed by a celebration party that night at a popular Manhattan video club. Monday had everyone gathering in New York's Central Park for a morning fun run followed by a bagel brunch at a local eatery.
Although this event was not a financial success, it showed that people from all over the US and Canada could be brought together under the auspices of a group known as International Frontrunners.
The 2ND INTERNATIONAL FRONTRUNNER FORUM was held in Chicago as planned during the weekend of April 21-23. Craig Rodich again coordinated the work sessions on Saturday, while the Chicago club did a truly phenomenal job of hosting various running and social activities throughout the weekend. Representation was now from 18 cities sending 33 delegates. New cities present were Denver and Houston from the US and Toronto and Vancouver from the East and West of Canada.
The theme of this forum was "Strengthening the Spirit", again referring to the positive spirit of the Gay Games, And in that spirit of healthy participation, Chicago introduced their recently formed Front Walkers as an alternative to running activities.
Formal minutes exist for Saturday's work session and the major points addressed during this second forum were:
- Keith Millay of Boston agreed to begin a "starter" package of Frontrunner information which would be available to cities considering forming their own organization
- Jim Miller of San Francisco agreed to keep the International Frontrunner Directory up-to-date. A bi-annual update would coincide with the 1991 Forum and be made available for that meeting
- A formal definition of INTERNATIONAL FRONTRUNNERS was unanimously adopted
INTERNATIONAL FRONTRUNNERS IS AN INFORMAL AFFILIATION OF FRONTRUNNER CLUBS WHICH SHARES INFORMATION, SUPPORTS NEW CLUBS AND HOLDS SPECIAL EVENTS.
- Because of the importance and emphasis on Gay Games 3 in Vancouver, Bob Radke from Vancouver suggested we try to hold a less formalized social in August 1990 to promote IF
- Southern California would host an event in late 1992 or early 1993 similar to the 1988 event held in New York. More specific information would become available at the next forum
- A third forum would be tentattively hosted by Toronto sometime in April 1991 and chaired by Donald Walker
On Tuesday, August 7, Frontrunners from around the world took a break from racing, track and field activities and other athletic and cultural events at Gay Games 3 for a picnic in the park adjacent to Swanguard Stadium (where track and field took place). Over two hundred participants exchanged information about their respective club's activities and talked enthusiastically about the Games' progress to date.
On Thursday evening, August 9, Brian Eggert, then President of LA Frontrunners, welcomed everyone to a festive Frontrunner social at a local west end pub. Those in attendance were invited to sign the book which was initially circulated at the prior Gay Games in San Francisco by Lee Graham. AIDS had claimed Lee's life earlier in 1990 and his mother felt that the book was best kept in our hands. It was decide that this very book would be present at future IF functions to commemorate IF's history. (This book would again surface during the 1992 IFI weekend in Long Beach, California).
The 3RD INTERNATIONAL FRONTRUNNER FORUM opened in Toronto on April 20, 1991, Donald Walker chairing this meeting. Again in the spirit of Gay Games, this was the first time the forum was held outside the US and was hosted by a Canadian city. And again, Saturday's work session was centered around a number of activities and hosted housing graciously provided by Frontrunners Toronto. This delegation was expanded to include Buffalo (New York) and Calgary.
Keith Millay of Boston circulated a club starter package which he'd been compiling since the 1989 Forum closed. An extensive set of documents, everyone remarked about what an excellent resource this would be for a city which wanted to start its own Frontrunners. Keith would make a copy of this package available for a nominal printing charge of $5.00 to those interested.
San Francisco agreed to continue updating the International Directory. Because some clubs present either had not been contacted in time for publication or did not receive a request, many of the participants updated the information for their respective city. Boston and San Francisco agreed to work together to avoid duplicating efforts for the starter packages and the directory updates.
Most clubs took the opportunity to present their upcoming events before the delegation broke for lunch.
In conjunction with Gay Games 4 to be held in NYC in June 1994, it was suggested that IF sponsor a major social event during the week or so we would be in New York. Boston, DC, New York and Philadelphia agreed to research the possibilities and report their findings at the 1992 IF event in California.
The conclusion of this meeting found the cities of Long Beach and Los Angeles, California agreeing to work on an event to be held in Long Beach the weekend of February 14-17, 1992. Because its climate permitted so many fun activities, it was agreed that this event would not be like the 1988 track and field event. Instead, a schedule of social and road running events would be compiled in an attempt to please the tastes of most everyone attending. It was also emphasized that a lot more promotion would have to be done to avoid any major monetary loss. On to sunny (?) Southern California ....
The 2ND INTERNATIONAL FRONTRUNNER INVITATIONAL (IFI or "iffy") got underway as planned on Valentine's Day with a festive Friday evening social. Months of planning led by the (seemingly) indefatigable Brian Eggert brought a wide array of activities for the weekend beginning with a warm welcome and registration of the event's participants at the "Find your Sweetheart" mixer.
Strangely enough, the fine weather we had anticipated took its own winter vacation. After six years of very little rain, Southern California was deluged with the most rain it had seen since 1983, almost drowning the many participants at Saturday morning's 5K and 10K runs. The almost 200 participants were treated to informative seminars about Gay Games in '94 and a host of health and running-related topics INDOORS that afternoon at the Ramada Renaissance Hotel. A superb cocktail hour, banquet and dance rounded out Saturday night's activities at Long Beach's Breakers Hotel.
Sunday found everyone rested (?) And ready for a five-person relay around Long Beach's El Dorado Park. The vast array of batons was anything but conventional - dildos in three sizes and a "fashionably-dressed" Ken doll. Toronto took a gorgeous trophy for first place which will return to IF for our next event.
The Los Angeles club treated everyone to a barbeque picnic and volleyball after the relays concluded. Fortunately the sun stayed out for the afternoon, but the rains returned by evening.
Some folks stayed an extra day or two (or three ...), taking advantage of the many sights the greater LA area has to offer. A lot of excitement was generated this weekend, friendships were made and renewed, and many people wondered what would be next to top such a splendid weekend. The future holds many things for Frontrunners, many of them will be continued good times in a shared environment. Now it was on to Washington, DC for the 4TH INTERNATIONAL FORUM hosted by the DC club in April 1993.
INTERNATIONAL FRONTRUNNERS FORUM 1993, (the fourth such meeting) was hosted by D.C. Frontrunners during the weekend of May 1-2, 1993. Thirteen US and one Canadian city (Toronto) were in attendance when Forum Moderator Tony Anderson called the meeting to order on Saturday morning at Trumpets.
A full day's agenda dominated Saturday's session with topics such as the newsletter clearinghouse, new club started packets, women's participation and outreach, individual club pledge runs and even a discussion on an International Frontrunners logo among the business covered. Since Gay Games IV in New York City was little more than a year away, Keith Millay from Boston presented possible suggestions for a venue where a smoke-free social would be held under the guise of International Frontrunners. Other events and activities surrounding Gay Games were also discussed.
The meeting place for the next International Forum in 1995 was discussed with San Francisco emerging as the most likely candidate and Boston as an alternate possibility.
The weekend was not without other activities for the delegates and members of the host city club. A dinner dance took place on Saturday night at the Holiday Inn followed by the Capitol Hill Classic 10K on Sunday morning in Stanton Park. The race was followed by a potluck brunch at a local church. A fun-filled weekend was had by all with a great amount of anticipation for the Gay Games in 1994.
The much anticipated Gay Games 4 kicked off in New York City on Saturday, June 18, 1994. Prior to Opening Ceremonies, Front Runners New York hosted the largest ever Gay and Lesbian Pride Run with over 1,000 participants!! Aside from the oppressive heat and humidity that predominated the day, the run was a huge success and was followed by a wonderful brunch hosted by the New York club. An awards ceremony wrapped up the morning. A fine assortment of raffle prizes and goodies were given away in addition to recognizing those who placed in their respective age categories. Tickets were sold for the International Frontrunners dance to be held the following Monday evening.
Keith Millay and Glenn Hammet from Boston, Greg Valerie from New York and John Weis from Philadelphia/NY worked diligently to organize a very successful smoke-free dance at the world famous Roseland Dancehall on Monday evening, June 20. Frontrunners and walkers from around the world were in attendance for this festive event in addition to other athletes and supporters of Gay Games. A minimal admission price was charged and complete bars were set up for refreshments. The setting gave many people the opportunity to catch up with Frontrunner friends from the many visiting cities. Individual club banners decorated the walls while a slide show was projected on a screen at the front of the dance floor. The slides were complied to highlight events that the various Frontrunner clubs sponsor each year.
Aside from the IF dance, many running and walking events were held during the week. 10K and 5K races were held around New York's Downing stadium while track & field and walking events ran from Monday to Friday inside the stadium. (This is the same stadium that was host to the 1988 IF track and field event mentioned above).
The spirit of participation that is the focus of these games abounded in all age groups in the various events. Everyone strived to do his/her best. The week culminated in a very well organized marathon that began and ended in Manhattan's Central Park. The finish line was at the same location outside Tavern on the Green where the New York City Marathon ends each Fall, but this marathon had such special significance as almost all the finishers were gay and lesbian! After 26.2 miles, the tired participants were joyful to cross this historic finish line and were spurred on by the cheers of the enthusiastic crowd and the expert announcing of Jeff Singleton (FRNY) and Tony Anderson from DC Frontrunners.
The week ended with many Frontrunners making new friends with runners and walkers from other cities, both in North America and Europe. As IF moved forward, it was able to expand its database of participating clubs and looked forward to the 1995 Forum, a planned International running event in 1996, another Forum in 1997 and Gay Games 5 in Amsterdam, the Netherlands during the first week in August 1998. (And hopefully the aforementioned IF "Guests" book that originated in 1986 during Gay Games 2 will surface for the next IF event).